Thursday, June 30, 2011

Let's Talk About Minecraft Again - 1.7 Edition

Now, we all know I've repeatedly Lamented my lack of ability to play Minecraft, thanks to the gruddiness of my computer (which is only slightly less gruddy), but we all know I still follow it from afar, watching with bated breath for the day which I may get my clutches on the 'finished' product to make my blocky dreams come true.  Until then, as is the custom, I find that I catch every piece of news about the game that comes to pass (being subscribed to about, ohh.....five people who play Minecraft on Youtube pretty regularly will do that) and I always find a bit of intrigue in just what happens to make the game grow.

Pictured above are likely the biggest things added in the latest update:  Pistons.  Now, we all know what pistons are; they're things that move up and down and occasionally move things.  And in Minecraft, that's what Pistons are all about, is moving things.  People have already come up with rather neat ways to use these (specifically Sticky Pistons) to make lots of neat things, including, of course, secret passages.  As you can see below, the possibilities are colorful and varied.

As always if you prefer, feel free to just take that to Youtube proper to watch it better.

Colorful trailer aside, (As it really was pretty nice) it really does highlight the various uses for whatever you could desire.  As long as it involves something that can be done by just moving blocks.  Still, just from the doorway thing they showed, that's enough for some real big enticement there, as if you could hide switches in your house well (which, you can, currently) and run Redstone wire well, you could have a lot of really neat things going on.

I -was- going to talk more on the subject, but my current rage at MSN being unable to send goddamn messages has ruined my ability to think.  I'll try and edit something else in if I think about it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Resident Evil: Mercenaries 3D, aka, "The Art of Pooch-Screwing"

Developers suggesting only a single playthrough of a game is hardly something new in the gaming world, but so far, it's only been that, a suggestion, which is where it really deserved to be.  Between David Cage suggesting you only play Heavy Rain once, so the magic is there for you, and you'll always remember your play and Hideo Kojima's pipe dreams for a system that would destroy a game disk if you died (I have no article for this, but I'm pretty sure it's a real thing), the theory has been out there for a while, but nobody's really been dumb enough to try and implement it, because, and I'm assuming here, nobody wants to be seen as being that dumb.

But, Capcom can now claim to be the pioneer of this idea that I cannot stress enough as being dumb.

Earlier this week, Joystiq reported that RE: Mercs 3D saves are 'forever', which, at the time, I brushed off as being a silly misinterpretation.  And while I don't know how the words "Saved data on this software cannot be reset." can be taken at anything but that, I couldn't imagine, couldn't fathom that it would be gone through with.  But, I'm going to suggest that it is that big of a deal, given GameStop refused to take it as a trade-in, presumably because it has, in fact, no resale value.  They have gone back on that, of course, but others haven't been so wishy-washy.  HMV, a British retailer also put a halt on any and all trade-ins of the game, and EB Games Australia just plain aren't stocking the game.  They'll order you a copy, if you want it, but they're pretty outward with their distaste of the system.

I'd still like to know whether or not there's truly no way to reset the game to factory default, but from what I've been seeing around the interwebs, it ain't good.  Bravo, Capcom.  I wonder how the fallout/backlash from this will affect the chances of MML3..

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PSP Dual-Packs Out Now: What's Next?

So, today's Playstation Store Post had a lot of interesting fare for the customers, including the Uncharted 3 MP Beta (for Plus and inFamous 2 purchasers, which, hell, is pretty much everyone) and Beyond Good & Evil HD (Not to mention some real tempting deals for Plus members), but it also brought in the first (of a few, hopefully) wave of PSP Dual-Packs, pictured above.  As pictured, there are only three, and the offerings seem slightly strange at first, what with the two Syphon Filter games separated, and packed with other games, but it's smart, at least, because Sony wants you to buy both!  The only thing that bothers me is that I have a two copies of Killzone:  Liberation already (Physical and digital) but I don't have Logan's Shadow.  Jerks.

What I'm not quite sure on about these dual packs is if they're just two game cases packaged in a neat little box, or some sort of barebones mess that any PSP Bundle comes with, with everything but a case, surely to drive purists crazy.  (Like me.  I -need- cases for my UMDs, damnit!)  But as it is, it seems a solid deal;  Two games of at least mid-level quality for $15?  No problem.  The fact that they're available in both Physical and Digital mediums shows forethought, which is just lovely.  While I may not need to be able to play, say, Secret Agent Clank, on my Playstation Vita, the ability to do so is alluring, just because.

Clearly, despite assertions to the contrary, the PSP library is rather large and varied, so the possibilities for future dual-packs is fairly impressive; especially if/when Squeenix gets on-board.  Hopefully it'll be what kicks them in the ass enough to get their goddamn games on the PS Store.  Between Final Fantasy Tactics:  War of the Lions, Crisis Core, Star Ocean:  First Departure, Star Ocean:  Second Evolution, Kingdom Hearts:  Birth By Sleep (Which might be an issue with Disney), Valkyrie Profile:  Lenneth, Final Fantasy and Final Fantasy II they should be able to find some things they can put on the goddamn PS Store together for $15.  And that's just one dev; imagine all the others.  Persona pack from Atlus?  Disgaea pack from NIS?

Yeah.  I certainly don't expect this to be the last we'll hear of the Dual-Pack scenario.  Let's just hope the next lineup is just as favorable as the first!

Monday, June 27, 2011

LittleBigThings: Vita News and a Blast from the Past

As we all learned today, LittleBigPlanet Vita is being developed by Double11 Studios in conjunction with Tarsier studios who has worked on the console versions of both LittleBigPlanet games as well.  It would be nice to be able to link to their Wikipedia page here, but apparently they aren't big enough for one.  So all we have to go on is the fact that Double11 Studios was formed by Ex-Rockstar employees (according to Joystiq) and y'know?  That's probably enough.  Everyone was pretty delighted with the game at E3, and the idea that they're working with people with experience with the series, I'm sure we'll end up with something of a delight.  Hopefully, it'll end up being a bit better on the technical side than LittleBigPlanet PSP, though it's entirely possible that is will.

Speaking of LittleBigPlanet PSP, I finally cashed in my Welcome Back rewards today from PSN and picked LBP PSP as one of my PSP games because, well, a digital version will be nice when Vita rolls around.  I thought I was being clever by waiting to activate it towards the end of the month so I'd get two months worth of Playstation Plus content to browse through (Which, I think, will mostly work), and all the store issues would be cleared up and I'd be able to just claim my free games like that.  That was not the case!  And, in fact, I had to go about the method illustrated here to get them, which was a bit bothersome, but they're all in my download list, ready for me whenever I, and my internet, are ready for them.

I can't think of a smooth transition to type here, so, fuck it:  we're gonna talk about my LittleBigPlanet levels yet again.  As always, the above is my level I made a while back, Journey's Fall, and the reason I bring it up tonight, is for the fact that the other night, I stumbled across the notebook I had way back when I was planning it, with the notes for it, the blank page for JF2, and the notes I drew up for a Saw-themed level which, hey, I might just actually make.  Because I actually do have quite a bit for it done already (conceptually, of course), and I just like the Saw franchise that much.

Essentially, the level will drop the Sackboy (or girl) into a fairly identifiable area for the series (Not that I'm going to recreate an area, just the trademark look, hopefully) and begin with the normal Jigsaw doll in the TV.  I'm working with Cinematic Cameras currently so hopefully I'll be able to -really- work them out and have them for that part if nothing else.  The general theme that Jigsaw lays out is that you, the Sackboy (or girl) are there because of something a good majority of the people on LBP could generally be there for, the 'crimes' of the community:  Heart4Hearting, Purposefully/Maliciously One-Starring (Or, now, Sad-Facing), False Grief Reporting, and Poor Teamwork Skills.  So the first step, like other helpful programs, is to admit your problem, your 'crime'.

I'm not sure if I want to just have the player tackle only one, or just throw them into a gauntlet of all four, because, hey, the player could be guilty of any combination of all or none of what's presented; and it's not like it matters in the grand scheme of things.  While perhaps not original (Unfortunately, I've seen my share of Saw-based levels and I don't think any of them ranked above poor) I'm hoping I can put some work into it to make it really shine.  Once I get a more solid layout drawn out, I may even post it here (either edit it into this post and then remark about it on my Twitter to lead you back) or just make a new LittleBigThings article.

