Sunday, September 30, 2012

LittleBigThings: Welp, Working on Some Stuff

As I sort of imagined, though feared against, I am finding it a little easier than it was on the PS3 to set about actually building a level and getting stuff put down.  Not -much- easier, mind you, but I have a days-worth of progress on something done up versus....well, no progress at all, so that's something.  As is generally the case, that's more or less what I've been doing since I aced the Story Mode, though I have put in some time to actually attempt the whole online thing to get some of the 2-Player required prize bubbles and have met with limited amounts of success.  While I can actually play online as opposed to some games, I'm sure the NAT factor is still in play when it comes to my ability to actually enjoy the online aspect of the game.  Which is marginally strange to me since I apparently have the same on my PS3 but I guess having a cable hooked up makes all the difference in the world.  Regardless, I have taken down about four of the levels with two-person-only Prize bubbles which means great success where I come from.

Create mode in LBPV has been a little bit of a different beast than its console counterpart however, at least in terms of a few things.  Mechanics-wise, it's generally the same aside from a few improvements that I may or may not touch on tonight, but what I'm talking about...well, does sort of matter in that context, as it's about the content available.  You see, LittleBigPlanet 2's big billing thing was "You get -everything- from LittleBigPlanet to carry over!" which means costumes, stickers, bits and bobs, objects, materials, etc. etc. etc.  Everything when it means everything.  Going from LittleBigPlanet 2 to Vita, however?  You get.....DLC costumes that were purchased in either LBP or LBP2 which are appreciated of course, but nothing else that isn't mechanical.  To tell the truth, I haven't really looked, but I do believe that the Paintinator has been completely phased out for the Creatinator which is admittedly basically the same thing but still, that's...something.  Water has been implemented properly, as a core mechanic, so why not bring that along as well?  (I might have overlooked it, however, will probably edit in here after I check when I'm done with the post itself.)

As such, I find it odd, trying to do some things in it as I remember bits and pieces of my excursions with the console versions and the things I used there, only to find that they're simply not here.  Almost disconcerting, even.  To top that, some of the LBP Costumes in the actual storefront on the Vita are for packs that include more than just costumes.....if you buy them on PS3.  For the Vita version itself, you only get the costumes, thought I suppose a theoretical LittleBigPlanet 3 would eventually use all the elements again if you're worried about having to 'go back' to LBP2 to get the full use out of them.  Still, I hold out a little bit of hope that something will be done here in the future to allow us access to the rest of the stuff from the DLC, the materials and the like, though I suppose I will understand if it's just not really possible.  If we're throwing out dreams as well, hoping they are heard by the powers that be, being able to get base things, again materials and the like from LBP 1 and 2 would also be nice, but I'm mostly just concerned with the stickers and materials from the DLC as I would assume they have all the rights they need to bring them over - after all, they were alright enough to tinker with bits of all of them as is.

Anyways, the point was to talk about the creating thing so I should probably do that instead of anything else like whining about not having enough stuff to build with.  Which I suppose is still talking about creating things in a sense but it's a bit heading off the topic an- right, right, moving on.  It's an odd thing, trying to build something in LittleBigPlanet because I have sort of been ruined by the community.  You go into other levels and see things and marvel and wonder at just how the hell they made that, and then go into one of your levels and have a dumpy little outline of a house started.  It's....intimidating to say the least.  I can't help but equate it somewhat to making things in Sound Shapes, where I didn't really -have- that.  Sure, there were nice looking things in Sound Shapes, but the bulk of them were just creative usage of pre-made things.  In LittleBigPlanet, entire levels are literally hand-crafted things and sometimes they are just amazing.  I freeze up just thinking about trying to replicate anything that has the sort of grandeur I've come across or, more importantly, just thinking about what I make in comparison to those other things.  It's.....never pretty.  And unnecessary.  I cannot -not- do it, however.

Still, for whatever reason I have found that it's easier to get past that in LBPV - perhaps because I really don't care about being judged in the same scope as those other types of levels (which I don't think I would, since they're separate entities) or perhaps because I'm getting more confident about being able to make things that look kind of half-decent.  I mean, take a look at the screenshot provided at the top - it's not bad I'd say, for being very early on in planning out.  I have the planters and no idea how to actually put plants in them yet which I can get past, a doormat on the step up, and a doorway with a door that actually has a little detail on it with the knob, the lock and the stickers.  Also in the level is a white-picket fence, a mailbox and a tree with a Tire Swing because -why not-.  It's all very basic yet because...well, that's how you gotta do it.  I have to lay the framework for things before putting anything else down.  Not because I want everything to be perfect because it assuredly will not be, but because I need to try at least, because it's only with trying that you get better and such.

The issue I'm running into with all my levels, not just this basic house one (which will be used as a sort of 'hub' level for my other things) is that I just don't know a whole lot about what I want.  I can't really visualize and I can't really replicate with scale.  Everything looks okay until you put it in contrast with something else.  For example, the planters and the step look a little big when you compare it to the door, and the space of the entry room seems like it might be a little big compared to the door as well, but the door scales really nicely to Sackboy itself - a little taller and a little wider than him, like any good door to a person.  In the end, I'm sure I'll probably just have to not -care- so much about scale since Sackboy isn't really a thing of perfect proportions himself and trying to base around him specifically is something of a fool's errand.  Still, I operate under the theory of doing something right when you do something at all, or at least I pretend I do, so I am trying to stick with that if nothing else.  And I'm not about to publish a level unless I'm mostly happy with it.  And it's done and such.  My House level is pretty good so far for being like 1% done, so small victories here.  When I get some more done with it, I'll do an update here and/or when I start working on the other two projects, I'll do something for them here as well.  With any luck, it will be soon!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Well, This is Certainly a Reversal

In brief moments of pause when I haven't been obsessively playing LittleBigPlanet Vita, finding time to spend on playing the excellent Sleeping Dogs, watching something on YouTube or throwing hours of my life at a time into watching episodes of Burn Notice (which is sooooo good you guys) through Netflix, my free time has been devoted to very very slowly progressing through Hero of Leaf Valley still, as I would like to see at least an entire playthrough through before I call it done.  This has been difficult however, which I think is hilarious, since I have reached the point in the game where I have effectively streamlined everything and am set to earn a good few thousand Gs in a single day.  I have pretty much bought everything there is to offer, tool upgrades, appliance upgrades, house add-ons, farm add-ons, you name it and I have it, so long as it's available to me.  So I basically just have to play through the day dicking about however I wish to get through it so I can then do the next day.

I think that's where the issue is, however, as there's really nothing else to do except follow the routine to a T.  Leave the house and pick up the dog, put him down, go to the food bowl, whistle for him, tell him to sit with the ocarina and give him food in the dish.  Go to the chicken coop, fill the troughs, pick everybody up and get their eggs.  Head to the stables, fill the troughs, talk to the horse and cows, brush the horse and cows, milk the cows.  Harvest and rice that has grown, water it all, fill the watering can.  Go back in the house, make cheese with the milk (at this point, I get two large milks and three smalls which means three things of cheese), make egg and rice dish if there's any rice, otherwise throw eggs in the fridge.  Go to the woodcutter's, talk to Gwen and give her a Very Berry, wait for Woody to go outside and talk to him to see if I can cut lumber.  Afterwards, go to the mine and mine the available caves using reference pictures for single-strike mines because I am a dirty cheater.  Sell ore at woodcutters.  Sell Cheese (and rice dish if any) at Grocery Store.

That list of things to do is the exact routine I end up following to start every Hero of Leaf Valley day.  It is formulaic and it only manages to get me to about 1 PM Harvest Moon time which means the rest of my day is playtime, but....there's really nothing else to do besides talk to folks.  I've effectively cut out all the fat of the game, you could say, in that I am not wasting time collecting things to sell so I can buy food to restore part of my stress/fatigue bars, nor do I have to do a lot to get to where I -would- need to, aside from when I cut trees.  With my tools fully upgraded as well as almost all the Power Berries in the game, I can do...quite a lot before getting fatigued and the house add-on has a Bathroom that allows you to take a bath and get a free boost for both anyway!  About the only thing I can do when I'm done with my routine, again outside of just milling about and talking to everybody, is going off to fish which....serves no real purpose unless I want to feed my dog some fish, because I do believe I have all the Fish recipes already and if I don't, well, who cares?  Certainly not I.

