Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mass Effect: What's the Big Deal?

A lot of people, me included, weren't quite sure what was so important about Mass Effect before they played it, so I'm going to talk about why it was (and still is) such a big deal.

I got my (first) 360 not long ago, less than 2 years. I had to decide what games I wanted to get. I researched it a bit, and I decided I had to get Halo 3. (To not do so would be like not getting Twilight Princess for the Wii!) Other than that, I thought I should get one of those action games.. I don't remember what the choices were, but I ended up with Assassin's Creed. Finally, I wanted an RPG. I had the choice between Mass Effect, and Bioshock. (Note: I ended up getting ME on PC, mostly for the benefit of the rest of my family.) At this point, they were a lot alike: incredible, groundbreaking RPG/shooters. I don't quite remember why I chose Mass Effect. It may have been because of the sci-fi setting, maybe because of the developer. (I'd played several Bioware titles, like Knights of the Old Republic and Baldur's Gate.)

I still haven't played Bioshock, and Bioware has come to completely dominate my gaming life. I can't wait for news of the new Dragon Age game, I hang on every word I can find on Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I will die of anticipation for Mass Effect 3.

Why? In short: because the entire concept of Mass Effect is awesome, and Bioware is awesome. For the first, apart from my natural affinity for the setting, it, along with a few other games, essentially spawned a new genre that I have decided to call the Role-Playing Shooter (or RPS, but that doesn't sound right). Bioshock and Fallout 3 have also contributed, but this genre is just as varied as RPGs are. Mass Effect is decidedly different. Story and characters are the dominate aspects of Mass Effect. Bioshock is allegory, a story about a dystopia based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand that happens to be told to a guy with a gun and super powers. (Which look really cool, btw.) Fallout 3 is an open-world RPG (Bethesda FTW), which tend to be light on story. (I think it's because they're too busy building the world) Not that Fallout 3 or Oblivion have bad stories, they're actually both really good, but my point is they aren't what you play the game for. (mostly, anyway)

Mass Effect is a blend of what I would call a true western RPG-- you know, the ones that are essentially based on Dungeons and Dragons, (Speaking of, Bioware made the franchise that is one of the best games actually based on D&D, Neverwinter Nights, and what is IMO the best game that feels like D&D, Dragon Age: Origins) and FPS. RPGs, not necessarily this kind, and FPS are arguably the two most popular genres. I acknowledge that Mass Effect's blend of these is far from perfect, but it was a really good attempt-- and Mass Effect 2 capitalized on that and made it almost seamless.

The first thing that makes Mass Effect different from others like it is the story. It's one of those games that you could reasonably put it on easy difficulty and coast through the combat, just for the main story. You could do the same in an open-world RPG, but that's usually for the little things everywhere, (which are actually one of the weakest points in the original Mass Effect) as opposed to the actual, main story. Mass Effect creates a universe and story that, at least in my opinion, is worthy of the biggest sci-fi franchises out there. The world Bioware has created is, quite possibly, the most in depth universe ever created for a game. They managed to detail the last several centuries or more of the history of the current people, plus the overarching cycle of the entire universe, through dialogue. Then there's the codex- a partly voice-acted repository of almost everything you could imagine in the universe. (Of course, there's dozens of races, thousands of worlds, etc. etc., but it does detail everything you actually see.) There's even several paragraph long descriptions, and, when applicable, histories, of every planet in the entire game. Literally.

Tangent here: I figured out a while ago that I think there are 3 main differences in between Star Trek and Star Wars. 1: The world. Star Trek is the future of this world. Star Wars is in a galaxy far, far away. 2: Humanity's position. In Star Trek, humanity is just another race. In Star Wars they are dominant. 3: The Force. Star Trek doesn't really have any magic, apart from the tech. Star Wars has the Force. Notice that Mass Effect comes out decidedly on the Star Trek side, and the one that is like Star Wars (Biotics = the Force) is far from a central point of the story, like it is in Star Wars.

The second thing is the emphasis on characters. Look at the recent RPGs. (and as far as I can remember, all RPGs) There are western RPGs, and Japanese RPGs (as represented by Final Fantasy). Ignoring the JRPGs, look at the western RPGs. How many of them have companions, ala D&D? All the ones I can come up with from my admittedly biased memory are made by Bioware. Mass Effect takes this to extremes, though. Mass Effect 1 was fairly typical for Bioware, with maybe a few less than normal, with varied classes and races of companions, each with extensive dialogue trees, opinions on your actions, and their own quest.
Mass Effect 2 took this and literally made it the basis of the entire game. There are nearly a dozen characters, most of which have their own recruiting quest and all of which with their Bioware-signature quest-- which are actually an important, necessary part of the game. They are the stars of the game, and Bioware seems to have skimped on the rest of the story in ME2 to focus on them.

In conclusion, Mass Effect is important because it helps to create an entire new genre, but it is so enjoyable because it does it well, and Bioware made it. (Bioware made it = one of the best stories ever. ALWAYS.)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Indie Games for 360 Reviews!



Hello Again!


Today's is on Indie Game Reviews on the Xbox 360 (of course).

The first game I will review is Super Avatar Hero Force made by UberGeekGames . It is a very simple game to get use to!

Controls: Move RS or LS toward the way you would like to attack but you have to get the timing right or else you would DIE by being eaten by zombie avatars (although they don't look like zombies).