Who knows, maybe the Journey's Fall Remake might actually have been worked on by then!  (Spoiler:  It will be.)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What's -Really- Wrong with the Industry?

Look at the screenshot above.  Do you know just what game that is?  I'd wager a guess that, well, yes, you do actually.  For some reason, it's hard to find a shot like the above when you really want to, which really annoys me, but that's besides the point.  Anyways, for those of us that know the game is, indeed, Bulletstorm, there's also those who would look at the above shot and wonder what version of Call of Duty it is before going about their merry way.  A lot of people will tell you that it's because the market has become so saturated with FPS games that you could take any of them and put them in a line-up and they'll look the same.

Others will tell you that sequels are what's wrong with the industry, citing even so recent as E3 as proof.  After all, the biggest games shown were:  Halo 4, Gears of War 3, Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, The Elder Scrolls 5, Legend of Zelda:  Skyward Sword, Mass Effect 3, Saint's Row 3, Call of Duty:  Modern Warfare 3, to name a few.  They'll claim that we're so out of ideas that our retreads over the same familiar territories are the only things that can get out of a developer's studio with any chance to sell.  This never, of course, takes into account that, at one point, these games above were all-new, original IPs. 

Obviously, I'm in neither of the above camps.  While the above scenarios aren't wrong, neither are problems facing the industry; after all, video game sequels aren't a new thing, nor would I be willing to believe that they're any more prevalent nowadays than they used to be, when such games like Doom and constant installments of Adventure Game franchises were the things to get in on.  It's no surprise that FPS games are prevalent nowadays!  They sell.  Video game companies are in the business to make money.  Adventure Games (point-and-click mostly) had their turn, RPGs had their turn, and when the next trend comes around, they'll get on that too.  Because for every sequel that comes out, especially the ones that are only 2 or 3, that was a new IP very, very recently, and the sequel is a sign of success.

Some may take a look at the success of certain franchises and scoff; after all, they're not being bought in bulk by the real gamers, the people who are likely to look around on gamefaqs, on Penny Arcade, on numerous other message boards and websites for video games.  They're being bought by the same people who proliferate the other trends that are 'ruining' everything else:  The unwashed masses.  But we all know that's not exactly true, and just because a 22 Year Old frat guy who doesn't know Final Fantasy from Persona enjoys a good game of Black Ops multi-player, that doesn't entitle him to anyone's scorn.  Because he's there, he's got a console, a game, and he's enjoying what we all enjoy ourselves. 

Who knows?  Maybe he'll be that one who uses Black Ops as a gateway into something else.  Maybe he goes from Black Ops to Resistance.  They're both shooters, after all.  And maybe he tells his buddy he's playing Resistance and his buddy, knowing that Insomniac and Naughty Dog are both good companies, sort of close to one another, recommends Uncharted.  Just like that, he's playing something that we can all call one of our games and likely enjoying it just as much as we would.

So, what is the problem, if not something easy to admit and point out to, which has already been done?  My wager is that the above problems are merely symptoms of the real problem here.  The fact that we as 'Gamers' cry out that there's not enough innovation, enough originality, and then when it comes around, it's not rewarded as one would expect, merely because it's something new, something untested.  A rough formula.  Pictured above, obviously, is Catherine, which is Atlus' first dip into the HD side of the pool.  Likely not their last, but it's almost that easy to tell you that Catherine will not make as much money as they're used to in previous games they've put out.

You can't get anymore different than the current climate of gaming than Catherine, and yet all those people who are quick to knock the latest number game, the ones who scoff at FPS games, of those, only a small percent will go out and buy Catherine when it's released.  This, in turn, sends a message to developers, one that says 'Make what's already out there if you want to get a paycheck'.

In my opinion, that is the problem here.  Developers are afraid to make new, untested games, and rightfully so.  Though we ultimately benefit from their efforts, as we generally end up getting to experience something new and wonderful, we're not the only ones in the equation.  It's the Developers we have to worry about; those people with a dream and the ability to do something new, they're almost never given what they want or need, and things just don't work out.  The ones that don't just get cut out or fired end up elsewhere, which is good at least, but they'll likely never forget the game they made that 'could have' changed things, but didn't because nobody wanted to buy something that looked different.

I'm not really sure there's a point here, honestly.  Maybe it's just the idea that inFamous 2 and LittleBigPlanet 2, two games that are near and dear to my gaming heart, could get lumped in on a checklist of games with numbered iterations in a statement claiming the industry is devoid of creativity and originality.  Just because they're not brand-new games with brand-new concepts and ideas, in a brand-new world in the eyes of certain people because of the '2' at the end of them, they're not as 'important' as something else, something unestablished like Dragon's Dogma, Dead Island or Rage.  Which I'm sure we can all agree is bull, whether you're excited for these new games or not.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Looking forward to Journey? Of course you are.

And sources indicate that you may be able to get a fix next week via a beta trial version of the game being put out in very limited quantities.  Details are as sparse as water in the desert, but we'll all know a little more come Monday when thatgamecompany puts out the word via their facebook page and the playstation blog.  We all know where to look now, and now we just have to wait.  Which, most of us have other things to do, so it won't be all that bad.  But still, just the idea of being able to somehow interact with this strange game that we know, essentially, nothing is tantalizing.  Can you tell that I missed using italics?

As we know from flOw and Flower, thatgamecompany's motto is not the norm among other developers, and while they don't design the most....inspiring or amazing games, in one sense, the games they do create (well, Flower, at least) are different enough to take notice.  With such a different art style, a different approach, they're doing what we all crave, even if we don't like the end product:  Be different.  Everyone goes on and on about how they're sick of all the shooters, yet they sell gangbusters where games that aren't about getting to x, y, and z places to shoot groups a, b, and c of mans underperform.  It's the classic case of the general masses talking from both sides of their mouth, since there's actually nothing inherently wrong with first person or third person shooters.

I could rail on about that subject some more, and in fact I might at some point, but that's not the point of this article.  While we know that Journey is about a wanderer in the desert, that's about all we know about it.  The main character that you play as, apparently has a magical scarf, and it will be somewhat of a platformer at parts, but that's about it.  And you know what?  That's all we need.  thatgamecompany has proven that they're capable of creating something special and by the looks of it, Journey will be just like that.  So all we can do is sit and wait for the sand to run down that hourglass.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What I Did on My Summer Vaca- er, Hiatus

So, if you paid attention to the handy-dandy gadget I put on the sidebar with my twitter feed, you no doubt saw that I implemented that at just the right moment, for directly after, I found a real use for it:  informing you, the readers, that my computer had gone all pear-shaped.  So, I hope you saw that at some point!  Because it's not an intentional outage that I went through, I assure you, merely something out of my control.  The skinny of it is something the internet has, no doubt, told you anyway:  Never buy Norton Anything.  Norton Anti-virus, Internet Security, what have you, just don't shell out the money.  It can, quite possibly, get infected in such a way that it turns into a megalomaniacal super-tyrant who will ruin your computer if not stopped.  And the means of stopping it involve completely wiping the computer.

Thankfully, the guy who fixed our computer has been doing things with computers since I was a kid, so he knows what he's doing, and the important things that were on this computer were saved.  So no worries on that.  He even optimized it (and gave it a half-gig more of RAM, bringing the total up to, uh, 1 gig) for us and it works like a dream now.  A....ten year old, technological hurr-durr of a dream, but a dream nonetheless.  So hopefully, everything will be cool on the computer front.  If only Windows would, uh, stop updating.

Anyways, you likely don't care about that.  You care about what the title says:  What I did with my, er, 'time off'.  And I'll tell you what, it was a lot.  I'd like to make special mention to my PSP for being awesomer and awesomer every time I want to do something with it.  Thanks in part to the world going all mobile-sites, the browser in the PSP is a little more capable than the days or yore, and while it's still not perfect, it's a fine stand-by while we wait for the real treasure:  The Vita's browser.  Which...I imagine will just be the PS3's browser.  But hey, it works fine, and it streams youtube videos.  Hopefully we'll see that on the Vita as well, since that's the only thing that could have made the hiatus more bearable.