If anything, I suppose it speaks to some pacing issues that the game might have, and, in truth, perhaps some content issues as well.  Most other Harvest Moon games tend to offer a broader range of things over a longer period of time (generally you can buy something to add-on to your house with once a week, and only one thing) which allows them to piecemeal out to you a kitchen and such.  Still, it just feels like there should be more by this point, and not what I have done which is basically seen and conquered most everything.  Doing some peeking in guides, I've learned that there is another slew of upgrades available in the third year, but that's....well, a year and a season away of nothing in between besides gathering and getting prepared, I suppose.  I already have 51 excess lumber, and I think one project maybe requires 100 pieces, but I doubt it.  My point being that I will probably have a good bit, if not all of the lumber stocked up for said upgrades well before time.  Though I'm not sure what else I could hope for, and I certainly would not have hoped for a sort of arbitrary restriction keeping me from getting what I have before now either.  Since that just would have been padding.

I'm not really sure what to think.  Certainly, I've been in this position before in Harvest Moon games, where I have everything streamlined, but it was always because there was just something else on the horizon.  While that technically holds true for Hero of Leaf Valley, in that all of Year 3's offerings await me (including being able to marry Gwen), it's....not quite enough.  I want something a little more immediate or close enough to it.  The closest goal I have is winning the Horse Race towards the end of Fall which I am pretty confident that I will be able to do, since I have my horse all the way up to max affection which means he can apparently 'run like the wind'.  I believe that has something to do with one of the many endings the game has to offer in which you have done something amazing to save the Valley that wasn't outright buying it, and that's fairly cool enough for me, but there's just the whole getting to that point (since I assume the endings come into play at the end of year 2 or 3) that has become difficult.  With any luck, I'll soldier through it, however, as I still do quite like the game, which I'm surprised by.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Two Nice Vita Game Announcements

Remember Earth Defense Force 3 Portable?  Announced sometime around E3 and was pretty much completely overlooked because the world is a terrible place full of terrible people?  Yeah, you probably don't.  It's okay.  I mean, I posted about it, but I really didn't, nor do I yet, know exactly what an Earth Defense (I keep spelling it as "Defence" and I don't know why) Force game is like.  I have a rough image and such, and I could probably get a better understanding through some videos and the like, which is probably what I will end up doing now that I have a reason to do so.  Because, as you might have read already, Earth Defense Force 3 Portable, known over here as Earth Defense Force 2017, is coming to North America.  This is a triumph, as they say, since it's just one more game to throw at the nay-sayers that are going to spout off the "has no gaems" thing until....I dunno.  I really don't, since the Vita -has- a really impressive library (more impressive first-party-wise than Nintendo at least, which is -saying something-) and doesn't really deserve the flak it gets, but that's neither here nor there.

If you'll recall (or if you re-read the post I initially linked) whether or the game would actually get localized was about as up in the air as any one game could be.  On one hand, it's apparently a beloved franchise, even if it's not A quality, on the other hand, it's....very, very niche, so it's not going to sell gangbusters no matter what it's on.  Still, what this means is a version that is in English and no matter what, that is a plus for most of the world that is not Japan.  For instance, the game has only been mentioned as heading for North America so, say, angry PAL folks will still be able to import it and play it on their Region-Free Vitas.  Because they are region-free.  Unlike certain other handhelds that people are always complaining about not being Region-Free, but buying the hell out of them anyway.  They will also be able to understand it, what with the whole English thing going on.  As to -when- they'll be able to do this is up in the air, as the game has a release window of "Winter 2013" which.....seems like a long, -long- way away if you take it literally.  As in, Q4 2013.  Some have speculated this means January or February of 2013 which makes a lot more sense, but there's really no information about that out there yet.

Still, I suspect that no matter the release date, I have a while to fully get a grasp on just what this series is.  If I had to put a rough estimate on it, I would suggest that it is Starship Troopers, but on Earth.  I would also say that I have not seen Starship Troopers in like a decade and I should really try to keep up on my references instead of throwing them out blindly but....effort.  Anyways, as a wholly expendable mook, you seem to be mowing down giant space bugs can't.  I guess?  It does seem like the sort of thing that would be fun for short bursts and especially fun in a group of friends, so if the price and delivery is right, I might just go for it.  I don't know what to think of on that front, however, as I really don't see it making it onto a Cart for its release over here.  But I also don't see a Digital-only release for it going over $20, which I believe is what some Japanese Cart games that are DD-only over here are going for.  Like Sumioni and Dokuro (if its price was even announced) and of that ilk.  I'm sure that'll be seen as a pretty good bargain for fans of the series and the price-point might hook some who otherwise might not be interested.  Like me.  It'll be interesting to see, certainly!

Also worth noting as an announcement is the announcement that Rainbow Moon will be seeing a Vita port which pretty much makes all the sense in the world, really.  As it is apparently billed as an RPG that will take a lot of your time.  I think we've all sort of come to the realization that RPGs are fantastic for handhelds since you are likely in a position to put a lot more time into that than you are a console unless you....just have a lot of free time to spend with a console of your choice.  If we could all be so lucky, I suppose, but my point is that, especially for short sessions of pick-up-and-play, RPGs work really nicely provided they aren't text-heavy as all get-out.  But on the Vita, that's not so much an issue since you can Home Button out and put the machine to sleep if you just cannot get to a spot where you can save your progress.  Which is mostly for older games, since new ones seem to have embraced the theory of being able to save anywhere since if you're playing on a portable, you're pretty much likely to have to pick it up and put it down a lot.

I could probably find a couple posts where I stated it, but when Rainbow Moon came out, I said that I would be interested in it if it ever made its way to the Vita, since I'm really not going to do a whole lot of RPG-playing on my PS3 I doubt.  Aside from Final Fantasy XIII when I pick that up, but, well, according to who you listen to, it's not much of an RPG.  (Canned laughter goes here.)  I barely have the time to play the games I have, and I really don't need to compound that by throwing another game that'll require a 60-hour investment onto the pile.  That pile, I should say since I more or less have -two- piles now which is absolutely, utterly ridiculous.  On my PS3, I have the backlog that I have been oh-so-steadily working through, whereas on my Vita, I have a whole mess of PSP RPGs that I can go through at my leisure, I suppose, as well as Final Fantasy VII all by its lonesome while I await either Final Fantasy VIII or Xenogears to be up in the Playstation store proper since I believe I have purchased both and just need to download them.  And I'm gonna, I assure you of that.

Something specific to note is that, unlike a lot of games that are featured between the PS3 and the Vita, Rainbow Moon will not have a sort of "Buy one, get one" deal.  It's unfortunate for folks that have the PS3 version and would prefer it on the Vita, but to put it in perspective, the folks handling the port, their developing partner SideQuest Studios will have to literally port the entire game, as Rainbow Moon was built solely for PS3 and didn't use a sort of cross-platform engine which makes it so easy for other games to release on both services.  Not to fret, as the developer knows that things change and the fans who already supported them were the ones that requested the port, so they fully don't intend on charging the same price for those folks who have the game already or who decide they like the game so much, they want to buy it for both at once.  Exactly what the price-point is going to be in any scenario is up in the air, and how flexible they'll really be allowed to be is questionable, but at least their intent is there.  Let's hope that them coming out and saying that doesn't bite them in the end.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Happy Trilogy Day!

That is apparently what today is, as there were two rather high-profile trilogy sets announced in roughly the same period of time, and it would only be better if there were, in fact, three trilogies announced.  Because that' know.  Thematic.  And fitting.  And stuff.  Anyways, the two that were announced were kind of important, so I'm going to do a little talking about them since that is sort of what I do.  And enjoy doing.  Interestingly enough, there are a few parallels between the two of them which I will point out when I get that far, but first, I suppose I need to stop stalling because I can't think of a more proper way to introduce the post and I just really like introductions in my posts, since they're supposed to set the mood, but this is setting up a scattered and terribly-done mood and oh god.  But maybe that's the point, eh?  Maybe it's some sort of commentary that I am doing to be clev-okay, it's not, I'm just bad at writing tonight.

Anyways, as you can see above, the first mentioned trilogy is the Assassin's Creed:  Ezio Trilogy which, unsurprisingly, has three games in it that star Ezio.  I say this, because it is apparently a surprise to some people and these people, I just don't know about.  In the comments for the Playstation Blog post announcing the Trilogy (as it's apparently PS3-exclusive in North America.....for a little while maybe) I saw no less than a few comments asking about, yes, you guessed it (or maybe you didn't) whether or not Assassin's Creed 1 would be included.  Now....okay.  I can kind of almost maybe sort of understand why it might be something of a thought that might perhaps cross your mind, since AC1 was included on PS3 copies of the Revelations disc because Ubisoft said "eh, why not" and thus associated it with the game.  But I am just confused, my gast has been flabbered, if you will, as to why people would assume that AC1 would be included in a disk that says very clearly Ezio Trilogy.  It literally means a Trio of Ezio.  Three Ezio.  Three games with Ezio in them.  AC1?  Altair.  Who is not Ezio.  Who is not Ezio at all.