Plot: You become a part of the "Super Avatar Hero Force" and you have to defend the world from a zombie infestation. There are 5 levels in this game, 1 training level and there are 4 other levels that have to do with the plot.
Price: 80 MSPoints  || Final Verdict: I bought it for 80 MSPoints and it's price point is spot on for the kind of game it is. I give Super Avatar Hero Force 2.5 stars out of 5. 

The second game is Avatar Paintball made by DigitalDNA. Once again a very simple game to get if you play alot of shooters because it is a shooter type of game but you are playing paintball.
Controls: Same as any FPS

Plot: THERE IS NO PLOT! its a Online MP Only Game but there is a 1P training mode

Price and Final Verdict: 240 MSPoints The verdict is that this game is fun BUT it is WAY over priced. for a MP only FPS that really should cost maybe 120 MSP but its best price point should be 80 MSP. I give Avatar Paintball 3 stars out of 5.

And my last game is Avatar Racedrome made by Juan Alberto Munoz. (yes I know I put a name instead of a company because one person [supposedly] made this game.)


Controls: Like any race game


Plot: No real plot but there are Practice, Single Race, and Championship modes and a XBL 
MP mode.

Price and Final Verdict: The price for Avatar Racedrome is 80 MSP and it is one of the best XBL Indie Games on the marketplace! I give Avatar Racedrome 4 out of 5



Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The First Post

Note from the Editor: Welcome our first new author, DarkPC! This doesn't mean I'll be doing any less; rather, it means that there will be more content for you! DarkPC will be focusing on Microsoft and the Xbox 360. Occasionally he might do posts on other topics, and I'll still be doing posts on 360 things, especially on the games themselves.





Hello Readers, I am Christian Canales AKA DarkPC on the internet.

I will be blogging with Aldowyn on video games. Specifically I’ll be blogging on Xbox 360 and other Microsoft video game musings which includes reviews and news. Also you can contact me via Twitter, @DarkPCTV, and on Xbox Live, GamerTag: e345., or shoot me an e-mail to darkpc2@gmail.com Now that the introduction is out of the way let’s talk Microsoft!

Update: New Avatar items coming to the Marketplace on 6/24. I will check them out and tweet later on.

Now, first things first, we have to talk about Kinect and its reveal at E3. Kinect is Xbox’s venture into the so called Motion Control “hype.” I for one believe the hype and actively embrace the motion control gaming “hype.” Kinect in my opinion is the best motion control gaming device with the Wii coming in close second. (Author’s Note: Before all the PS3 Fan boys call for my head, hear me out. I have not tried the Move YET! I’m only listing the motion controls that either I have seen been demoed or I have actually tried. So calm down I will get to the Move Eventually, once I get to either see it being demoed or actually demoed it myself.)


Also a new Xbox 360 Model was revealed at E3. It has a 250GB built-in HDD and built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi. Also it is supposedly slimmer than the current model 360 Elite. No major re-designs on the controller or any other peripheral. I have also heard on the internet via kotaku.com that this 360 doesn’t Red Ring but that was quickly shot as Microsoft said that the ring of light are ONLY green the power sign will be red to signify any errors. Would I get a new 360 slim? No, unless something catastrophic would happen to my 360 elite.


Among some of the games that are coming to the 360 in the next 6-9 months are all the Kinect Games including Dance Central, Kinect Joyride, Kinectmals, etc. The retail games that were announced were, Gears 3, Halo Reach, MGS: Rising, CoD: Black Ops, Fable III (finally!), Crackdown 2, and for anyone loves Sports, ESPN is coming to Live!


That is it for now! I’ll be posting more as more Xbox/Microsoft News comes out!

Thanks for Reading and comeback for more if you can!
-DarkPC

Picture Snippet from news.cnet.com

3DS

Also welcome our second new writer, Abujaffer, who will be writing about Nintendo. As before, this doesn't limit anyone-he can also write about other things, I'll still write about Nintendo, and you just have more content to enjoy!
Now we just need a Sony writer, since I don't have a PS3...

The 3DS was announced but a week before the release of the DSi XL. This premature unveiling was due mostly due to the fact that hackers had gotten information already that Nintendo was developing a 3D DS, and Nintendo wanted to beat them at their game. However, little to no details were revealed, other than that it will have 3D, better graphics, and an analog stick. Now, flash-forward to the E3, and Nintendo has finally revealed their latest spectacle, the 3DS. Here I will go in depth about its many features, rumours, specs, and launch games.

Features
The 3DS will, obviously, have a screen that produces 3D without the use of glasses. It will have full 3D, similiar/equal to the IMAX 3D. This will be the top screen. On the side of the 3D screen is a 3D slider, a plastic slider that you use to control the depth of the 3D, or, if you so choose, you can completely remove the 3D. Now, on the bottom screen is the touch screen. This is a normal screen and doesn't have 3D. Another new feature is the slide pad. This is pretty much an analog stick that stands a bit above where the original D-pad was. The D-pad is a bit underneath where it originally was. The power button is on the right side, as opposed to the DSi's left side power button. The touch screen has a cool new feature on the bottom. There are 3 buttons in a line, Select, Home, Start. The Home is the new button. Its sort of like the Wii's home button, and I'll explain the rumours later on. The 3DS will have improved wireless internet options. First, it downloads faster. Then, it can download and connect to other people on the go. It will download high scores on the go. This has been confirmed (see the rumour below).