I'm sure it'll surprise no one (especially if you kept up with my twitter) that the bulk of my time away was spent with Sucker Punch's latest gem, inFamous 2, which has me feeling all sorts of things; the majority of them being good.  I will open by berating Sucker Punch for making the same mistake in this game as they did the last:  Holding out on us with the really good mobility powers.  Without spoiling too much for you, at a certain point, you get a power that makes getting up to higher places much, much easier, in a way that I akined to being Electric Spider-Man, but that point is not in the first half of the game, much like the Static Thrusters weren't that soon in the first game.  Which is not a good thing!  Stop holding out, Sucker Punch!

My only other gripe would be, in a surprising twist, too much of a good thing.  Namely, quite a few powers locked to the R2 key.  Two are in my head off-hand (one of them being a good side power, since that's what I beat the game on), and it's just too much of a hassle to switch between them.  They both make mobility really, really excellent, and it's just a shame that you can't swap one of them with a different key to make use of the both of them in a quick, easy, and efficient way.

Aside from that, the rest of the game made me various, various degrees of happy, save one part.  Which, if you've beaten the game on good, you know what part and I'm not saying anything else.  Suffice to say that I had to tell myself repeatedly that it's a comic book game, and comic books do that sort of thing all the time and keep going, so I'm not going to worry too much on it.

I know I focused more on the things I was "Ehhhhhh" about, but you have to look at the facts here:  I spent probably 20-30 hours playing inFamous 2, beat it one and a fourth times, and I have precisely three gripes about it, two of which aren't really even bad.  If that's not enough of an endorsement for you, I could very likely gush here for paragraphs about what I loved about the game, but I can just narrow it down here:  Everything I didn't mention above.  Alright?  It's all just perfect.  Go buy it.

Also on my list of things I did, was delve back into the wonderful world of LittleBigPlanet the Second, which made me wonder why I ever left to begin with.  And then I looked at the stack of games I've yet to even touch still and mouthed a silent "Oh yeah" to myself.  However, LBP2 has likely carved out a niche in my everyday while I watch my nephews at least, since they just love love love watching the movies people have created in LittleBigPlanet 2.  Which makes it easy on me too; I can just load it and enjoy as they do!  Though, I do love playing the game, of course.

And of course, dipping back into LBP2 has also meant a resurgence of my ever-long desire to revamp my single published level, Journey's Fall, that I have come to think of as the half-finished manuscript on my coffee table.  I'm proud of it, but it's not done, and I don't know what to do with it; or rather, I do know, but I can't will myself to do so.  And while I might show it off to people who come around and get positive feedback, it could likely never get finished.  Though I really do intend to finish it.  And I do have a few ideas.  We'll see if LittleBigThings will make a comeback, though.

Also on the rather long list of accomplishments is the fact that I have, indeed, scratched one game off of my "To Finish" list:  Grand Theft Auto:  The Lost and Damned.  Though, that's the only positive note about it, as TLAD is, for a lack of a better term, completely and totally poor.  I wanted to like it.  I really did.  Because I liked GTA IV!  At least, I did.  Coming back to the mechanics after such an extended period of time made them feel archaic by comparison.  It was rough getting back in, especially considering the lovely missions and the absolutely fabulous mid-mission checkpoint system, but after I got them back down...well, I managed to finish the game.  (I will note, that obviously, I hated the missions and checkpoints.)

Note to Rockstar for future reference:  If you have a goddamn shootout with five waves of people and then a bike chase to kill even more people on bikes, maybe you want to put a checkpoint somewhere in there.  I cannot put into words the amount of frustration one feels when you're down to just one guy left to kill and you end up dying.


Only to have to restart the whole goddamn thing over again.


Especially if one of those times is, technically, your own fault because you don't remember how to switch weapons on a vehicle.  Gee thanks, game!  What am I going to do with goddamn pipe bombs on a motorcycle against other guys on motorcycles?  The answer?

Accidentally kill myself.

Yeah.  That was just.....I'm sure you can imagine what it was.  And all in all, I can appreciate the scale of the later missions, but that doesn't mean I liked them or thought they were done well.  While the last missions arguably reaches Three-Leaf Clover levels of grandeur, the execution is much less appealing and even becomes a bit sloppy, like the rest of the game.  (I know it's just an expansion, but it's full-featured enough.)

Directly after, I started up The Ballad of Gay Tony, and it's like friggin' night and day.  The Ballad of Gay Tony, I only got through the first mission before I turned it off, but I was happy while playing it.  Because it was fun.  The animation is noticeably better, the voice-work is wonderful, and the direction is just much, much better overall.  I do believe I'm going to have fun with it.  But time will tell, of course.

Rounding out the list of things I did is the all-encompassing term of "Portable Gaming", by which Phantasy Star Portable 2 and Rune Factory 3 were my main games.  Anyone from the school of Phantasy Star Online will appreciate the gravity of the statement, "I got my main character from Level 80 to Level 82" whereas everyone else will likely shrug at the two levels of advancement.  But those of us that know, know, that that is not something to shrug over.  As for Rune Factory 3, I had my second child on my main file and started a new one because why not with the intent on getting all the girls to like my character so he'll have supreme pick when it comes time to get married.

I might even be forgetting a thing or two here, but the short of it is that the computer is back and better than ever, and I had a lot of free time in the meantime.  But now Kupowered is back in business!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Quick Note About My Twitter

Back when I mentioned I would start using my Twitter for updates and such and linked it, I was just trying to think of ways to be able to utilize it in a way that doesn't force you, the reader, to follow me on Twitter or whatever should you not want to.  Following being the easiest way to get my updates and all, it seemed like an empty gesture until I had a thought tonight while looking over at The Word of Notch, AKA Notch of Minecraft fame's personal blog.  He has a little twitter updater gadget on the side which, were it not for it being inundated constantly with '@notch', would likely be useful.  Since I'm not popular in the lease on Twitter, I surmised that if I could have such a thing, it'd be easier to use.

And as it turns out, Blogger has one of those gadgets, so now I have it on my sidebar.  If an update is going to be late, well, now you'll be able to know easier.  Hope that's cool with everyone!

(I also might use it for silly things.  As you might notice currently.)

Dragon's Crown To Use Touch Screen in a Good Way

Now, while I may not be as excited for Dragon's Crown as some people (merely because the company/dev is more of an unknown to me, haven't played their games that I know of) I can always applaud someone taking something that is, of course, purely optional, and doing something neat with it.  That is to say, of their own volition, and in a way that will not bring upon annoyance to the players.  (See:  Sixaxis support in 99% of PS3 games)  And from the sounds of it, Dragon's Crown will do just that.

For ease of use, the touch screen will be allowed to be used to select items for quick consumption, which is neat, but that's not really the big thing.  The big thing is using the touchscreen as a sort of call-back to those point-and-click adventure games where clicking something right made something happen.  (Which sounded a lot better in my head before I typed it)  Pressing a section of a wall, for instance, will crumble it and reveal a secret item or way forward.  So from start to finish, you'll be looking at the background, not only to admire it, but to inspect it for hidden clues and things.  Which will only make you appreciate the art that much more, of course, which is a good thing.

Hopefully this and Uncharted will continue the trend of showing other developers ways to implement the touch screens in fun and purely optional ways, so that we get some better ideas from them.  I know I'm not adverse to touching a touch screen anymore, as my Rune Factory 3 playing has more or less forced me into it to save seconds here and there.  So I know if there's ways about it, I'll be ready to do it.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A Few Words on Yakuza: Of the End

So, Yakuza:  Of the End, for those unaware, is the Yakuza game unlike any other Yakuza game in more ways than one.  Sure, it features main characters from the rest of the series and though it's not the first game in the franchise to feature more than one playable character, it's the first game to let you play as Goro Majima, which as far as I'm concerned is a gigantic bullet point in its favor.  It's fairly clear as what differentiates it from the rest, however, if the zombie invasion wasn't clearly out-of-place enough.  And while you can shoot guns in other Yakuza games, Of the End features primarily gunplay.

Which is all well and good, and despite all the 'olol shooters' things going around, the game will likely never see American shores because Sega hates all of us individually.  We know this and it sucks, yes, but it's also a little understandable.  Even though it's selling just a little under the norm for a Yakuza game in Japan, I'm sure it'll grow to be fine over there and do well, money-wise.  Which means there would be little problems in actually bringing it over here, but they just won't because fuck you.