Not only are people confused over this, people are angry over this, suggesting that the trilogy is, in fact, worthless without AC1 which continues to boggle my mind and smack my gob and other such general similar statements for being absolutely confused.  These are people whose brains I will never understand because I think that they do have a layer of stupidtanium surrounding it or -something-.  I mean, I understand very well the desire to be able to get an entire -thing- in a single purchase of a single item, but I also understand that if I am buying a box of Captain Crunch, I will not be angry and indignant when there are no corn flakes in my box.  Other complaints are only slightly more valid in that the post lists that AC2 will include the two DLC chapters, but no mention is made of Brotherhood or Revelations DLC, since well, that is more or less just trying to squeeze a little more value out of that, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that.  Regardless, I think what has been said about it is what we're going to get, and as someone who owns all three games already, I don't feel the need to rush out and get this.  Especially when it releases in November, which is -after- AC3 comes out, but I can certainly understand who this is for.

The Mass Effect Trilogy, which is something much more pertinent to my interests is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin.  Er....cardboard.  Plastic?  I don't know what the hell that box is going to end up being made of, but whatever, it says Mass Effect Trilogy and is just that - the three Mass Effect games, on disks, in a single package.  What's important about all this, you might ask yourself, since it is pretty much just a rereleasing of games that are already out and have been out for anywhere to some months to five years.  Well, it is for reasons that I have littered purposefully in the opening sentences of this paragraph.  And for one big point that I didn't mention, but is also kind of hinted at, if you know me and what I game on, thus why I would even consider this somewhat important.  So, think on it for a moment.  Really, go ahead, I've got nothing to do but listen to Deep Crimson Foe over and over again because my ears demand it.

Alright, got it sorted?  Well, alright then.  You see, the big deal is that this Trilogy pack, with all three games on disk format, is coming on November 6th for PC and 360 with, wait for it, a PS3 version to follow at an undecided date.  As in, a PS3 version of the Trilogy where Mass Effect 1, previously the only game of the series not on the console, will be on the console in playable form.  That's right, five years later those of us who have put off buying a 360 and/or a gaming PC, who haven't gotten into Mass Effect 2 or 3 because it is a very story-centric game and we'll be damned if we buy into 2/3rds of a story, all four of us, can finally have our very own chance at owning Mass Effect 1 on our console of choice.  Will it be worth it?  Almost decidedly not.  The game will probably not stand up against all the different ideas that have been implemented in the five years since its release.  It is most likely one of those nostalgia-fueled games, even at this short juncture, but the important thing is that I will be able to suffer through it with the Shepard of my choice to soldier on into Mass Effect 2 and 3.  I will be able to get the full experience, finally, and that is decidedly what matters.

Much like the Ezio Trilogy, DLC is sort of a sticking point with this collection without so much as a hint from EA and/or Bioware as to the actuality of its release.  Well, perhaps -a- hint, in that in the bullet points, no DLC is listed whatsoever, and when you consider that Mass Effect 3 is still getting's pretty telling, I should think, but I can -hope- as well, considering that the amount of DLC spanning the three games is likely in the triple digits, money-wise, and I do not have $60 for the trilogy as well as money on top of that for after-bits, even the 'essentials'.  I can certainly -hope- that I will not get the base games for $60, but I can't say that I would feel ripped off if I did, since the Mass Effect games are touted for their all-around greatness, their length, and richness, and I am sure that I will get my moneys worth out of one game alone, and certainly twice over in the entire trilogy, but I'm sure what I -don't- have will be tantalizing, and I have not the willpower to resist.

These are some pretty neat things, whether or not I will be getting them (which, I will likely be getting the latter only), and I really wanted to bring them up.  It -would- have been nice if there was another one announced, or I suppose I could have used one of the more recent collections to talk about in contrast, but that seems a little wacky.  Still, I would like to have something to close this on, so with that in mind, I would like to formally announce that I am re-imagining Journey's Fall in LittleBigPlanet Vita and it will likely span over three levels, or in other words, be a trilogy.  Isn't that fantastic?  And topical!  Now it's just up to you to believe if I'm joking or not.  Because I could be joking.  I could very well be joking.  Or making empty promises.  I do that sometimes.  I guess we'll just have to see!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

LittleBigThings: I Beat LPBV's Story

So, technically I beat the story to LittleBigPlanet Vita (I'm cutting the Playstation part of the title because it's extraneous) a couple nights ago, and since have just been going back into them and trying to Ace them, some with far greater success than others, but I think that added experience has done wonders for my ability to appraise it as a full product.  Not in a review sense, since I really don't think that'd be fair since, in all actuality, the real beef of LittleBigPlanet Vita is not -there- yet in a sense.  Which is not a slight at MediaMolecule or, in this case, Tarsier Studios, of course, because the things that they do are magical, but they are probably cheating a little.  You know that every single Community Level you play is drawing from the exact same set of tools that you yourself have available to you and I'm just not quite sure that the developers have those same tools or those same limitations, particularly on space.  And besides, I think I love LBP a bit too much to offer it a fair appraisal (though I said that about the Yakuza series and I think I did alright there) especially as I play more and more Community Levels (and make my own) because I'll just get too attached to things that aren't necessarily of the game itself.

Even now, trying to think of the actual story missions, just in its own, I'm also considering other things like Bound: Prologue, a capable enough little tech demo for something of an actual sword-n-spell combat system that people have only been asking for since the Paintinator, more or less, and Snatch which is a basic little Escape the Room type game that I happen to have something of a fondness for when they're not completely overwrought.  Also, I'm thinking of my own projects, one of which I've started some very basic preliminary work on, where the other is only a concept for now.  When either of them get a little more accomplished, I'll likely be doing up a Behind-the-Scenes type of post here to show off what I've got going and what I'm envisioning for the rest of the level.  Because it's going to be pretty cool, I assure you.  Or at least, I think it will be pretty cool.

But if anything, I think that helps illustrate my point that I was trying to make.  I could go on and on and on and on about LittleBigPlanet in any iteration without mentioning the story whatsoever, and that is simply because that half of LBP as a series is just so big that it could, in fact, be its own game.  I have a secret hope that, with LBP being a thriving series and LBP Karting coming up (as well as the existence of Modnation Racers) that we will see other genres embrace the LBP-style experience and let us get things out there.  Touching on something I went on about the other week, can you imagine if someone took, say, the RPG genre and did up something like LittleBigPlanet for it?  Having a game with it to show you some of the mechanics, and giving you an opportunity to earn the tools, then having an entire community creating and releasing things for others to enjoy.  Or, honestly just about any genre out there, I think anything could be molded in a way that it would work really.

Anyways, yes yes, I really should be getting on with actually talking about what is there in LittleBigPlanet Vita when you pop it into your Vita in some fashion.  I find it particularly funny that just after talking about it the other night, and mentioning that the touch controls had been used quite nicely that I run into a level that uses the rear touch pad in a manner that I am tempted to call abhorrent, but I won't go that far, because it's really not -that- bad, just disappointing since it makes me look like an ass.  As I do, I went ahead and took a screencap of the level I had in mind and provided it above, so that I can sort of explain what's going on.  Now, it's hard to tell specifically, but that is my Sackboy (Detective Penguin~) on something that is basically a lightning bug or something of that sort by way of controllinator.  So you see that screenshot and probably say "Hey, alright, twin-stick shooter type thing" and you are wrong.  And seeing me say that and now remembering that I just brought up the rear touch pad, I'm sure you're very confused.  As well you should be.

You see, your only method of input for that entire level (which is mercifully short) is, indeed, the rear touch pad.  You touch on a spot and your bug moves towards your finger and that is how you get from point A to point B.  Depending on how far your finger is makes it kind of faster, but that's not really a considering factor, really.  It's unwieldy and it's unnecessary and it's just not a very good idea.  I get that they were probably trying to do something to let you know that you can use the rear touch pad for more than just bumping out platforms, but I'm sure that anyone could have thought of something far better to use as a tool to do that with.  With the other touch controls, some of it is stuff that, well you -don't- need it to use it, like the panels you pull down to bounce your Sackboy up with, but it ends up feeling fairly natural anyway.  But there's really just no excusing using the rear touch pad as a navigation device when you have not one, but two control sticks on your device.