Rumours
First rumour is that the 3DS will have an install feature. Think of it like WiiWare but with full games. Like, all those launch games? You can supposedly download them. These are all unconfirmed rumours, so don't get too excited. Next, theres a rumour that the 3DS will be released by the end of the year, while Reggie Fils-Aime has confirmed that its coming out in all "major markets" by the end of march 2011. Now, the rumour about the connections options. Since the 3DS can connect to people on the go, people have gotten to the conclusion that friend codes will be dropped, or at least the 3DS can exchange friend codes. Thats the only way you can connect to other people, so it has to be one of them. Third, theres a rumour that the Home button will be like the Wii home button. Click it, it shows the battery, info on the device, etc. Others say it'll be like the PSP Go Home button. That one pauses the action, allows you to go to the internet, watch a movie, anything that isn't that game, then come back to it later. Finally, theres a rumour that the 3DS will have a connection to Hollywood movies, which is probably true. This is because in the Nintendo booth during E3 there were trailers/clips for movies like How To Train Your Dragon, Legend Of The Guardians: The Owls Of Gahoole, and Tangled. All in 3D of course. These are all cool rumours that hopefully will all be true. (The rumours are written from least likely to most likely)

Specs
These specs are really long, so I'll just write down the Nintendo E3 website, which will be updated so you can see how the specs change.
http://e3.nintendo.com/3ds/

Launch Games
Kid Icarus:Uprising
nintendogs+cats
HIDEO KOJIMA'S METAL GEAR SOLID SNAKE EATER 3D "The Naked Sample"
Resident Evil Revelations
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Animal Crossing
Mario Kart
Paper Mario
PilotWings Resort
StarFox 64 3D
Steel Diver
DJ Hero 3D
The Sims 3
Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle
RIDGE RACER
KINGDOM HEARTS
DEAD OR ALIVE 3D
SAMURAI WARRIORS 3D
Battle of Giants: Dinosaur Strike
Hollywood 61
CODENAME: Chocobo Racing 3D
SUPER STREET FIGHTER IV 3D Edition
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon



That is the BIGGEST launch support I have ever seen. Man. Talk about hype.

Heres a video showing the maximum potential of the 3DS video processor. It looks pretty epic, and I'm sure Nintendo will use the best looking handheld on the market to the advantage.


video

It may not look like much, but check out the glare on the samurai, the shadows, the blanket billowing on his side, the leaves rustling in the wind, and, finally, all that detail on the dude. The guy's fully decked out to kick some butt!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sony and Big 3 wrap-up

Don't forget to read my summary of Nintendo's conference, which I just posted, and with no furthur ado:

Sony

Sony was also last at E3 2009, and they had to push the PS Move through as "new", despite the fact that Microsoft had just finished announcing
their motion control. That wasn't an issue this year, as both of them had their motion controls, and we knew that, so Sony wasn't at such a disadvantage this time.

Sony opened with a bit of a speech, saying that this year would be the year Sony "brought 3D to games". They quickly followed it up with
Killzone 3(D). Which has jetpacks... and aliens... and all those other things that make Killzone Killzone. You'll be able to get your hands on it in February 2011.
Sony also announced that several other games will be coming out in 3D, such as the long awaited Gran Turismo 5 and MLB: The Show.

Then... more speeches. This time about their new motion control, Playstation Move. A fairly big deal was made about the fact that it actually has buttons.
They then informed us that
SOCOM 4 will be using motion controls. Yay! I guess...

One of the most unique games I saw this entire E3 was a Move-centric game called
Sorcery. As is obvious, you'll be playing a wizard, and you'll use move to aim your spells, draw glyphs on the screen to cast different spells, and all sorts of awesome stuff like that. It actually looks like it works pretty well, as the guy demoing it was able to hit the enemies reliably.

Then they demoed
PGA Tour 11. Fairly standard, but it uses Move, which really does make the difference. It seemed remarkably close to 1:1-and the golfer made the hole within par. If you like golfing (or your dad does), this might be a good game to have.

Next came
Heroes on the Move, starring such Sony heroes as Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Dexter, and a couple others. Okay, it's a platformer (I think all the heroes are from platformers, or at least pseudo-platformers) where you play as all the different characters, simple enough.

Sony then gave a release date and some prices. It comes out September 19, and the original controller will be $50, the sub-controller will be $30, there's a bundle with both and
Sports Champions for $100, and that with the PS3 for $400.

After that came several games with pretty much no information provided, those being
Eyepet, The Shoot, and Echochrome ii.

Kevin Butler came on stage and announced a new advertising campaign for the PSP, starring one Marcus Rivers, and a slogan of "Step your game up!" Basically, it's the PS3 commercials with Marcus instead of KB and a different slogan.

Then, predictably, came several games for the PSP. Among these are
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Invizimals, and God of War: Ghost of Sparta... and a stat. That stat is 70+, yes seventy plus PSP games by December of this year, and there's quite a few that look pretty good.

Finished with the PSP, we move on to one
amazing looking game. That game is LittleBigPlanet2. The first one was pretty amazing, but this one steps its game up. (See what I did there? Too bad it's not on the PSP) The first one focused mainly on platformers, but you can make anything in LBP2. Some talented individual made an RTS. Yes, a real-time strategy game. You know, like Starcraft? They added so many new features, they decided they weren't even going to talk about them and just showed a montage of awesome games made by players of the first game who were invited to see what they could do with the new game.