Anyways, what I wanted to say about the game is that, despite the fact that it's a shooter, rather than a brawler (Actually, more like an RE clone, which makes me even more 'bleh' about it since I couldn't stand RE4 and never played RE5) it really looks like something the Yakuza team is going all out for; I mean, they completely remodeled the city they've crafted lovingly through four different games that has received quite a few changes here and there, but nothing on the level of the all-out destruction Of the End offers.  I imagine the same charm with the plot and dialogue is there, and the extras certainly haven't been ignored, either.

I would like to state for the record that the above is Goro Majima wearing a Pirate costume, using some sort of shotgun to level a group of zombies in destroyed Japan.


(Please Sega, give me give me give me, I'll take back all the bad things I say about you.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

inFamous 2 - I've Started It

This is going to be one of those posts where I just talk about a game I've not put a -lot- of time into, but enough that I enjoy it, or that I'm particularly excited enough over it that I can talk about it at some sort of length.  I did the same with Yakuza 4 (which I regrettably have neglected thanks to Dynasty Warriors 7 and just not playing PS3 for a while, but rest assured, I will get back to it.) and there are likely only a couple of games that I'll actually do something like this for.  Suffice to say after my mad dash at trying to get my hands on a Hero Edition of the game and eventually doing so, there's a lot riding on the game.

Thankfully, it hasn't disappointed yet.  While I didn't fall into it as quickly as I would have liked (Just had a little more rust than I thought, I guess) and I had to trick the PS3/game into realizing that I have all the trophies for the first game (putting inFamous in so it can install again, resynching trophies after), and I played the opening about four times because of those issues (plus the fear that my PS3 was overheating towards the end of the early fight), I've enjoyed every single moment I've played.  There's just....something that I can't properly quantify with words that just clicks with me, presses all the right buttons.  And while I understand that's my opinion and not representative of anyone else, that still means something to me.

No matter if I'm doing a story mission, a side mission or just running around looking for Blast Shards, there's not been one moment while playing inFamous 2 where I wished I hadn't been playing the game.  Which happens sometimes!  I'm sure that's not breaking new ground or anything, and it's not like I have a lot of instances where I play a game wanting to play a different game (unless it's in anticipation, see:  Uncharted prior to Uncharted 2's release), but there have been times where I play something and notice something from/about a different game and suddenly want to play that game, though I likely don't change.  Not once has that happened in inFamous 2, is the point I'm making.  If I could, I'd likely be playing it right now.

God help me if this game gets released on Vita.

As for the Hero Edition itself, there's only been one facet of it that I just haven't touched yet, which would be the soundtrack.  Because if I've got the PS3 on, you better believe it is to shoot mans with lightning, not download 140 MB of music, no matter how much I want it/want to hear it.  I'll likely do it at some point in the near future, just to see what it's like in comparison to the original, and while I'm looking forward to it, I can wait.  Everything else in the Hero Edition is rather stellar.  I've got Cole rocking the Samurai Sword because why not, the Statue is rather impressive and looks good on my desk, the mini-comic was enjoyable, and I just love love the bag that came with it.

All in all, this was a purchase that I, theoretically, could have regretted (only from a logistics stand-point, as there was no doubt in my mind that I'd enjoy the game and such) but I don't.  At all.  The upgrade was worth it completely and totally for me, and I'm already thinking about my multiple playthroughs of the game for the simple fact that I will just keep playing it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Transfarring, Transfarring, Transfarring

Okay.  I think I can go without spelling it wrong anymore.  Kojima said recently that 'all future games of his will feature Transfarring in some way.  Which, well, is mighty cool.  If you don't know what Transfarring is, well, I have cleverly given you a link to the actual official page on it, which might help shed some light on this three-phase project.  Yes, three phases.  Phases is probably the wrong term, though, because it's really just three different styles to implement Transfarring, which you probably know of already.

Style 1:  Transfering Transfarring your PSP and PS3 game saves for PSP Remaster games between each console.  (The example given, obviously, is Metal Gear Solid:  Peace Walker.)  So, start a game on your PSP while you're out, get home, transfarr (Yes, I'm going to keep doing this) your save to PS3 and resume!  Since the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection will feature a downloadable version of Peace Walker PSP, there's actually no reason why you shouldn't take advantage of this.  For those of us who've already bought the game, well, free code to share with a buddy, I suppose.  Or, if you bought a UMD version (like me), then now you don't have to rebuy it for Vita.

Style 2:  Transfarring between PS3 and Vita for PS2 Remastered games.  Listed as an example is the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, which, this Style is the one that is the most confusing to everyone so far, since Konami's been fairly tight-lipped about it.  Does this mean the Metal Gear Solid/Zone of the Enders (Possibly Silent Hill) Collections will also be available on the Vita?  That.....seems like it would be the only case given the context of Transfarring (Swap your saves to play on the go and/or at home), but being able to play Zone of the Enders 2 -anywhere- is a dream I dare not dream lightly.  So I'm going to wait for official word on that before I get my hopes up.

Style 3:  Transfarring between PS3 and Vita for....PS3/Vita games.  Listed here is the still-unannounced 'Fox Engine' game.  This is the one that's pretty much what we've seen already with the title Ruin that claims you'll be able to stop playing the game on your PS3 or Vita (after saving), pick up whatever you weren't playing it on, and resuming from right (or about) where you left off.  Which is fascinating technology, of course, if it works (which it didn't quite seem to do in the E3 Keynote, unfortunately.  Maybe it was just all the nervousness though.  The Ruin guys were just not prepared at all, poor dudes.) and I have no doubt that there will be -some- way to make it work.

Curiously, a lot of games weren't mentioned, but key of all is the already announced but on rocky waters Metal Gear Rising.  Metal Gear Rising would certainly be considered an "Upcoming title" and, with the touchscreens on the Vita, it would seem a natural candidate for the precise cutting the game has been shown to offer.  If the 360 version gets Kinect support (which, well, -was- announced, of course), it's possible the PS3 might get Move support as well and if all works out like it seems, then we just might get to cut watermelons on the go.  (Also support structures and soldiers.)  Perhaps that's even been what's holding the game up.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Molyneux Does What He Does Best: Says Stuff

In an open public statement to several different gaming journalists, Peter Molyneux claimed that he made a huge mistake, something as we all know, has never happened before.  Everyone and their mother picked up on the fact that Fable:  the Journey seemed to be an on-rails shooter, which is a rather stark departure from the rest of the series, which was apparently an unintended coincidence.  Because he decided to remove Navigation Controls from the demo shown off.  Because, as we all know, if something in place of navigation is shown where navigation would be, nobody will assume navigation is not there.  In the wake of on-rails shooters and Star Wars:  Kinect, he decides to remove the controls before he shows it off and doesn't see what that will do to his game.

At least he does go on record by saying that it was, indeed, a mistake (a 'horrendous' one, his words) because that is indeed what it is.  And one has to wonder now if this is just Molyneux saying stuff to make sure word of mouth on the game is as positive as it can be before it comes out and disappoints thousands, or if he's actually going to figure out some way to implement navigation in a Kinect heavy game.  About the only way I can figure it is if there's some sort of on-screen toggle that you can wave at to switch between combat and movement, and you move by gesturing to a landmark here or there.  Sort of like a point-and-click game but about 20 years after it's time.

Were it anyone else, I would likely give him the benefit of the doubt, but I, as has most people, have felt a little burned by Molyneux personally, and we've learned to take everything he says with a grain of salt.  Fable 1, after all the bluster, all the hype wasn't even mediocre, but below that.  Without even taking all the talk into consideration (as that will tend to color your perception eventually) I can't say the game was passable, much less good.  Because Fable has the illustrious award of being one of the two games I've ever fallen asleep while playing.  (The other being pokemon red because I played it for hours on end through the night on my Super Game Boy and I was a little kid.)  So while there'll always be people who get a modicum of enjoyment out of the Fable series and it's future, there'll always be those like me who are too wary to believe anything but the final product.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rune Factory 3 - How It Compares to the Original

So, as I've mentioned a few times, I've been playing Rune Factory 3 ever since I polished off the original for my Look Back to put it against my What Went Wrong fpr Innocent Life.  So this is kind of a series thing now, which was completely unintended.  And while I'm not aiming to do reviews and, instead do the types of things I did for the other two games mentioned, I didn't really know what to categorize Rune Factory 3 as.  It's actually a bit too recent for a Look Back, for my tastes, and it's too good of a game for What Went Wrong.  But I do want to write about it, as you all know I'm pretty up on my Harvest Moon games and I do have some opinions with this title.  So I'll just sort of write about it in comparison to the original game (which, in fact, you might have guessed already, given the title) as they're both fresh in my mind.