In all honesty, however, that's really the only stand-out situation where it is inherently just poorly used.  Other times, I could mention because it forces use at semi-hectic times, but it's not -bad-, and just takes a little skill, much like any other control method.  Control-wise, that's kind of how the game is; for the most part it's fantastic (same as usual) and for that one level and bits and pieces here it's less than stellar.  Similar is the story, which is more or less what you would expect - charming and light, though to its credit, every region has a genuine reason for you being there which could have been something that would get muddled up more than not.  I was fairly impressed with it, and it was pretty much what you would want.  Perhaps I'll get around to getting into that more eventually since the story isn't quite as spoiler-ruined as most, but there's not really much expansion to do without telling the whole of it, which I don't plan on doing tonight.  No, what I plan on doing is purely getting a little more acing done, and then sleep.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gravity Rush Is Probably (Definitely) Getting a Sequel

So, I believe that I made my feelings about the wonderful Gravity Rush known when I reviewed it and one of the things I touched on was the realization that there was -going- to be another game in the series, at least.  It needs another game in the series, but not in the way that, say, Assassin's Creed 2 -needed- Brotherhood (and apparently Revelations), as Gravity Rush's untidy loose ends are not blatant and are not getting in the way of it being a cohesive, self-contained experience.  Either that, or the ending was so satisfying that it more or less made me stop caring which is accomplishing the same goal anyways.  The point is that there was obviously more of Gravity Rush's story to tell, but it wasn't as if the game made you feel like it was keeping anything back to be shown later, which seems to be a -thing- with games nowadays, in that they purposefully set themselves up to be trilogies or such.  It might just be an argument of semantics or something similar, but impressions and opinions are swayed by far less.

Regardless, it was quite fair to say that there was going to -be- a sequel, so it seemed like a foregone conclusion, but to hear "I'll do my best on the sequel" from the director is welcoming.  It was hot on the heels of the news that the game won Japan's Game of the Year Grand Award which was going on during TGS, so perhaps it was something exclaimed in a moment of pure excitement.  Well-deserved excitement at that.  So perhaps he wasn't supposed to hint at the possibility of a sequel that they are theoretically already making, much less state in such definitive terms "the sequel" as in "the sequel that is happening", but these things happen.  Personally, I'm almost waiting for the moment where he does "I didn't really mean it that way, more like if one happens", but come on we all know it's coming, and we're all very, very excited for it.

I can't speak for what I would like covered in the sequel as that will obviously spoil things, but something I am quite hoping for is a leap of quality in terms of inFamous 1 to 2.  I'm not quite sure how this is possible, as Gravity Rush was pretty fantastic, as was the original inFamous, but inFamous 2's quality leap was so great, so tantalizingly delicious, that I can't help but hold it up as the yardstick for everything else.  It's not fair, I realize, since no series really can hope for that jump, but those that even get close are generally the ones we want to get that close, and the ones that will do anything to climb towards that height.  And we love them for it.  It's just that sort of realization that you get when you play a game like inFamous and you love it like I did - you can't really take any part of it and say "Well, I could do -this- and it would be awesomer" (except the animations.  We....don't speak of the animations.) and yet -somebody- manages to have the frame of mind to be able to do that.  It's amazing, frankly, and I'm glad that people like that exist.

My only real suggestion for improvement with Gravity Rush was basically some improvements to the combat system and some side content.  I am a self-appointed Combat System aficionado, apparently, so Gravity Rush not coming in high on there is no real surprise since most games -don't-.  And it's sort of telling when one of your complaints about a game is that you want -more of it-, which I certainly did.  The challenges were there and then I beat them.  Then I found the Travelers.  And that was it.  So if the Sequel that is almost definitely happening manages to incorporate at least that, then we're all winners.  And I have a feeling that they will do just that and more because the quality was there already and it just needs to be expanded on, really.  Pulled out, made larger and if they take notes from other Sony Studios, which I think everybody does, then all the better.

It does still seem to be a bit premature speaking of the game as a thing that exists, but I'm sure that it will, so I'm going to do just that.  In fact, I expect an announcement of it sometime next year, possibly even at Sony's E3, with a release date somewhere in 2013's third or fourth quarter.  Primo spot would obviously be in the Holidays, but I'm not sure if they'd actually manage to do that, and if so, for all regions.  I'm hoping against a staggered release, but since it's Sony Japan Studios that made Gravity Rush, it certainly would not surprise me.  Whenever it comes out, however, it'll be well worth it, and I eagerly await it, even though there's....quite enough on my plate as it is.  But then again, that's always the case, pretty much, so there's no real change there!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

You Have My Attention, Remember Me

I recall Remember Me being announced as a thing some time ago, but I never really put it on my radar for reasons that more or less escape me.  Especially so when you consider that it really seems to have an aesthetic that I am craving, what with being semi-futuristic looking possibly going so far as to being called "Cyber-punk".  It -feels- like an aesthetic that has been done time and time again in games, but I will be damned if I can think of an example beyond the Deus Ex series which, to be fair, might be quite enough for some people.  (Because they play the games over and over again, you see.  Well....the first and third one.  Possibly.)  Perhaps because I have not yet partaken of Human Revolution, I have not met my Cyber-punk quota or something of that sort, but the point I'm making in a rather roundabout way is that, after checking out Remember Me I kind of like the look of it.  Of course, I never would have done that (at least, not this soon) had it not been for a Siliconera article titled Remember Me's Neat Combo Customization System Shown in Action.

Combo Customization?  As in, a melee system that is at least somewhat different than hitting a button a lot to punch a guy using a very under-thought, canned animation?  Well, let's have a look-see.  Ahh......hrm.  Hrrmmmmm.  That was basically my reaction throughout the video since it's....not a very good video, basically.  Or rather, it's an excellent video at showing off the very very basics of the combo system, but it stops there.  Beyond the "Over 50,000 possible combos" line, there's absolutely nothing to suggest that the melee system could be one of those "is as deep as you make it" systems, which are oftentimes the most fun, I should think.  In execution, of course, which leaves the presentation of it completely up to the developer.  I think this is really one of the 'barriers' that stops some games melee short in what's considered 'tedious and repetitive' versus other games' 'deep and satisfying' appraisal.

If you'll allow me a moment to draw some comparisons, I'll do the outlandish and bring up Batman:  Arkham Asylum and the more recent Lollipop Chainsaw in the same breath.  As I'm sure you're all aware, the former was praised (perhaps rightly so) for having 'a deep and intuitive melee system' whereas the latter was criticized (incorrectly) for being 'boring, tedious combat' and, being somebody who kind of has a thing for melee systems and who has played both games, I believe I can offer something of an explanation for why I think they were perceived as such.  Without playing the very obvious cards of the former being goddamn Batman, and the latter being a campy, B-Movie-looking (but amazing, excellent) game, because even though I'm sure those factored in a little bit, I have to believe that we're all always just looking for the fun experience, no matter the framing, and that the latter would be just as touted as the former if it made one very little change.  That change, that reason for the difference in appraisal I believe, is all about presentation.

By that, I mean specifically what happens on-screen when you push the attack button in an attempt to, well, attack a dude.  It seems like a minor, weird thing to think about, but it is -not- and is, I believe, one of the more important aspects you could incorporate into a melee system.  In Arkham Asylum (I can't speak for City since I haven't played it), you push punch and Batman might roll and punch, might take a little hop and punch, might swing around and punch, etc. - my point being simply that Batman, when ordered to punch, does not have just one animation dedicated to doing so.  Let's face it; if you strip both games I mentioned down to their inputs, they're pretty much the exact same thing.  You're hitting Square (on PS3) a lot and sometimes Circle to break it up (when Batman needs to break a block with the cape, or Juliet needs to vault over a dude to hit a different one because it looks awesome) while every now and then you hit the other buttons for auxiliary commands.  As Batman, you're flipping around and doing all sorts of impressive-looking shit that isn't expressly the same because there's just a few variations on just about every animation so while you'll see the same thing over and over again, it won't be right after the other after the other.  Juliet Starling, on the other hand has substantially more variation in her moves and her combos, however every attack more or less just has the one animation.

The result of that is that you end up, likely, settling on one or two different combos that seem to do the most damage and use them again and again, leading you to see the same animations again and again in the span of mere seconds.  The effect wears in rather easily because it's not exactly fluid, it's not, well, different, even slightly.  So, for Batman, because everything is slightly different in context with itself, it's that much more visually interesting, which means you're drawn into watching it, into paying more attention.  It's nothing approaching a question of mechanics, it's purely visual interest, because when you strip that away it is, as I said, virtually identical.  So really, that is kind of my theory on what makes the difference in the wide audience opinion.  I am kind of an outlier in that theory because I know of it, I suppose, since I enjoyed Lollipop Chainsaw much much more than Arkham Asylum, which might seem like heresy, but that's just how it is.  There, I said it.