Then came an unusual announcement that I've oddly heard next to nothing about: Playstation Plus. It's a subscription based upgrade to PSN that lets you get all sorts of cool stuff-supposedly worth hundreds of dollars, including discounts and free PSN games. We weren't provided with many details, but we did get a price. $50 for a yearly subscription which is the same as Xbox Live.

Sony then declared war on Microsoft. Well, in the FPS arena, anyway. Here comes the reboot of
Medal of Honor, and guess what? Goodbye, WWII. We had a good run, but I think it's time to move on. Mostly because CoD did, and look what happened! Moving on, they announced a new character, Deuce, and showed off a map, located in Afghanistan, called Diwagal Camp. Also, a new HD version of Medal of Honor: Frontline will come with it.

Continuing from the EA conference the night before, we saw more on
Dead Space 2. Which looks incredible. The dark, lonely, creepy atmosphere from the original is still very much in force. There will also be a limited (to PS3) edition, including Dead Space: Extraction (originally a Wii exclusive) with Move support.

Then Valve gave us their "surprise".
Portal 2, via the most awesome medium ever-GLaDOS. From the trailer we saw, it will be much more complicated, and we know its going to be longer. Valve also announced that the PS3 version will be the best console (important distinction. Don't forget about the PC!) version of Portal 2, due to the inclusion of... Steamworks. This means that Valve will be able to conduct their signature after-launch support much more easily.

We next saw a pretty cool looking, but not incredible, trailer for
Final Fantasy XIV, the new MMO coming from Square Enix. Not much else to say, just go watch the trailer if you want.

Then came
Mafia 2, and an announcement that there will be PS3 exclusive content

After that came more
Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood (it was shown at the Ubisoft press conference the night before), along with an announcement that there will be a PS3 exclusive multiplayer beta/demo.

Also shown was
Metal Gear Solid: Rising, and a really cool trailer showing Raiden as the protagonist slicing up bad guys with the sword--which you are precisely controlling with Move. The trailer ended with an impressive display of control: A watermelon being sliced into wedges. Very clean wedges, too.

And then montage time of new games that apparently didn't rate much time-- despite the fact that there were some pretty cool games in it. Included were
Tron: Evolution, DC Universe Online, True Crime, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, Mortal Kombat 2, and Castlevania Lords of Shadow.

Nearing the end, we saw a trailer for the long-awaited
Gran Turismo 5. Graphics amazing as always-- that's pretty much all you can see in a racing game like that. It's main hook, as far as I can tell, is the ridiculous number of cars in the game. Hundreds of cars, about 100 of them with fully detailed interiors. What's the point of detailing the interior?
After that we saw the sequel to Infamous, one of the most promising PS3 exclusives to come out in recent years. You'll be seeing Cole, with new ice powers to supplement his lightning powers from the previous game, in
Infamous 2 sometime in 2011.

Finally, we got proof that David Jaffe is a liar.
Twisted Metal and Sweet Tooth are coming back to the Playstation. Twisted Metal is the longest-running series on Playstation, but it hasn't had an installment on the PS3. In case you don't know, Twisted Metal is a car combat game. As opposed to Mario Kart or Blur, where you're racing and getting ahead using weapons, defeating enemies is the goal in Twisted Metal.
It was a particularly spectacular reveal, complete with an ice cream truck and a guy dressed as Sweet Tooth. (Proof that clowns
are scary.) Includes new Nuke mode, which happens to be one of the most complicated ones I've seen. You have to capture the enemy leader (two sides, the clowns and dolls), take him back to your missile launcher, keep it there for a while, and then hit the enemy's flagship thing with the missile. Do this 3 times before the other team and you win.
In short, it looks to provide what nothing else can, and well at that!



So, this year was a pretty good year, as far as I'm concerned. None of the conferences were complete flops, and there seems to be dozens of games coming in the next year or so. The motion controls appear to have some potential, but more traditional games are far from being neglected- in fact, Nintendo, known for its focus on casual gamers, had a remarkable line-up of almost retro, hardcore games.
Personally, Kinect looks like it has more
potential to be incredible, but PS Move looks like what potential it has is being used. I'm definitely glad that Nintendo is getting back to its classic franchises.
I give the win of this year's E3 to Nintendo. Admittedly, Sony's conference was definitely the most fun (Kevin Butler is awesome!), but it was full of montages and claims that Move and 3D are the wave of the future and completely revolutionary, even when it's obvious that Move is just a more accurate, even stupider looking version of the Wii's controls. Microsoft, despite quite a few
big games coming out this year, didn't do anything unexpected, so it takes last place for me.

Tell me in the comments what you guys think!


P.S. Considering adding new writers to the blog. I'd still do more writing, but I think it would expand what we can cover, and have the end result of more information for you guys. Besides, it'd be kind of cool to be a senior editor of my own site! If you actually know me, or have a particularly interesting topic you know about and want to write on, feel free to ask!

Nintendo conference

I did the summary for Microsoft's Press Conference last night, and I'm going to finish the other 2 today, but before we start I need to tell you to watch the "Hope" trailer for Star Wars: The Old Republic that was shown as the closer for the EA conference, and I won't even make you go find it! Here it is, in its full HD glory from GameTrailers.com!
http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2010-star-wars/101162

Awesome, right? I thought so. There was also a bit more news for SWTOR at E3, I'll probably talk about that later. (And I will certainly review SWTOR when it comes out) And now on to the Nintendo Conference!