Rune Factory 3 feels really, really familiar when you start it the first time.  You are a guy who has lost his memory and are in territories unfamiliar to you for more reasons than the obvious one of not being able to remember.  Aside from one little detail, which I'll get to later, everything progresses fairly much like the first game.  You're accosted by a strange, friendlier-than-necessary girl who gives you a home to stay at, so long as you're willing to work at it by farming it, and everything's taught to you in short order and in a style that, in fact, almost mirrors the original.  It does change a little however after the first attack in the game is warded off, only to have two more things show up and you get the weapon tutorial.  The weapon tutorial is there because there is a higher importance on combat in this game and that much becomes very, very apparent rather fast.

Joining the familiar weapons of old, the short swords, zweihanders, axes and hammers are the Twin Swords, which are rather enjoyable, though they aren't too kind to your defense score.  Also magic staves, but those might not be new to the series and you know what, who cares they suck.  Anyways, most of those weapons are available as your starter weapon, which is tossed to you by the local blacksmith so you can dispatch the two new threats.  After which, you're given a choice that will actually decide the difficulty of the game.  (Which I think is different from the first game.)  And there is actually one more form of combat, but it's not introduced until after the first dungeon crawl.

The catch or draw of this game is the fact that you are, in fact, half-man and half-sheep half-monster.  You might think this is a spoiler, but it is, in fact, not.  You wander into town as the sheep, actually and get taken in by the same girl who gives your human form the treehouse.  Because, despite the stigma against monsters in the town, she's just super nice.  You don't gain control over the transformation until after the first dungeon, as I mentioned, which gives you time to enjoy all the new mechanics.  Like the request system.  Also to get to know the wonderful cast of characters the game has to offer.

If you're anything like me, you'll dislike about 99% of the characters first off, which might drive you away completely from the game, but the biggest surprise of the game to me, is that each character develops in a way that makes the big majority of them tolerable and even likable.  You might not be too excited at the prospect of a couple of them being marry-able, but even then, it becomes rather difficult to honestly and earnestly dislike most of the characters.  Except Rusk.  Fuck Rusk.

 To give an idea of this by my own personal experience with the game, I basically narrowed the girl I was going to marry down with the formula of "Who is least likely to annoy the -hell- out of me, and/or who is least likely to want to murder me in my sleep".  Karina is who I ended up going with because of that, but in all honesty, I had two other girls up to 10 affection by the end of the game (when you -can- get married.  More on that later.) which you can only do by taking their requests and going out on 'dates' with them, using the all-new (?) "Invite" option.  Anyone who you become friends with can eventually become a traveling companion at your bidding, who will fight alongside you as a companion monster would.  Which is honestly fairly cool.

The gameplay has been drastically altered from the first game without...honestly changing all that much, if that makes sense.  You still have a quick-bar that you can pull up to cycle through your weapons/tools and your items, and now you have a third one for your spells/techniques, of which there are...a lot.  I think.  Thankfully, 'run' is the default movement now, so you only hold R to walk, as opposed to the first game which was vice-versa of that.  If anything, everything's been streamlined, though...perhaps a little too much.  In the first game, the controls felt like a Harvest Moon game, which allowed for combat.  Whereas Rune Factory 3 feels like an Action-RPG which allows for Harvest Moon things.  Everything can be used to attack and most things feel more built for that than anything.

For example, rather than a single, in-place swing of a scythe to take down a crop, you can pull a 3-hit combo with a scythe which will draw you forward a block with each swing.  While that helps with farming, specifically cutting down weeds, it feels more like a fighting tool than a farming one.  The Hammer and the Axe are thankfully stationary, though both have 3-hit combos as well.  Further evidence of the combat-focus is that there are actually "Battle requests" that you can take from villagers in which you just get told one monster to take out, a number, and a location.  You go there, kill return x amount of monsters to the First Forest (your weapons and such have a magic called 'Retornen' on them.  It doesn't kill monsters, just sends them back to where they came from) and bam, go collect your reward.

Also more prevalent in Rune Factory 3 than in the original one, is the narrative, which in my opinion is a bit too present for my liking, actually.  There are four dungeons that you know of when you start the game, representative of the four seasons, and you learn in short order that going through them and defeating the boss (Which only show up after the proper storyline event) returns a bit of your memories.  And while I don't want to give too much away, I will state here and now, that you can't actually get married until the end of the game because it's tied into the narrative.  Marriage isn't a choice if you want to 'beat' the game, it's a requirement which I'm not too comfortable with.  And in fact, getting married is when the story 'ends'.

My game made it to about the end of Fall before I was married, so I would like to continue playing at least until the new year to see what happens, if anything, but I felt like I was done enough that I could write about the game.  If nothing else, there's still the standard-fare of festivals (which are mostly different from ones in previous Harvest Moon games) which are enjoyable, and I still feel like there's stuff I -can- do, even if I don't necessarily want or need to.  I'd also like to see if you can have a child in this game like you can in the first (which I didn't know!  Because it takes three months.)

Something I've kind of touched on throughout this, but needs to be said directly is the fact that, where Rune Factory 1 was a new kind of Harvest Moon game, Rune Factory 3 is just a new kind of game.  It feels like a game that has Harvest Moon elements, rather than being a fantasy version of it.  Which isn't a bad thing, per se, but it just will not scratch that Harvest Moon itch any better than Rune Factory 1 would and in fact would be the worse option if that's your goal.  But Rune Factory 3, overall, is a better -game- I would say, and is more enjoyable than the first in the series outside of the last dungeon.  Which I just....just hated.  And while there are other complaints I could make, overall, it's just a pretty neat game.   A definite recommendation for anyone looking for something quirky action-RPG with touches of Harvest Moon in it

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Music! inFamous Edition

You know.  I never really thought of it until a few minutes ago, but for all the lauding I've done of the inFamous soundtrack, and all the annoyance I've expressed over the fact that it's been locked into iTunes like a priceless bauble clenched in the jaws of some ever-hungry behemoth, I've never actually featured it here, much less talked about it.  And despite the fact that I have a download code for the inFamous 2 soundtrack (the 'Red' edition at least, which came with the Hero edition of the game for irony's sake, I suppose) that I've yet to cash in just yet, I do really really enjoy the soundtrack to the first.  It is fairly mood-dependent, but when you're really ready and willing for it, there's likely nothing else you want to hear.

To start, I may as well start where everyone (more or less) started, with the song in the Superpowers Trailer that made us all stop and pay attention.  It's called "Malabar Front" by the band "If These Trees Could Talk".  And while it wasn't on the inFamous soundtrack proper, well, it's close enough.

I would surmise that it's not on the soundtrack proper, however, because honestly, it sort of just doesn't mesh with the overall mood and delivery of the rest of the soundtrack.  The song is somewhat out of place when the other tracks seek out a more urban, industrial vibe.  Which was, of course, attained by using instruments that were not quite instruments.  It was a story way back, but I'll be damned if I can find the article right now;  I'm sure you all remember anyway.

One of the best ways to highlight the industrial, urban vibe created by the use of urban elements (Namely trashcans and that sort of thing, stuff you'd probably see in "Stomp") would be just to show you, I suppose.  And there's no better a track to highlight that, while also being a completely badass track, than "Alden Strikes", which comes up a little bit into the game.

Not only do you know shit has gone down just by listening to that, but it also gets you pumped and able to do something about it.  At times, it very nearly resembles something you'd hear out of a God of War game, even, if not directly, but in tone.  It's a very, very good piece for combat, which, if I remember correctly, you are doing when this plays.  If there's any song off the soundtrack that I could listen to over and over again, this would be one of them, for sure.

The next is one, The Courier of the more subdued songs of the game, but for whatever reason, it has this quality about it that I can't wrap my head around; all I know is that after I've started listening to it, I just want to continue to do so.  It doesn't go to a lot of places, but it has a really good tone that could very easily be used for different scenarios; all of them with a sort of seedy vibe, or perhaps that of espionage.  Which, again, I believe is what is happening when the song plays.