Anyways.  Obviously, I brought all that up and went through all of that because I am going to use that to address my problem that I can see with Remember Me already.  It is precisely the problem I identified with why I imagine some people are less drawn to a melee system, and that's kind of an issue if Remember Me is really touting itself as a brawler of any sort.  Every single animation for the combos that you can create is the same for that combo and combo type.  Now, while it's likely a difficult task to change it up, I'm sure it could be done, and -especially- when it comes to the finishers for the Power line combo.  You're gonna have to vary it up if you want to attract the wider audience because nobody's going to care about making their own combos if it's just going to be a matter of setting one or two combos to last you the game and seeing those same five animations over and over again.  Because nobody is going to change their combos -just- to make it look different as it plays out.  Still, it's a pretty nifty idea in concept, so it certainly got my attention.  I just hope for their sake that they put a little more thought into it before it releases, because I can see a lot of middling impressions forming already.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Rest of Sony's TGS

Quite a few things of import were announced at TGS where Sony is concerned, but for my part, I've only talked about one thing in particular because it is special.  Still, the rest of the news is good as well and it's something that I want to cover, since the bulk of it might be things that I partake in myself, or at the very least, is somewhat cool on its own merits.  While there's no real megaton big news here (TGS is never the place for 'giant' announcements) what is here is substantial in its own right, really, and I would be remiss if I looked towards anything else to talk about tonight since it seems the after-conference stuff has all been more or less sorted out as well.  As in, the stuff that doesn't get spoken of specifically during the conference, but is still out there at TGS and doesn't generally get much mention for whatever reason.  Like Earth Defense Force 3 Portable for Vita that got announced sometime after E3 if I'm remembering correctly.

First up is the above-pictured new PS3 Model which I am taking to calling the "Super Slim" because that's kind of a pretty neat name for it.  Which is appropriate because it's a neat-looking system.  Or, rather, I think it's a downright sexy-looking system, being at least much, much more sexy than the actual PS3 Slim that looks kind of terrible when put next to this or even (especially?) when put next to the original PS3.  But it was all about functionality at that point, and not-so-much form factor, and now that that's all pretty sorted, they can focus on the form factor, which they have certainly done.  There's only so many ways in my own vocabulary that I know of how to convey that the aesthetics of this model are pretty pleasing.  And that is kind of the only real thing to point out with this particular design since, aside from being sexy and lighter/smaller than the Slim, even, it's kind of fundamentally the same from what we know about it.

The main difference, at least from what I can think of, is the actual method with which the discs are loaded into the system.  You might notice that the area on the right of the system top, the ridged area, is higher than that on the left, and that's for the very simple reason of being the disk tray.  From what I can tell, instead of popping up, the tray slides to the side and then slides back.  Whether it's automated or not, I can't tell, nor can I surmise just how good of an idea it is in theory.  It's....different to think of, certainly, as disks have either slid in or were popped into a tray that popped open (PS1/2 era design), so having a sliding opening is something different entirely I think.  Again, I don't know just how practical it is, but it's...unique, and for the form factor of the device, so long as it's not an inherently bad idea, it'll work just fine.  I know that if I'm in the market for a new PS3, I'd probably shoot for one of these rather than the regular Slims.

Speaking of reveals, there were some note-worthy ones aside from Muramasa:  The Demon Blade getting a Vita port.  The important things are not necessarily all the game reveals, however, as Soul Sacrifice revealed a new launch window of Spring 2013 that I honestly thought it had anyway, so I wasn't too disappointed by it.  Of course, the launch window is purely Japan-only as, even though it's confirmed that it's going to launch in North America, the specifics with that are more up in the air than the Japanese launch, clearly.  The game seems like it's shaping up rather nicely which is good, since it is definitely going to be a game that everybody wants you to be hyped up for.  For my part, I don't generally get into Monster Hunter type games (Including Monster Hunter), but with Ragnarok Odyssey on the horizon in my pre-order cache, I will see if that type of game does fit with me when it's not'heavy' as Monster Hunter itself.

Also revealed were a few offerings from Namco Bandai and Tecmo KOEI, throwing some new and old the Vita's way.  Namco Bandai's offerings include God Eater 2 which will be a PSP/Vita release in Japan (likely just a Vita release in everywhere else) and a Gundam game that apparently has an embargo on it because it is a rather new approach.  From what I could tell via the Joystiq liveblog, the Gundam game is based around the actual Gundam Models themselves, rather than 'actual' Gundams, and there was a lot of explosions and such.  When I say Gundam Models, I mean the type that you can assemble, so I really have no idea what to anticipate in terms of story and design around that.  Still, it's interesting nonetheless and the fact that I can't get information for it is a bit intriguing since it suggests that it will be a very new attempt, instead of a rehash or a version of a Gundam game already out there.  Maybe.

Tecmo KOEI's offerings also incorporate a little new and old as 'Toukiden' seems to be a pretty good merger of that in itself.  Billed as a new thing, Toukiden doesn't really have any screenshots floating around there, but it's going to be a good old hack-and-slash title with fantasy elements that takes place in a Feudal Japan setting.  A fictional one, of course, because the trailer (forgive the quality) features the female protagonist(? or just one of the characters perhaps) slicing up a rather gigantic spider that I'm...just going out on a limb here and suggesting isn't historically accurate.  You know, just a hunch here.  Seeing as Omega Force (the Dynasty/Samurai Warriors crew) knows how to make some action-packed trailers, I'm not going to take it as an indication of how the game is played aside from the idea that there will be slicing and possibly giant spiders, but for what it's worth, I think they have a pretty good grip on the whole hack-and-slash thing so this one's on my radar.

Tecmo KOEI also announced that Ninja Gaiden 2, like Ninja Gaiden Sigma before it, will be getting ported to the Vita as Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 Plus.  There's literally nothing else said about it and being as I didn't play the Vita port of Sigma, I don't know what to expect.  Buuuuut, while we're on the subject of Ninja Gaiden, there was a little something else revealed at TGS.  Remember Yaiba?  The game that promised Ninjas, Zombies and giant mechs?'s still promising that, but under its new title - Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z.  It's kind of brilliant, actually, in that the main character, Yaiba, is all three of the promised things in one.  As a Ninja, he was killed by Ryu Hayabusa and then brought back to something resembling life with the assistance of some cybernetic implants which he hopes will help him get vengeance on everybody's favorite Ninja.  Like an entire arm and half a head have been replaced.  So Yaiba is literally a Cyber-Zombie Ninja. probably the coolest goddamn thing I have typed all night.

There's no way I can top that, so I'm not even going to try.  I will mention that Playstation Plus is coming to the Vita in November, featuring its own(?) Instant Game Collection, the usual fare from PS Plus, and an additional (read:  Separate from PS3) Gig of Online Storage which will be real nice for folks running out of Memory stick room.  Or cards with which to place bubbles upon.  Also coming to Vita is Playstation Mobile when it launches on October 3rd.  Neither of those are as awesome as a Cyber-Zombie Ninja (even though I am partial to PS Plus and just resubbed for a year), so I will not stay on them for any longer than this.  Because come on.  I just have to say it one more time as I close out this post, just to get it out of my system and make sure it ends on a high note.

Cyber.  Zombie.  Ninja.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

LittleBigThings: LittleBigPlanet Vita is in My Hands - Literally

Greetings from LittleBigPlanet, folks!  As predicted, or rather, as I hoped, I was able to waltz into GameStop today and pick up my copy of LittleBigPlanet Vita with absolutely no hassle and upon returning home, I immediately jettisoned Dynasty Warriors Next from my Vita (I put it in after I finished Gravity Rush in the off-chance that I wanted to mindlessly grind towards the eventual goal of Platinuming the game) and inserted the cart that might as well have been gold-plated for as eagerly as I had awaited it, had longed for it.  There was a minimal update required prior to actually enjoying the game that enabled the Cross-Buy DLC option as well as other little tweaks, but LittleBigPlanet as a series is no stranger to patches (literally and figuratively, what with the sack/fabric motif) and as an avid fan of the franchise, neither am I.  As it was installing, my anticipation was at its peak and the point where I started playing the game was all the better for it.

The game is, in a word, LittleBigPlanet.  Having played 2 not too long ago, it's like I'm playing it again, except there's all new levels.  And that is -good-.  Impressive, even, considering that the series on PS3 is quite pretty to look at, if for the fairly distinct style it carries, but for also the overall 'look' of it.  That is pretty much captured nicely on the Vita with no real substantial area in which it is lacking that I can point out or identify.  The gameplay, much like the visuals, is distinctly fitting in the series' last offerings while adding in its own flair that I will get to in a moment.  That does mean, for better or worse, that it is still a LittleBigPlanet game, and if the controls have bugged you in the past, this game will likely do nothing to change that.  For my part, though, I never, -ever- got the controls complaints and I very much doubt that I will ever understand them, since, after playing other platformers who had their controls described as wonderful and disliking them, I am convinced that my definitions and my expectations are just different.