Nintendo

The first conference on Tuesday, the first official day of E3, was Nintendo. Last year, their press conference was a complete laughingstock, in no small part due to the announcement of the Wii Vitality Sensor. (Which is still in the works, apparently) Despite this, there were some things to look forward to, like the new Zelda that had been alluded to at the end of last year, Metroid: Other M, being developed by Team Ninja, and the official reveal of the 3DS.

Personally, I certainly wasn't disappointed, but you can decide for yourself.

First off, to the surprise of no one, the new Zelda was announced.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is destined to hit store shelves in 2011. The surprise here was the heavy emphasis on motion controls. They have completely redone the control scheme, and now it's supposed to be realistic motions for the sword and shield and all your normal Zelda items--plus a few new ones, which include the kind of odd Beetle, which is basically a remote control spyplane that can pick stuff up (Including bombs. BOMBS AWAY!), and the much-cooler Whip. Which is a whip.
So now you have to pay attention to how you're swinging the sword. For example, for the classic Deku Baba enemy, you now have to swing the sword at the same angle its mouth is open, and enemies with swords and the like can block your sword. Overall a nice addition in theory, but I'm not sure how it will hold up when I'm actually swinging my arms around for hours at a time.

Next up was
Mario: Sports Mix. Basically Wii sports, plus buttons and an analog stick, and MARIO! Simple enough. Sports include Hockey, Basketball, Volleyball, and Dodgeball, and that's just all I saw in time to write down. So, sports games are a lot more fun with the ability to actually, ya know, move, and time has proved that everything is better with Mario. (And his friends, of course.) It's set to arrive some time in 2011.

Now Reggie Fils-Aime, President and COO of Nintendo America, comes on the stage again and starts talking stats. He rebukes the notion that the Wii is slowing down, saying that since last E3, the Wii set the record for console sales in a single month. He then rebukes another common notion, that people don't buy very many games for the Wii, stating (or statting, if you prefer) that the Wii has sold more titles in its 43 months than
any other console did during its first 43 months.

Then he starts talking about "bridge" games, meant to bring casual gamers over from games like Wii Sports and Wii Fit to more traditional games. As examples he provides Mario Kart and New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Ok, that makes sense. Now for the logical follow-through.

Following this trail of thought comes Wii Party. Mario-party style game with over seventy mini-games. That's about all I saw, but isn't that enough? Seventy. To top that, it's coming out soon, as in Holiday 2010 soon. Also coming soon is Just Dance 2.

Now back to the more hardcore gamers with a game that's been wanted for quite a while, a sequel for Golden Sun.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn essentially has two parts, adventuring and combat. The adventuring looks a lot like 2D Zelda, and the combat looks a lot like early Final Fantasy games. With that as a description, what's not to like? Oh yeah... maybe the fact that it is also coming out during the holidays of 2010!

Nintendo next confirmed a vague, hopeful rumor of many people older than I am that remember drooling over the first truly good multiplayer FPS experience out side of a PC. That rumor is a
Goldeneye remake for the Wii. It's not an exact remake, as it's being "updated" to modern times. Things like new gameplay features and a different story line are there to bring it to 2010, culturally and in gameplay, and guess what? It is being brought to you in 2010! During the holidays, no less.

After that came
Epic Mickey. If you haven't noticed this game and have a Wii, notice it now. It's an action/adventure with, you guessed it, Mickey Mouse as the protagonist. If you thought that meant this was going to be a little kid's game, think again. It looks to be a completely awesome, deep game that you must get if you own a Wii.

But if you just like Nintendo's old franchises better than Disney, I sure have a treat for you. Several, actually. The first of these is
Kirby: Epic Yarn. The title has a double meaning. Yarn can mean a story, and it can also mean, well, yarn. Kirby is made of yarn in this game, and not just him. The entire world is made of yarn. Even the background is made of cloth. This makes for a huge difference in gameplay, as you can't swallow enemies. Never fear, though, because there's a whole bunch of interesting features to come with it. Kirby can transform into all sorts of things, and you can manipulate the environment using some interesting techniques... such as unzipping zippers. Yes, there are zippers in the game. Cool. Looks like another fresh creative game from Nintendo. Soon, too, slated for release in Fall, not holiday (!!!) 2010.

Just in case you would prefer something a little more traditional... how about another installment in one of the longest running JRPG franchises? (No, not Final Fantasy. That would be
the longest.) Dragon Quest: IX comes to the West from Japan, where it's been an incredible hit, selling 4.2 million copies, July 11. THIS YEAR. Apparently, it's huge. Seriously huge. Like 14o hours in and feeling like you "haven't even scratched the surface". Yeah, that huge. 120 mini quests, over 300 monsters, nearly a 1000 customization items huge.

Nintendo also showed more of a game they announced at last year's E3,
Metroid: The Other M. (What does that even mean?) While the game is being developed outside of Nintendo by Team Ninja, it is meant to retain the "sense of isolation and exploration" classic to the franchise, while providing some awesome action. It largely departs from the almost FPS style of the recent Prime series, going instead for 2D. Not your old 2D metroid, though. This game is going for pretty, cinematic, and very fast-paced. The best way to explain it would be to tell you to go watch the gameplay trailers. Apart from that you will be able to switch into FPS mode to shoot stuff by pointing your wiimote at the screen, at the cost of being able to move. (You control most of the game with the Wiimote held sideways.) This game, to the chagrin of many fans, will have an increased increase in story-- and a Samus that talks. OH NO! On the flip side, it is coming very soon, August 31, 2010.