And of course, the one song that I had in mind this whole time, the song the game leaves you with as the credits roll and your mind is exploding from the revelations of the ending is just perfect.  Even moreso than Malabar Front, this is pretty much the iconic song of the game for me.  Maybe because of what it's attached to, but, there's something gained from listening to it outside of that.  The song is called "Silent Melody" and is done by "Working for a Nuclear Free City" especially for inFamous.  It's the only song to feature lyrics on the whole soundtrack, and wasn't done by Amon Tobin, Jim Dooley, or JD Mayer who were the composers for the rest of it, but it fits right in, for me at least.

Now hopefully I'll be able to play my damn copy of inFamous 2 in the next day or two.  If the weather will back the hell up off me and let me enjoy myself.

Catherine Demo is NA-Bound

This one's for you, Chance.

Siliconera has just recently reported that Catherine, the apparently super-hard, super-strange game from Atlus will be getting a demo release in English sometime between now and July 26th, when the game is released.  At least, that's what I would assume, since demos are generally better served -prior- to the game's release, rather than afterward.  Unsurprisingly, the 'English' in the phrase 'English Demo' denotes that the demo will feature full english subtitles as well as voice-acting from the English cast, including that of Troy Baker (I'm assuming it's this one) and Laura Bailey as the lead characters.

Siliconera also stated that those a little wary about the game after hearing about the super-hard part of it will be glad to know that the NA region release will include the patch that was released for the Japanese version to reduce the difficulty a bit.  Unless you're, like, crazy or something. 

Fans who are eagerly awaiting any morsel of Catherine (the game) should be ready to grab that demo right when it comes out, of course, because it has been known to disappear and then reappear for a bit before disappearing again.  Which, when you type it out like that, seems almost like it was done on purpose.  Atlus, you teases.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Post-E3 News Dump

As with most E3's, a lot of the news isn't quite revealed until it's over and done with, and when it is, it's usually not the news you want to hear.  It's usually always the stuff they conveniently leave out on stage, as it's all about the excitement, not anything that could potentially be a downer.  So be warned, this all isn't good news.

Silent Hill:  Book of Memories, which you may or may not have even known it was announced, is the first Silent Hill title announced for the Playstation Vita, though the reasons for it and how it's implemented might leave one to worry about it.  You see, it's going to focus on Multiplayer and, in fact, is based off the multiplayer concept they were designing for Downpour, but didn't feel it quite worked.  The exact quote is "We decided if we don't have something that is uniquely Silent Hill and feels good in multiplayer, we don't want to just tack it on; We don't just want to throw something in to say, 'hey, there's a bullet point.'".

Uhhh...?  Then why make a game around it?  He said that Book of Memories was spawned from their continued exploration into it, which would hopefully suggest they figured out a way to make it work and feel like Silent Hill, rather than, y'know, just slapping something together.  Whoever's making it, though, it's not the team working on Downpour.  I'm giving this the most skeptical look I can muster until we learn some more about it.

Update!:  So, apparently, Wayforward is making Book of Memories.  Wayforward is also making Bloodrayne:  Betrayal.  Uhm...

Speaking of Silent Hill, the announced Silent Hill HD collection, consisting of Silent Hill 2 and 3 only, has been outed as a PS3 exclusive.....for now.  There's still not a whole hell of a lot of new news about it beyond that, with the only extra pieces being that there will, of course, be trophies (Oh god, will there be a trophy for Silent Hill 2's 'holy shit' moment? You know what I'm talking about.), but of particular mention is the fact that the collection will feature "all new voice acting" and come out this fall.  That's....a bit odd, as these collections are usually just up-scaling the resolutions and adding other bits, but hey, hopefully that'll turn out well.

While perhaps not E3 news per se, it's in the same window, and hey, it was shown off before at the -last- E3, so let's run with it.  The above image is the Flare Red 3DS that Japan is getting sometime.  It looks rather nice, but to hear that it's being released to 'invigorate the market in Japan' isn't...well, it isn't a good sign.  Are there really people who looked at the initial 3DS' and went, "Hmm.....nah.  I will wait for red, and not a moment sooner."?  Well, it can't be denied that numbers go up a bit when a new color is put out, but still, you're not supposed to say that in your press release.

Keeping on Nintendo news to finish us out,  there are a few new tidbits of information about the Wii U, answering only a couple questions that were raised by their keynote.  First of all, don't go selling your Wii just yet, because if you like playing GameCube games and don't own one, the Wii U isn't going to help you.  Nintendo confirmed recently that the only games the Wii U will play (in disk format at least) are Wii games and Wii U games.  While not surprising, it is a bit of a downer, if just because it's dashed my hopes of getting some up-scaling on the GameCube port of Skies of Arcadia, which I've always intended on tracking down.

And finally, which was possibly one of the bigger questions about the Wii U Controller since they first showed it off, Nintendo has let you know how many of these things you will need to buy:  One.  That is to say, you could buy more, but you won't be able to use them all; just one.  Again, not surprising, as it's rather impossible to think it could stream graphics to multiple of these devices, but Multiplayer is still a strange thing to think of.  Still, Ubisoft has been so kind to inform us of the implementation of it on one of their new games:  Killer Freaks from Outer Space.  As you can see, the person with the Wii U Controller seems to have a little more on their plate, and specifically the ability, nay, the responsibility to be actively against the second player (Possibly third and fourth?) who is left with the Classic Controller that I imagine you could swap out for the Mote-Chuck combo.  Maybe.

Though it does lead one to wonder just how many games are going to show off like that promo shot, using the classic controller.  Maybe it's an attempt to make everyone think you don't have to swing around the Wii mote, which is apparently something people are fairly adverse to doing.  Despite the crazy numbers the Wii has sold.  Still, it might be a little off-putting to transition into a more 'classic' controller system after a whole generation of waggle.  That might just be me with my tinfoil hat, anyway.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

E3 - Mostly Over, But How Was It?

Just as Christmas always comes and goes, leaving a bittersweet sense of excitement, glee and satisfaction in its wake, so too much E3 arrive and leave us.  And every year is different and as such is graded differently for what it's brought us to have and to be excited for.  While I can't speak for everyone, of course, I can certainly speak for myself for what I liked, what I didn't, and what I just didn't care about one way or another.

What I Liked:

I could probably just say "Sony's Conference", here, as there was very little about the Sony conference that I didn't like (EA NBA section aside), at least what I can remember.  Sure, a few things are a little less than memorable, like the Move stuff, but what was good was really good.  Uncharted 3, Uncharted:  Golden Abyss, Release dates for Ico/SotC Collection, God of War:  Origins, the new that there's going to be a Bioshock Vita title, there just was a lot to love all around. 

And most of all of the things I liked is, obviously, the Playstation Vita.  As many others around the internet are saying, Playstation Vita is probably the single most exciting thing I got from E3 this year, because I got everything I wanted:  A reasonable price, fantastic graphics and power, interesting looking games (some of which are launch titles s'far as I can tell, also LittleBigPlanet Vita eeeeeeeeeeeeeee), and genuine early support for it.  (I mean, Ken F'ing Levine pulled one out of his pocket to proudly proclaim that a new chapter of Bioshock would unfold on it.)

Of course, the Vita wasn't the only thing to draw from the wells of excitement I have for this hobby of mine.  Konami started everything strong by announcing three different collections that are assured to make a lot of people happy.  And while I'm excited for MGS collection, I'm more excited for the Zone of the Enders Collection, if just for the fact that it's a sign that they're still acknowledging the series exists.  It's hard to say that I'm a super fan of the series, since it's been a long, long time since I touched either game, but to say that I don't have a special connection would be a fallacy.  As with quite a few games in the PS2 era, a demo disk turned me onto the series with Zone of the Enders 2's demo and a quick trip to the neat little brick-and-mortar game store nearby let me find a copy of the original.

But while I was checking out, the lady at the register, who knew me since I'd been in so often, asked if I'd be interested in having a little something extra.  Interested, I asked just what she meant, and she went into the back and came out with two promo boxes, one big, one small, for Zone of the Enders 2, proudly displaying the box art to a T, even going so far as to keep all the text on the back as well.  She said they got a few extra and didn't really have much to do with them so if I wanted them it was no charge.  Of course, free things being free rule, so I took them.  I still have them too; I'll try to get a picture of them sometime.