Yes, being a Vita game, there are touch-based controls for many things, some of them being mandatory.  And yes I get that some people hear that and instantly look for the nearest table to upend, but seriously, do not worry about it.  When done right, touch-based controls are simply natural, feeling like they deserve a place in line next to the X button and down on the D-Pad and such.  And make no mistake, they are certainly done right in LBPV from my semi-limited experience with the game.  You can interact with a few bits and bobs of the environment here and there in pretty natural ways - in the actual 'tutorial' bit for it, you have a block that you can take from a ledge and put it down as a step for your Sackboy to jump on to progress. 

But it's not a simple 'you touch, it does this' process in that you can...kind of just do whatever you want with items that you can pick up and move as that.  Even crushing your sackboy with it or, if you have a very steady hand, carrying them on the platform.  This type of usage is expanded on with spring platforms that allow you to pull it down to launch Sackboy up, rather than having to do those timed jumps some of you might remember from similar platforms in earlier games.  (Like the Wedding section in the first, remember how much of a pain that could be?)  Later examples show off the pushblocks which can be pushed in or out using the front and rear touch screens that will provide passage depending on their usage.  In one, you push back a wall to get by it, move forward jump up and then push it back out to serve as a bridge.  It does not feel forced, awkward, or anywhere near out of place, considering the 'universe' it's in.

Something that I certainly do want to touch on (ha!) before I forget is something that specifically has an all-new sort of excitement welling up in me.  You see, it seems that after beating a boss, you are granted access to one of the levels in The Arcade, which features, from what I can tell, something of greatly expanded-on Mini-games.  Mini-games that bring something into LBP that I have not seen in any fashion before and something that I've often lamented it lacks:  persistence.  Now, when I say persistence, I mean it in a game fashion, as in, you do something and it persists.  Specifically, the first Arcade game that is opened is Super Conductor, a puzzle game where you send a pulse from a source with the ultimate goal of getting it to where it needs to go, a task that leaves you to alter pipes and such as it goes.  If I'm believing right, it has 20 levels to it, and I'm stuck at....17 or something.  The thing that I am excited for is the fact that when I open LBPV up again and go back into the Super Conductor level, all of my progress is still there.  Levels 1-16 are still beaten.

It seems like a little thing to laud, but it's really not, considering that it's more or less something that hasn't, likely couldn't, be a part of LBP in the past.  I'm not even really sure how they manage it - if there's some sort of special programming that cannot be done with the creator (which would make me sad) or if it's just an honest-to-sack new ability that the game has managed to include in the editor.  But if it's in there, it's going to be huge for people not content to make levels that intend for you to get from A to B once and maybe do over again with a sticker that you only get at the end to open a second path.  Because it means that you'll be able to take these elements already provided, the 'overhead camera' for isometric-type games, the sackbots, and make a true, actual game, which has been the mantra of the series since 2, building on the idea that you were merely making 'levels' in the first.  I am highly skeptical that it's something available to us, but only because I'm tempering my hope, since I cannot imagine what people could do with persistence on top of the other amazing things that have been made in LBP and LBP 2 already.

Bonus Post - Muramasa: The Demon Blade Coming to Vita

Pssssst.  Hey, Chance.  Chance.  Guess what got announced at TGS!  Muramasa: The Demon Blade for Vita.  Coming out March 28th, 2013 (In Japan).  Allllll shiny-like.  With new content!  (Because that's just the rule.)  When there's more details, I will edit them in here, but that's about it and I really just wanted to put this up -before- you heard it through the grapevine as you do.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Taken 2 Is a Thing That Is Happening, Life is Wonderful

I would say that, as I do sometimes, you folks who read this at least semi-regularly know of my love for the movie Taken with Liam Neeson, but upon thinking that, I happened to realize something.  You don't.  I don't write many Popcorn On posts, which are my movie semi-reviews basically, but I've always intended to write one for Taken, but it's the oddest thing - Whenever I sit down to write one, I just end up watching the movie instead.  Because it is that good.  I do still intend to write a Popcorn On post for the movie, and I will likely accomplish it on some date, but that date is not tonight.  Though I do reserve the right to completely restate anything and everything in this post in the eventual Popcorn On post for the movie when I do eventually get around to it.  Because I suspect my ability to write rationally might be diminished, what with just being entranced with the movie and all.

With all that said, I'm sure anybody could guess my reaction upon seeing a trailer for Taken 2, having only heard vague rumors in the vein of "Boondock Saints is getting a sequel" (which happened, but.....well....) and "they're doing a live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop" (which hasn't happened and probably won't) which is to say that the movie seemed as if it was never going to happen.  A Duke Nukem Forever-scenario, but for the movies, basically.  My reaction was that of pure glee, something reaching unadulterated joy and beyond.  I admit I may - read, it says may - have even squealed as a girl being given a pony for her birthday might have upon seeing what was undeniably the trailer for a movie that certainly looked enough like Taken that it had to be a sequel for it.  What with the same main cast and everything being prominently featured throughout.  (As a note:  the above is the official trailer, not the commercial one, but it does as well)  Seeing it officially branded at the end of the video is....a feeling unlike anything I have felt for a while, but a feeling that I do believe I will be getting used to with tomorrow's acquisition of LittleBigPlanet Vita, barring any shenanigans.

The interesting thing to note of the sequel, at least from the trailer bits, is that it goes a route that I honestly never would have expected, which is the exact logical route.  Without spoiling the first movie (though the trailer does spoil a few bits) too much, you obviously get the gist of it - the daughter Neeson's character (Bryan Mills) is kidnapped and through the movie, he cuts through swaths of the gang at a time (with bullets) and Taken 2 acknowledges that and embraces it, using it as a logical basis for a sequel.  What one can infer from the trailer is that the remnants of the gang come together stronger, united with a single purpose - to get the ultimate revenge on Bryan Mills, by going after his family for retaliation of their own.  It's not innovative or fancy, nor does it need to be, and it does a damn good job of setting up another movie to bear the name.  It's simple, it's clean, and it makes sense, which likely goes against all action movie logic.

At its core, Taken was very obviously an Action movie, but it was a smart one, or at least convinced me enough to think of it as such after repeated watchings.  Which could very well be a reason that I haven't bothered to look for a little bit of masking tape to peel away, if you will, to see the movie for its core mechanics.  But honestly, that doesn't matter because Action movies are -never- known for their plots and even if the one from Taken was only marginally smarter than most other Action fare and not genuinely smart on its own merits, then I don't really care a whit.  What is important for me, in terms of Action movies, is whether or not its dumb enough to absolutely break my immersion whilst watching it, and the movie does not do that, which makes it a good action movie.  The fact that Liam Neeson stars in it makes it truly great, and I'm sure that that is no unfamiliar sentiment.

What I'm going about saying here, in essence, is that if you have not, for some reason, seen Taken, then what the hell, go watch it.  I did a search on Netflix a moment ago and it appears that it's no longer on there for streaming because Netflix is only a video streaming service so why would it have movies to stream, but if you do not mind clinging to the tangible, then you should have no issue finding it on DVD or Blu-Ray if it suits your fancy.  And it -should- suit your fancy because it is honestly a fantastic movie, if the verve it inspires in me was not an indicator otherwise.  While I am not generally a theater person, I might just have to assemble a group on October Fifth to go forth and watch this, because I am not quite sure that I'll be able to wait for DVD.  I am that excited.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bonus Post: LittleBigPlanet Vita Being Sold Early

So, there were rumblings throughout the internet speaking to the possibility that LittleBigPlanet Vita had its street date broken, quite a bit moreso than usual for a release game (not considering that it's two weeks early) and it was more or less proven accurate by a statement made by Sony's PR Manager, Eric Levine, who made a little post on the Playstation Blog about it.
Hi everyone – production on LittleBigPlanet PlayStation Vita was completed earlier than expected, and due to the excitement from our retail partners, some have decided to put it on shelves as soon as the product was received. You’ll still be able to fully enjoy all the offline features of the game, but the servers will not go live until September 18th. We apologize for any confusion this may cause and will keep you posted on any further updates.
That statement is basically saying "GameStop broke street date because I don't know, and we're not going to go after them because it means they're selling our game and that's pretty cool at least", which is a rather nice way to handle it, really.  They also point out that because the game was being sold, again, two weeks early that the servers weren't online and won't go online until a week before.  This is probably customary procedure, as not only do companies tend to try and stress test them, but so that reviewers can partake in the online offerings of a game for the purpose of the review.  Again, this is a pretty cool move to say "Just so you know, the servers are going up this day" instead of....well, just not mentioning it, or even worse, trying to deter people from playing it online on the 18th.  Which, if the Sound Shapes release is anything to go by, would probably be alright, since it would likely have the effect of having people slowly ween themselves to them when it becomes 'more okay' with each passing day, instead of slamming them day one, ensuring that the traffic makes it difficult to play.