If the return of all these storied Nintendo franchises isn't enough, it's okay, because there is yet
another one. That game is Donkey Kong Country: Returns, just as full of bananas, barrels, and ridiculous mine kart levels as the original. There will be co-op, beautiful graphics, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff coming to you holiday of 2010. (Busy holiday.)

You might have noticed something was missing. Nintendo kind of saved the best (or at least most amazing) part for last. The glasses-less 3D of the 3DS
works, and it is going to be incredible. It is the actual next generation of Nintendo handhelds, unlike the DSi, and it comes with increased graphical capability, two cameras (supposedly for taking 3D pictures), and the capability of playing 3D movies. Not bad!

Oh, and there's some really cool games coming for it. Including Pit's triumphant return. Yes, there is a new Kid Icarus coming to the 3DS, titled
Kid Icarus: Uprising. The trailer looked incredibly fun, with Wii-level graphics of Pit swooping about, shooting his bow at everyone, and generally just doing awesome soldier-angel-kid stuff.
Nintendogs (and Cats) is also being developed for the 3DS, but it was kind of just slipped in there, so it's probably not going to be ready for a while.
The really amazing thing about the 3DS is the amazing level of third-party support that it's getting. Apparently the makers of everything from Kingdom Hearts (YES!) to Metal Gear to Assassin's Creed (and
more) are considering putting games from these fabled franchises onto the 3DS. Developers, as provided by Nintendo, include (take a deep breath, there's a LOT): Activision, Atlus, Namco-Bandai, Capcom, EA, Harmonix, Square Enix, Sega, THQ, Ubisoft, and more. Incredible.

Then they showed this hilarious trailer showing Reggie, Satoru Iwata, and and Shigeru Miyamoto getting sucked into the 3DS and/or getting owned by Bowser, and here's the link to G4's HD video:
http://e3.g4tv.com/videos/46521/E3-2010-Nintendo-Press-Conference-Nintendo-3DS-Trailer/?quality=hd




Saturday, June 19, 2010

E3: Big 3 Intro, & Microsoft

In case you've been living under a rock in the gaming world, this week was E3- short for Electronic Entertainment Expo, held annually in June, usually in LA. (Its history is a little spotty, but nevermind that, it doesn't matter.) E3 is THE conference of the year, where developers and publishers announce their games and provide demos for the press-- all in the name of publicity.

What's really cool about E3 is you get to see the future of video games happen- and most of that happens during the big 3 press conferences. (Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony.) This is when and where they announce new consoles, new features, sometimes big new exclusive games, and just generally brag about how awesome this next year is going to be for this console and why YOU should get it. So I'm going to do a summary and short analysis of the big 3 conferences, each one with its own post and with a tie-in analysis after the last one (Sony) about where the industry seems to be heading, according to the tone of the conferences.

Considering doing a highlights of E3 post, but I probably won't because I didn't take notes for enough of the coverage... shame on me. I guess I'll just have to find a way to go next year, huh? :D


P.S. With a lot of these my knowledge from outside the conferences is going to be mixed with actual stuff from the conferences, especially with Microsoft. I'll try to keep to the most salient points of the games, but if you just want to know what games were announced instead of reading all of it, just look for the bolded and italicized (boldicized) words. Also, if there's something written about it, it probably had a trailer, and if it doesn't it was probably just in a list of stuff thrown out there.

P.P.S. If there's a particular game that you'd like me to take a look at and muse upon, put it in the comments! I really want to make this as informative for you guys as I can, as well as getting all this stuff in my head onto paper. (figuratively)

MICROSOFT

Microsoft started their conference with Call of Duty: Black Ops. While it's being made by Treyarch, the studio behind World at War, instead of Infinity Ward, who made the hugely popular Modern Warfare series, lots of people don't know that, and Treyarch isn't bad anyway, so this was a pretty good way to start.

Black Ops is going to be a FPS based throughout the Cold War period (Say 60's to 80's) in several different locales, as several different characters. (obviously. This isn't Metal Gear, where the protagonist remains the protagonist even when he's old and crippled--literally.) So there's going to be parts in Vietnam (I believe they showed this in particular), Russia, and a whole bunch of other places in SE Asia, Eastern Europe, Etc. It is logical to assume it will cover the story of all the secret stuff we did during the Cold War that we really weren't supposed to be doing.

Anyways, they showed a trailer, and it looked awesome. Graphically, I mean. The gameplay didn't seem like anything special, despite a cool-looking helicopter sequence, but the graphics... wow.

Following the trailer, Microsoft announced an unprecedented arrangement: All DLC, map packs, etc. for the Call of Duty franchise will come to the Xbox 360 FIRST before any other console, for the next 3 years. (Technically through 2012, I believe.) Obviously a good deal for Microsoft, and I imagine Activision (the CoD publisher) is getting quite a bit out of it too. In other words- get CoD on the 360 or be prepared to wait for after launch content.

Next came a 4-player co-op demonstration of Gears of War 3, with Epic's own Cliff Bleszinski (hey I spelled it right first time!) doing all the necessary on stage stuff. In this trailer, you fought all these mutated Locusts, called Lambents, which can do some really freaky stuff, and at the end you fight this giant... monster... thing. Not sure what it is.
ANYWAYS, Epic also announced a new Beast mode, where you play as some of these creepy beasties and try to kill the COG soldiers. From what I've heard, it sounds pretty deep and fun. Don't worry, everyone's favorite Horde mode will be returning as well.