Despite my annoyances with Nntendo's conference leaving so many questions about the Wii U, I still have to say, the idea of having a HD Wii to play Wii games on is appealing, and the controller, while fairly unwieldy looking, is interesting to say the least.  Hopefully the coming months will give us something more concrete to base our concerns and/or our excitements on, but for now, I'm cautiously optimistic.  There's little doubt that I'll end up with one, at the very least, but how happy I'll be to have one has yet to be determined.

Things I Didn't Like:

-Kobe Bryant trying to play video games. 
-No Valkyria Chronicles 3 Localization announcement. 
-No Yakuza announcements.  (Seriously Sega, what the hell.) 
-All the questions about Nintendo's next console. 
-No real surprises beyond the Ken Levine thing and ZoE HD.  (I -guess- Luigi's Mansion 2, but I haven't played the first, so I'm merely interested)  I guess Cole being in Street Fighter X Tekken counts here as well  You all know I love me some gatdamn inFamous, but I can't really be bothered to care about a fighting game just for his inclusion.  Everything in Microsoft's conference was leaked, save for the Minecraft announcement, I believe.  Speaking of which.

-Minecraft exclusively for 360/Kinect.  (While this stings, I'm waiting to see just how advanced a version they get.  Suffice to say with the disparity between Minecraft and Minecraft "Pocket", I'm none too sure on what the non-PC version will have.)  And this isn't a fanboy thing, it's just me being frustrated that a game I want to play is growing to be on every platform I can't play without shelling out cash I don't have for.
-I read somewhere the night before E3 started that a Devil May Cry Collection for the anniversary was in the works.  No announcement though.
-Was Final Fantasy Versus XIII spoken of/shown off?  I don't think so.
-Speaking of missing games, where's Grand Theft Auto 5?
-And another God of War, for that matter.
-Seriously, Sega, goddamnit, localize your games and I will buy all of them.

Things I Didn't Care About:

Pretty much the entirety of Microsoft's conference aside from what I mentioned above.  I never liked Halo, I've never tried Kinect yet, and even then, I'm not really too up on the Kinect stuff shown.  Except the Mass Effect 3 stuff.  While I'm skeptical on how well that will work, it -looks- neat, which is sort of what Kinect has had going for it day one.  Sure, it might not work exactly like it should, but it can make some things look really neat.  Two things that weren't even announced in the conference, as far as I remember, were more interesting than what was in it, even:  Cloud Saving/Storage for 360 and the Gears of War 3 Limited Edition bundle.  To the former, why would you not say this?  Were they too afraid of bringing up 'the cloud'?  Like someone in the front row was going to roll his eyes and go "Psh.  'cloud'."?  To the latter, while 85% of people will look at it and say "tacky", I am part of the 15% that say "I would buy that.".  I don't give one bit of shit for Gears of War as a series, but, provided I had cash to burn, I'd pick that 360 up in a heartbeat.

So, a lot of ups, some downs, but overall, this was a good year for E3.  For me, personally, Sony won it with announcing everything for the Vita, where Nintendo could have taken the conference if they'd announced the Wii U's price and it was reasonable.  In fact, they likely should have, because Sony showed they're stepping right up to the plate with the Vita.  Although, realistically, it's entirely possible that Nintendo -doesn't- have a price for the Wii U just yet.  Let's just hope when it is priced, they don't publicly announce a price that is actually kind of unreasonable and then say, "It's mostly because the people at E3 liked it." again.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Nintendo Announces the Wii U.....'s controller.

So, for everyone that was awake and watching Nintendo's conference at whatever ungodly hour it was on (I'm kidding, of course, 9 AM PDT isn't bad), you got the first look at the new controller for Project Cafe', revealed today to be the "Wii U".  The idea behind the name is that "we" got our chance to play together at parties and such, and this next one is just for "you".  Or something to that effect.  Anyways, Nintendo went around this in a bit of an odd way, as they really did only show off the controller.  And while that's all well and good, when we see This, and are told it's actually the console behind the controller, we're only left to wonder why.  Is it not finished?  It certainly looks a little sterile and....not 'generic', but you know what I'm driving at here, which, let's face it, that's how the Wii looked as well, so it could very well be the final design. 

But that's not really important.  What's important is what the Wii U can do and, by proxy, what the controller can do.  Because apparently the controller's screen is capable of outputting the exact same images as the Wii U can put on the TV.  Because a main selling point is that when someone else wants to use the TV, you get to say, "SURE, OKAY, LET ME JUST SWITCH THIS AND" BAM, you're playing your game, but on the controller.  Like...not only -with- the controller, but -on- it.  Like Remote Play, but Nintendo has assured us it will have no latency issues.  Pardon me if I'm a bit skeptical on that, though, Nintendo.

While the Wii U touts complete backwards compatibility with the Wii, I can't help but be left wondering how.  Especially using the controller.  Will you even be able to?  Like, are you going to be able to play a Wii game on the controller?  If so, are you expected to replace the Wiimote's pointing with the stylus? What does this say for the controller style of the Wii U; have they abandoned the Wiimote as a pointer, or will some games still default to Mote-Chucking?

None of these questions were answered.  None of any of the questions were answered, for that matter.  Releases sometime in 2012.  No price.  No specs given (in the keynote, there is a site up now) and nothing much else beyond "Here's what this looks like.  Cool, right?  Alright, see you next year."  Which is a little disappointing, considering how good it honestly could be.  So what we're left with is a good step forward, rather than a leap into the now, and the 'better-than'.

Nintendo pushed a lot of good buttons with this one, and while I'm excited for it, I'm nowhere near as excited as I should be.  So while this wasn't, by far, Nintendo's entire E3 show, this should have been the thing that put it in writing that Nintendo had the best E3 showing, and it didn't.  Still good, but only second place good, for me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Playstation Vita has killed my ability to think coherently.

For the moment, my mind is pretty much stuck at going "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee" and not stopping.  Mostly because of LittleBigPlanet Vita.  (Tentative Title.)  But also mostly because of the Playstation Vita itself.  Two models, as we all knew, Wi-Fi only and 3G/Wi-Fi model, with the 3G one using AT&T as its carrier.  The Press Release makes mention of "pricing" through AT&T, so I'm expecting Data plans, so I'm just going to spring for the Wi-Fi only model unless something comes up to change that.

I'm gonna have to just link you to Chance's recap of the Keynote until I can form more and more proper sentences.  But, yeah, I am pretty much super excited at the moment.

Edit:  Alright.  I'm more composed now.  Did anyone notice that I spelled 'coherently' wrong in the initial posting?  Boy, that's a bit embarrassing.   Anyways...

After what I initially referred to as "cockteasing" by Kaz Hirai, who insisted on bringing up the Vita, subtly, talking about the PSP, referring again, vaguely, to the Vita and then bringing up Playstation Suite, the NGP, then announced, finally and officially as the Playstation Vita.  After bringing it up and doing the usual talking on it's high points, I, as I'm sure everyone watching, was just chomping at the bit to know a price.  And when one wasn't provided by the time he was already handing it off to someone else to talk about the games, I'm sure more than a few people felt a creeping dread.  Knowing Sony, this was their ploy to raise excitement and then crush it finally and completely with some insane pricepoint at the very end of it.  It wouldn't be the first time and, unfortunately,  it likely wouldn't be the last.

But rather than some evil ploy to smash dreams and bring ridicule upon themselves, the entire section of the presser was perfectly engineered to bring about the highest amount of excitement one could get from it.  "Here's what it can do.  Here's what the games look and play like.  Here's some of the cross-console possibilities."  Essentially, "Here's all the shit it can do that makes you think we're not going to compete with Nintendo on price."

And then, Kaz came back out, and brought the excitement, the interest to its then bring down waves of gratification as they did what no one expected, truly expected them to do:  Priced the base model exactly at the price-point of its direct competitor, the 3DS, at $249.99.  Then, less surprisingly, as this point had been mentioned before in the rumors, its partner price of $299.99 for the 3G/Wi-Fi model was announced, with AT&T being tapped as the exclusive provider of 3G for the system.  Still no real word on what all you'll be able to do with 3G on the thing, but a deal with AT&T likely means a data plan, which means a lot of people will likely not shell out for it unless there's something else in it for them.  Still, being that it's got 3G -and- Wi-Fi, so long as you're not supposed to sign up right there in the store and it comes with a little something extra, a memory stick or something, it might not be a bad thing.