I don't generally advocate looking into the comment sections of posts I link to because they are generally a sinkhole of idiocy and this is really no different.  However, I have gazed into the eyes of madness and if you should choose to do so yourself, you'll see that a lot of people are unhappy about this for reasons that....are quite silly, really.  Namely that Sony wasn't prepared for GameStop to break the street date by two full weeks and, as such, aren't releasing the digital version of the game early.  Since clearly, clearly all you have to do to release a game digitally is flip a switch, right?  RIGHT?!  It can be done whenever because Digital Distribution is just magical like that and when the switch is flipped, you can pay for it with unicorn farts and sunshine nuggets.  Because this is imagination land, you see.

For my part, I'm just going to brush that off because I know that the 19th, not the 25th, is the day that I will have LittleBigPlanet Vita in my hands, and thus the 19th will be a glorious day.  Unless GameStop shennanigans occur which would be a surprise, as I've never been on the receiving end of one of these 'horror stories' that float around out there when it comes to GameStop as a whole.  I'm not figuring that I will be, but there is a fairly sizeable amount of weirdness going on already.  Namely that they told me to come in on the 19th to get it which is A) not the release date and B) a Wednesday when games are generally released on Tuesday.  Still, a call to the store before I go there will likely save a lot of hassle on my part, so I'm none too worried.  And I'm certainly excited to have it that much closer to the horizon since I'll be jumping right into the creator after I get enough pieces to put a decent level together.  And it will be glorious.

Wrapping Up Wii U News

I pretty much covered all the stuff I really care about regarding the Wii U in the last two posts, but there is still, arguably, quite a bit to cover for those interested.  Which...includes me in a sense, but I'll get to the reason behind that in a bit, even though it's a bit obvious.  Rather than do some individual posts about everything, however, I'm more or less just going to group everything in here, New Dump style, because I really can't bring myself to do a -lot- about the bits and pieces of miscellany left.  This is mostly because, as I said, I can't bring myself to a level where I really care enough to be particularly verbose, but this is because of the obvious, as well as because I am just a tired, tired person today after doing some rather heavy outdoor-work.  And that has just sort of ruined me for the day, but I want to post about this and get it out of the way rather than defaulting to something a bit easier, since I'm just not about that tonight.  Even though I probably should be, since that'd be the smarter play.

Jumping right in, I imagine the thing you -want- to mention right off is the games, since that is what matters, right?  The games.  Unless you're trying to make arguments against a system and are just completely overlooking them, because then games don't really matter because you're actively ignoring them to say there's nothing.  But...that's neither here nor there and is certainly not misplaced grumblings or anything like that.  The actual released games list for the launch window of the Wii U (which is from when it releases til March of next year, a full five-ish months from them) numbers in at an impressive 50 individual games, but there's obviously some room for any of the games on the list to miss the window as well as for other games to enter into the window.  Those 50 games are not concrete, is my point, but I imagine that they are solid enough that we can yet judge them appropriately since, well, that is exactly what I'm going to do because that's kinda what I gotta do.

I'm not going to go ahead and post the full list of 50 games here because that's just mindless padding for something I don't particularly care about, but I will link to a list so that you can review it whilst I pull out a few figures and titles from it to speak on.  By figures, I mean some statistics, since people friggin' love statistics for everything that isn't Nintendo, and I just enjoy statistics as is, so I like to bring that in a bit.  At least half of the titles are ports, if not more (since there's some games I don't know off-hand, and I'm just not going to do the availability check for all 50 of them) so it's probably closer to around 30 of the games, and any of the new IPs are purely third-party efforts.  Also, the big thing that sticks out to me is that there's a real distinct lack of Nintendo effort as with the 3DS when it released.  Of the 50 titles, 9 of them are being published by Nintendo and of those 9, 5 of them are clear, defined Nintendo properties.  Possibly 6 since I have no damn clue about Sing Party and I don't really care to know.

The thing you hear clamored for the loudest and the longest whenever it comes to new consoles releasing (or handhelds) is New IPs.  Everybody seems to expect you to throw something out there that is different from what's already out there by virtue of new characters and new settings if not by new gameplay methods or design.  Nintendo has put down not a single one of their own efforts.  The Wonderful 101 is being made by Platinum Games and while Nintendo probably is retaining the IP rights to it, I can't call it one of their efforts.  Nintendo Land is not a new IP because all it is is a mishmash of existing IPs used as an exercise in getting people accommodated to the Wii U GamePad while also likely enjoying themselves because it is a game as well.  New Super Mario Bros Wii U (urg), Game & Wario, Wii Fit U (We fit you?) and Pikmin 3 are all iterations in existing series or at least using established IPs.  So what is there by way of new IPs?  The mentioned The Wonderful 101 and....not....much else.  ZombiU can't even be mentioned there because it too is based off an existing IP.  The fact that the only game using it was released 26 years ago doesn't change that, even if it's 'new enough' for most.  Some of the other titles in the list might be third-party new IPs, but they honestly aren't really standing out enough just yet to mention, not to mention the point is focusing on Nintendo's own efforts.

That right there, more than anything else, is what has frustrated me endlessly with regards to Nintendo insofar as the whole 3DS situation and the staunch refusal to go against it is maddening.  For as much praise as Nintendo gets for being so creative and so innovative and the like, I'm just not seeing where it comes from outside of their hardware, because they're simply not doing anything with their games.  The last new IP I can directly say has come from Nintendo that I can think of is Wii Sports (because it meets the criteria) and while I'm absolutely certain there has been some since then, I am completely drawing a blank on that front.  In taking a very brief look at Wiki's list of 3DS games, I'm not seeing a single Nintendo new IP until it goes into the downloadable list and you settle on Pushmo (Pullblox in PAL territories) which I am pretty sure counts.  It's something that doesn't seem to be in a series and/or franchise, and it's made by Intelligent Systems, who seem to be owned by Nintendo.  So there you go, for the entirety of the 3DS' life, over a year and a half, Nintendo has put for the effort to create a single new IP for it.  Fantastic use of all that creativity and innovation, really.

The other fairly big bit, since I realized that the mop-up is basically the games and this, is the announced Nintendo TVii (pronounced Tee-Veeeeee) which is....a thing?  I'm honestly a bit clueless as to just what exactly this thing is, but it's coming exclusively to North America to start (including Canada, surprisingly) and is touted as being supported by all of the major cable and satellite companies.  Which is amazing since not a single one is listed, but I'm sure there's a reason for that.  Regardless, it just seems to be one of those things that simply require you to tie your account to the system which then unlocks to you the ability to watch whatever offerings they have online, which is to say that you're not going to be able to watch new shows on it.  Or, in my experience, pretty much anything you'd like to watch that isn't really mass-market or something like that, and even if it -is- mass-market, it has to be the right publisher under the right company and this and that and basically my point is that streaming is far from infallible.

I guess, however, that it -does- offer some sort of live TV functionality in that watching something on your TV while connected to your Wii U Gamepad gives you some sort of added layer of immersion, depending on what you're watching.  The example given is that a man, watching a football game, seems to be able to review plays, check out tweets related to the game, and generally have an information hub at his fingertips related to the game itself as it's being played.  Which is admittedly pretty cool if it works as it says it will on the tin, but I'm remaining cautious on that since, again, my outings with that sort of thing have ended with less than favorable results because of the unreliability of the tech, what with being fairly new and all still.  I'd also like a little extra affirmation on just who is supporting this and how, but that will come in the coming months I'm sure, and we'll just have to see which of the main players is being a jerk and who isn't..

I was introduced to the fact that apparently the Wii U is not going to support DVD and/or Blu-Ray playback as a feature, which understandably has a lot of folks up in arms.  I mention this because apparently the standing reasoning for that sort of thing remains to be that Nintendo is interested in providing "a video game machine" and not a multi-media center, which I find a little hilarious, given the introduction of the TVii service.  While it's basically just a hub service for other companies to funnel their services through, it's still a hub that is contained in the Wii U console out-of-the-box (for North America) is DVD/Blu-ray playback, basically.  I suppose it's an attempt insomuch as it's all online-only which makes it that much more controllable on Nintendo's side, but it still does a pretty good job of muddling up the message, and I figured it was something to point out, if true.  (Comments sections aren't generally a great source of information, but given Nintendo's track record, I am not surprised in the least)

All told, the Wii U is shaping up to be a console all its own and that's certainly the news you want to hear.  Correct or not, the perception that I felt was a general one across the board was that the Wii was basically not a console so much as it was a box that let you play Nintendo games and not a whole lot else, and it certainly seems like Nintendo is putting a little effort into bringing that around for the Wii U.  Not a lot of effort, but some, which is admirable enough I suppose.  Maybe it's because I've skipped every Nintendo console since the N64 and thus have a bit of catching up to do, or maybe it's just the "ooooh, shiny new tech" mentality, but I do find a sort of tepid anticipation for the Wii U welling up in me, which is a little surprising.  My concern is that it is indeed the latter since there's not a single thing I can see myself playing on the Wii U at this time (besides WO3: Special, but I would -like- to play that on PS3 KOEI) since I not much of a Nintendo first-party guy all told.  But perhaps I'll take the jump when I can comfortably procure a system without the threat of every other person in the store wanting it as well.  I'm not sure, and that uncertainty, for me at least, is what's really interesting about it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Wii U Scores Bayonetta 2 As An Exclusive

Ridin' off to new platforms....or just the one, really.