Then came Peter Molyneux from Lionhead Studios to talk about Fable III and show a trailer. More blah blah blah stuff. So, Fable III is basically divided into 2 parts, the first part you are trying to overthrow the tyrant king, and in the second part you ARE the tyrant king-- or you can be. Well, you're the king. So you can be a tyrant if you want. So Peter Molyneux being typically ambitious, if not as much as some other times. (Remember Milo?)

Next came my personal favorite of the Microsoft conference, largely because I actually have played the earlier games in the series, Halo: Reach. (Notice all of these are later in a series. Interesting, no?)
Halo: Reach is Bungie's last hurrah with the Bungie universe, and it sure looks like its going to live up to the lofty expectations that are inevitably being placed on the last game in such an iconic franchise. The graphics are better, the physics are better, there's new weapons, the equipment of Halo 3 has been replaced with some cool looking "armor abilities", and it just looks all around awesome. What they actually showed at the conference was a trailer (it looked like gameplay, but it may have been scripted gameplay that was recorded for the sake of the trailer, thus making it a tiny bit suspect) for the campaign. It shows Noble Team (The protagonists. Halo: Reach is squad based, folks!) fighting through some Elites (who, btw, are MUCH bigger and stronger than the Spartans-even in multiplayer.), and eventually culminating in a space battle. Yes, playable space battles in Halo. Awesome, yes?

So that was basically the first part of the conference, and the part that you all are probably more interested in-- despite being unimportant, overall, to the game industry. So the second part of the conference is about that one big thing that's coming to the 360... Oh yeah. Motion Controls. Newly named Kinect, after ditching the code name, Project Natal. (They should have called it Kinetic. More accurate, and pretty much the same.)

First off, they talked about how it's going to revolutionize your dashboard experience. Yes, all I ever wanted my Xbox to let me do is to swipe with my hand to select what I'm going to do, even though it probably takes MORE effort than using a controller! Ok, seriously, it does sound like it could be pretty handy. Apart from the obvious camera, Kinect comes with a microphone, so you can control videos and the like with your voice. Example: "Xbox: Stop" stops the movie. Simple! You can also do video chats, and all sorts of other neat stuff that really has nothing to do with games. You can go watch the conference if you want, just pick a gaming site, it'll probably be there.
Oh, I almost forgot. This one's actually kind of cool: Microsoft has made a deal with ESPN to stream games straight to your Xbox, at no additional charge. Of course not even all major sports are represented, most notably (at least to me) the NFL. So no, you can't watch the Super Bowl on your 360 next February. Sorry.

Then they got down to the actual games, of which there were... six? launch titles specifically shown at the conference. A lot of them just seem to be Wii knockoffs, most namely Kinect Sports, which I'm not going to even talk about because it's Wii Sports with different sports (didn't write them down, sorry) and a different controller. Then there was Kinectimals, which had an admittedly adorable demo of this little girl playing with her pet tiger, names Skittles. Yes, a pet tiger named Skittles. Obviously not going for realism in that one. Kinect JoyRide is fairly self explanatory, though the controls seem to have been dumbed down to accommodate Kinect. Brakes seem kind of important to me, but it's their call. I guess. Kinect Adventures is a game where you raft around, striking poses to collect the coins. Interesting, I guess. Not really. I believe all these were developed in house at Microsoft, unlike these next two.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved is a superior (yes, I said it) version of Wii Fit being developed by Ubisoft. It's a lot easier to tell what you're doing with a CAMERA than with a glorified scale.
Dance Central is the one game that actually seems fairly innovative, and above all- well implemented. The premise is simple- do whatever's on the screen, almost Rock Band/Guitar Hero style. There's 2 different modes, one which takes you through the moves of the dance one by one and teaches them to you, and one which, guess what, goes through the actual dance. The interesting thing about this game is that apparently, it's not beyond imagining for it to actually teach you how to dance. Pretty impressive, actually.

Microsoft also showed a really impressive, tech demo I guess it'd be, for a 2011 Kinect Star Wars game. Kind of like TFU, but not. For one thing, you are actually swinging the lightsaber. SOLD. Except, as I recall, it looked more like the cartoon than TFU. Not good.
Also shown was a demo for Forza Motorsport... whatever. Didn't actually get named. Forza Motorsport: Kinect (working title)... Back on track! Also coming out in 2011, they showed a guy... using Kinect to "walk" around the car and point out features of the car like the brakes and the engine, and then he "entered" the car and looked around. Amazingly detailed, but that's not the point. Of course I do believe you'll actually be driving with Kinect--- Hopefully with brakes. Buttons are important, guys!

And then the big shocker! Microsoft announced a NEW XBOX! Wait, sorry, not the next gen. This is the Xbox version of PS3 Slim. It IS significantly smaller, if not to the extent of the PS3 slim, and it's also quieter, comes with a wi-fi adapter, 250GB HD, and should be more reliable than the other 360s. Oh, and it can't RROD. Literally, it CAN'T. As in they took out the red lights. Instead, the green lights are going to flash. Umm, I sense confusion.
And then the REALLY big shocker-- Microsoft gave, gave, one of the new edition Xbox 360's to every person at the conference. I'm not kidding, they did.