So yeah.  With everything we've seen for the Vita so far (Not only E3, but the stuff from waaaay back, when it was first announced, even) and everything we know now, the Vita is looking like a sweet deal.  It's going to be rough for Nintendo to try and convince everyone that you're getting the same amount of bang for your buck; and touting 3D might not be the only way around it.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A Look Back - Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon

I know I said this would be next week, and last week I said it would be this week, but that was all because I hadn't quite beaten the story yet, and that's really what I wanted to do before I passed judgment.  My latest file gave me reason to think I wouldn't quite make it anytime soon, and then I remembered my first file was rather far, so I checked, and it was just beyond the roadblock I had in front of me.  Perfect, really.  I didn't manage to beat it on the file I was playing the past couple weeks, but it's not like much changed.  Only difference was that I was married to Rosetta instead of Felicity, and I had a better selection of weapons.

So now that I beat it and now that I'm posting about it, I'm not quite sure where to start, as there is quite a lot of ground to cover.  I guess I can start at the story, since that's what I was focused on completing for this exact article.  I have to say, while I'm not impressed (as it's hard to be really 'impressed' with a game story these days outside of the notables, rather, especially after the notables) it's a good attempt.  It's not too deep, not too shallow, things don't necessarily come out of nowhere and it has a proper (if long) build to the final conclusion.  The dungeons each provide a little more and a little more insight as to what's going on until you finally get it.

I guess the weak point would be that, without curiosity on the part of the main character, the game (and the overall plot of it, honestly) would be at a standstill in more ways than just the obvious.  Of course saying why would be spoiling, but suffice to say that the MC is supposed to do it, and not doing it would mean a lot of people sitting on a lot of thumbs waiting for him to do so.  (Obviously it's not that important to keep from spoiling it, but, eh.)  And then the story is done, it's done.  No post-game things outside of, well, just continuing to play the game as is.  You can still mine, still farm, still chat up the girls, get married (if you're not already, and beating the game unlocks one last girl) and do festivals, just live the day-to-day, all that.  Basically, it just turns into a Harvest Moon game with monsters and crafting.  Though, less "turn into" and more, "Shows for sure".  Which, hey, is a-okay, clearly.

The characters offer a nice variety of personalities, as per expected and luckily, none of them really grate on the nerves too badly.  Perhaps a few of them approach it, for me Mist is a bit too ditzy, the resident rich foodie is entirely too one-track-minded, and Camus gets annoying with his "I'm leaving here some day!" talk.  The large amount of characters that can be your character's wife is nice and new and I personally had a hard time figuring out which one I wanted to go for in this latest playthrough.  I actually just threw it out to a couple friends for a vote and it came back Felicity, the Mayor's daughter, so that's how I went.  Though it easily could have been Bianca, the spoiled rich girl, Lara, the nurse, or I could have just waited for the last girl to get unlocked.  Though that would have made for an extra long play that I don't think I could have stuck out.

That would be one of the many, many advantages Rune Factory has over Innocent Life; not only by the sheer fact that there are people you can actually form relationships with that mean something, but the fact that there's so many options and they all need such varied things that you'll inevitably change your play-style just to get where you want to be.  A few of the girls require you to have a lot of Monsters as pets, so you'll have to play a real live-stock heavy game, meaning buying lots of feed, collecting lots of wood for the shacks and building up so you can take the inevitable few hits you'll take between shots with the Friendship Glove.  On the other hand, trying to woo Mei means you'll have to take quite a liking to Fishing and make sure you get a fridge early to store what you catch since only one gift a day raises affection.

Of course, I make it out to be more than it is; you can over-plan anything after all.  But depending on how you play, you might find yourself considering the same things if getting your Amnesiac Hero hitched is important to you.  And the other characters are interesting enough as well, though they are nearly outnumbered by the women you're able to marry, which leaves a lot of room for them to be overshadowed.

It's not all good, as well, as Rune Factory's dungeons turn from fairly interesting, easy to enjoy little jaunts to chores in the very very worst ways.  The fifth one in the game, Misty Bloom Cave, is literally an opening in the middle of a tiny chunk of land surrounded by maybe two feet wide of water.  Suspension of disbelief, naturally skewed sense of scale in a game and all aside, there's absolutely no reason you could not throw a bridge to it or something rather than what the game tells you to do:  Wait til Winter.  Yes.  The fifth dungeon in the game, you have to wait til Winter (when the game begins on the first day of Spring) to get into it when there's absolutely no conceivable reason for you to wait for the moat to freeze over.  Just for a point of reference, in my playthrough that I started with the intention on comparing it to Innocent Life and such, I 'unlocked' Misty Bloom Cave on Spring 28th.

That's right.  I had to piss away two months just to get into the next dungeon.  And when I finally got in, I beat it in under 3 game hours.  Though I wouldn't say that's the most egregious of unnecessary bullshit requirements for a single dungeon.  The very next one, the Kasimir Ruins, just to get in, you have to A)  Farm up 100 Tiles in Misty Bloom Caves (Which would really fucking suck if you waited til Spring to try an get a permit for the ruins) B) Be good friends with Sharron, resident spooky girl who hangs around the Ruins all day (which you likely have done in the three months since the game has started) and C) Befriended (read:  Captured) 10 Monsters.

Only then are you allowed to set foot into Kasimir Ruins.  And then it gets worse.  After about two screens, you're confronted with a locked door and a vague clue about Rune Sprites.  Rune Sprites show up when you plant 3x3 squares of crops (the default size in a bag) and grow them to fruition.  Long story short, is that you have to grow plants in every single plot provided in that room.  There are eight plots.  So not only have you just wasted a ton of time just trying to get -in- here, now you have to wait more to unlock a door.  And then, because you apparently haven't suffered enough, about halfway through, you're confronted with another locked door that needs a key.  After conferring with Sharron about it (which means leaving the ruins, which means resetting all the goddamn monster spawners in the ruins) she tells you that a Golem has it.  Then you have to find it, smash it, get back to the door and open it.

Now, I've left something out here, which I should get to now.  To fully explore a dungeon, as in, reach the end of it, you have to destroy all the monster spawners in it in a single go-through.  It's hard to tell why, and thinking on it, the story doesn't really explain why, so let's just ignore that.  There's always at least one in a section, if not two.  And sometimes they're tricky to find, being hidden behind tiles of poison that you have to walk over or behind walls of flame that you have to put out.  So you'll understand if having to leave a cave in the middle to get a goddamn key is a little frustrating.

The dungeon following that is nearly the exact same set up, except the locked door is, of course, at the end, and the key is, again, of course, at the very beginning.  But at least you don't have to go outside of the cave and reset everything.  Still, it's annoying.  And this was the point I made it to in my game; the part where I realized I would have to farm once again just to open a goddamn door.

"Fuck that," I exclaimed.  And, on a whim, I decided to take a gander at my other save file to see if I had made it to that point there as well and surpassed it.  And, in fact, I had.  So it was just a simple matter of finishing up that dungeon and doing the last one to get the game finished.

It's hard to really state that this is, in fact, a Harvest Moon game after spending four paragraphs explaining about the spelunking and combat that proliferates the game as you get more and more into it, but honestly, that's just one side of it.  A brand new side with more depth than one would expect, but only one side nonetheless.  And while there's other goodies, like the crafting system shown above, added, it's still just a Harvest Moon game, which is a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your tastes and likes.  For me, that's a good thing, especially because the game is very good at being a Harvest Moon game.  So, in lieu of having something more 'to-the-roots' available, it's a fantastic substitute.

So, for its flaws, which are little more than kinks to be worked out in the grand scheme of things, Rune Factory proves to be a fantastic game for those of the type to enjoy it, and while it's existence includes elements that may force the 'Simple Farmer' approach to take a back seat for a while, the depth that's put in place offers a lot in terms of enjoyment.  And though the story provides something of a feeling of 'finality' to the game, which is not what you want from a Harvest Moon game, the story can be completely ignored for those that just want to relive the Harvest Moon 64, Harvest Moon:  Back to Nature, and Harvest Moon:  Friends of Mineral Town days of farming, owning livestock and chatting up the locals.