So, the Microsoft conference essentially had two sides- the serious, normal, hardcore games (3 of 4 were shooters. Something's wrong with that. At least only one of them was the modern, realistic kind), and the new, family-friendly, Wii ripoff games, along with a few that actually show some promise, and even fewer that actually show promise for hardcore gamers. Overall, not bad. Definitely not a complete failure, fairly good organization, but not a stand-out performance either. Obviously trending towards motion controls, but that really started last year so it doesn't count this year.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Mass Effect: Showing Its Age?

We all know that Mass Effect was a marvelous game- when it came out over two years ago. But how have the years treated it?

Short version? Not very well. It suffers in comparison to Bioware's more recent games, Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins.

Mass Effect was rife with problems, but most people got past these problems and enjoyed the experience and world that Bioware had crafted for them. But now that the sequel has come out and improved on it in almost every aspect, Mass Effect doesn't seem quite so incredible. The combat system seems clunky, the levels poorly designed, the inventory system a mess, and that there's a bug everywhere you look.

The cover system works okay, but sometimes it's hard to get out, and the peek and shoot function doesn't work as well as it could. It's annoying to pause in combat, at least for me, and the AI doesn't seem to act logically. I had a bunch of rocket-wielding robots rush me one time, and I just couldn't hit them because they're moving so quickly and are right in front of my face. The skill system seems pretty well designed, but I prefer ME2's idea of having a cooldown skill after any skill before you can use the next. Oh, and it takes a really long time to get up when you get "pushed", but that's to be expected... I guess. Sometimes you'll go into a fight against biotics, get pushed immediately, and never get back up.

The levels are extremely repetitive. This was a big issue with the first one, and it's even more evident now, after having played ME2 and DA:O. There are maybe half a dozen layouts for the dozens of side quests, and the only differences are the enemies and the way the boxes are laid out. I didn't know caves were being mass-produced now! Combined with the relative (and I mean relative) lack of story in the sidequests, it seems the only reason for the sidequests is to level up and get the completionist achievement.

Aside from that, occasionally there will be an annoying fight that you have trouble with simply because there isn't enough cover in this very cover-based game. The ONLY time you should ever be out of cover is fighting melee enemies, and those are relatively rare. Having an invincible boss be able to shoot at you pretty much where ever you are is not a good idea. (ok, only in about half the room-the half you start in.)

Another common area of critique is the inventory system. I've never seen so many USELESS guns. You'll change guns maybe a dozen times (not quite arbitrary, but pretty close) per type and character, (which, assuming you're not giving people guns they can't use, comes out to 20 or 30) but you get and sell hundreds, maybe a thousand. The upgrades are even worse, and I much prefer ME2's system of having the different ammo types as skills-despite how unrealistic it is.

ME is fairly glitchy. You can get caught somewhere without being able to get out, freezing when you open the inventory screen (hey, I would too), and one time I even had half the ground disappear while I was in the rover on one of the main missions. Really annoying when you can't see the deadly lava.

All of this seemed like minor issues with the game originally, but taking out the still incredible writing and voice acting and the revolutionary conversation wheel, it is definitely starting to show its age -- at least compared to Bioware's more recent games. ME2 has been so thoroughly polished it shines, making ME seems a little rusty in comparison, and Dragon Age is so incredibly deep and varied, it makes ME seem like you're doing the same thing over and over... which you are, sometimes.

Don't let any of this fool you, Mass Effect is not a bad game by any standards, but if you've played it before and know the story, as well as played the ever-so-much-cleaner sequel, it's kind of hard to go back. I can't get into as much as I have before for the character I'm making now for my second ME2 playthrough, but I'm also trying to do it as fast as I can- which means skipping dialogue. That doesn't help immersion very much, especially considering that is easily Bioware's strongest point.

In some ways, ME may even be better than ME2- the pacing is more traditional, and there seems to be more major choices. I think this is less because the devs thought ME2's way was better, so much as the story in ME2 dictating the way it had to be.

Mass Effect was an incredible game, way ahead of its time. Overall -- its still ahead of its time. Other games are starting to do what it did, bridge the gap between action and story, shooter and RPG, but ME is still ahead of the curve. The only problem is, ME2 is even farther ahead!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

June Preview

So, trying out yet another new thing: preview for what I'm going to be doing this month.
(Really it's to give me a schedule of things I need to do this month :P)

I'm going to review ME1 and ME2, since it won the poll, getting almost as much as everything else combined. (I'd post something on it tonight, but I haven't really played enough of it yet and I need to work on it.)

Somewhere in there I'm going to talk about Awakening, the expansion for DA:O, since we (my family) got that recently.

As you should know, E3 is coming (two weeks!) I probably won't be done with ME and ME2 by then, since I'm gone next week, but I'll do one post concerning the big 3 press conferences, and another post with... well, anything and everything else that catches my eye. Hmm, maybe I should take notes.

After that I'll cover Super Mario Galaxy, since I suddenly felt like playing it after hearing how awesome SMG2 is, and if we're all lucky SMG2 as well.

And, finally, either at the end of this month or the beginning of next month, I'll hopefully kick off a rash of shooters with Halo 3. (Hopefully as I'm going to try to get MW2 and Borderlands) Anyone who wants to help with campaign or play multiplayer, or just feels like it, feel free to add me on Xbox Live. Gamertag: Aldowyn. Oh, and post a comment here with your gamertag so I know who it is.

Also I'm thinking about starting out some reader segments, like user-suggested polls, and answering questions from readers, and anything else you faithful readers come up with.

So, that's my plans for this month! Anything else you guys think I should do, comment, please!