So, arguably the most talked about piece of news from the entire Wii U media blitz dust-up and such is the fact that, at some point in the future, which is undetermined currently, Bayonetta 2 will debut on the console exclusively.  As in, the direct sequel to Bayonetta, the game on PS3/360 which is touted as one of the best action games ever, will only be available to anyone who goes out and buys a Wii U when it comes out.  Or, you know, at some point between when it comes out and when the actual game itself comes out, which is probably going to be a good half a year at least.  Probably more, seeing as Platinum has a lot on their collective plates as is, which is a bit of good news, at least.  This is probably the busiest they've ever been, and it's most likely going to make some good bank for them.  And good - it couldn't happen to a better studio, I should think.

That said, I still have yet to play Bayonetta.  I know, I know, I'm a filthy heretic and such, but as you all might know, I haven't had a whole lot of PS3 time in these summer months and it's only now that the temperatures are falling....sometimes....that I have been able to really turn the system on and have some fun with it.  And that said, my first task is to finish Sleeping Dogs since I absolutely adore the game and not being able to play it has been torture for me because of that.  After that, I'm not sure - it depends on what strikes my fancy.  But I can't definitely say it will be Bayonetta and it's for now two very, very clear reasons.  The original, which was the one that gave me pause to start with was that I -know- that it is a technically inferior version of the game, and that sort of thing eats at me and just really kills my enjoyment.  Even with the patch, I've seen accounts that say the 360 version is like playing a whole other game and that is not something I like to hear.  The second reason is now that I know if I actually enjoy Bayonetta and want a sequel, I'll have to shell out $400-ish to get to it in about half a year or better, provided the Wii U hasn't price-dropped by then.  (It probably won't.)

But it could always get ported, right?  I mean, that would be the sensible thing, right?  Sensible or not, it is not a game that is going to get ported and that's just simple fact right there.  There's two basic reasons floating around out there with the people discussing the game, and they have a bit of the truth in them, but neither of the reasons is -the- reason, and one of them is actually just kind of poorly thought-out.  The first, biggest reason that people don't expect a Bayonetta 2 port is because Nintendo themselves is publishing the game on Wii U.  It's actually being suggested that Nintendo is putting a little more money than just that into it, but it's hard to say if that's for sure or if Nintendo is just sort of 'guiding' the game as it's being built.  Regardless, the case generally is that if a company publishes the game, they're fronting some dough and just having that game out there to generate revenue isn't going to cut it in terms of their own benefits for doing so, so generally some exclusivity is guaranteed to make it so that you're the only place someone can go for this particular game.  Everybody does it and there are very well-documented cases of it out there, but there are also many, many cases showing that Publishing a game doesn't mean it can't stray elsewhere.

Publishing contracts are just sort of a nebulous thing that generally infers -some- expectation of exclusivity, but really, just how much of that is never assured.  XBLA exclusivity with promotions like Summer of Arcade and the like, where Microsoft -does- publish the game seems to last something like a year, after which the developer is free to take their game to whatever else platform they desire using whatever the hell means they want, basically.  And even on-disk publishing isn't an exact guaranteed 100% exclusive thing, as Ninja Gaiden 2 showed us all, releasing on PS3 a year (again) after the 360 release as a self-published game from Tecmo KOEI (then Tecmo).  So for anyone saying "Nintendo's publishing it, which means end of story", that really is not completely true, as history has proven.  It solely depends on just what sort of contract they have with Platinum Studios (and Sega by proxy) regarding the exclusivity, which is likely determined by just how much Nintendo is doing to help fund it and/or what additional resources they're putting into the game (actual development time or even just marketing).

The other reason that I've seen for why the game simply 'cannot' be ported to PS3/360 is because, and I am probably directly quoting someone with this, "it just won't work because the Wii U is just so much more powerful" which is...well I won't say patently ridiculous as I wanted to, but it's not an accurate comparison.  Firstly because we don't -really- know what kind of power the Wii U is pushing, as in the CPU/GPU, and we probably will not learn this for some time, but it's not going to be -miles ahead- or anything.  All we do know is that the Wii U apparently has an entire gig of (console) RAM (which is different than Computer RAM) dedicated to the games, where the other gig that it has is dedicated to running the OS and such.  This is not an uncommon practice.  None of it is indicative of the Wii U being 'so much more powerful' than the PS3 or 360 that you can't put Wii U games on those consoles, and made much more a silly notion when you consider just how many friggin' PS3/360 ports are scheduled to release on the Wii U.

Despite all that, the core of the matter is that, while it's not going to be a launch window title, Bayonetta 2 is slated to release fairly early into the console's lifespan and unless Nintendo are stepping in to show Platinum just how to make the game sparkle and shine with technical wizardry, it -likely- won't be making full use of whatever power the console has to offer.  Which means that power is honestly not much of a variable to bet on in this whole situation.  Nor how little 'power' actually means in down-porting which is, as we know, still a fairly common practice and if you're really looking to make some extra sales, you're going to do it right.  In such a case, I'm sure Platinum -would- do it right, but I'm not quite sure who would publish it which is, honestly the issue here.  This is precisely the reason why Bayonetta 2 is likely going to stay exclusive to the Wii U, if there is any.

As we all know, Sega, not Platinum Games, is the owner/holder of the Bayonetta 2 IP which means any game in the series has to be done with their blessing.  Platinum Studios was the developer of that game as per a four-game deal they signed with Sega (the other three games in the deal being MadWorld, Vanquish and Infinite Space) but that and the fact that they're working on Bayonetta 2 doesn't mean they hold reign over the Bayonetta series.  Being the IP holder, Sega could arrange for just about any other studio out there to make a Bayonetta game, and that's where the problem is.  Sega has themselves convinced that they just can't afford to pay attention to games beyond their basic top-selling series and has basically pulled the plug on any sort of Western releases of anything beyond those series.  (Which, unfortunately leaves Yakuza up in the air for now, but that's another issue entirely)  It could likely be inferred that Bayonetta 2 is only a thing that exists because Nintendo fronted the cash they did, which means for the game to show up on any other platform, in theory, Sony and/or Microsoft would probably have to front the same amount of cash to make it happen.

Worldwide, between the two platforms Bayonetta released on, the game sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.3 million copies.  Again, worldwide.  It didn't set the world on fire with sales, is basically what I'm saying, as generally a good-selling game could break or come close to a million in a single region.  So it's already a hard sell to Sega because of that, and then you have to consider just what you're looking at in costs otherwise.  Nintendo's already fronted for Bayonetta 2 so Sega has that money and they likely don't care anymore beyond that.  But to convince them that they need to work out a publishing deal with -somebody else- to take Bayonetta 2 to PS3/360 would require that they can prove there's reason to.  And this is where it gets tricky because this is where splitting your fanbase really, -really- comes around to bite you in the ass in the end.  Or, at least it should in theory.

What I mean by that is that even if we're not all heavy in somebody's corner, we're likely going to follow series rather than platforms.  Platforms grow by featuring certain series to them exclusively or at least in a way that makes it the place you want to get it on so that when the next iteration of the platform comes along, you can bring along those people by continuing the series.  It's pretty simple really and to use something as an example, we'll go with Yakuza.  The first two were on the PS2 and the second two on the PS3.  This is just a basic progression, as it's not that much of a stretch to think if you bought a PS2, you might buy a PS3.  It's linear logic in a vacuum, basically as it doesn't account for anything beyond that, but you'll be hard-pressed to tell me how it doesn't make sense on some level.  You lose that when you try to say "Because you bought a PS3, you'll buy a Wii U" or "Because you bought a DS, you'll buy a Vita".  The actual words to quantify what I'm getting at escape me at the moment, but using 'something like linear logic' as a vague indicator will probably work, as I'm sure you're all understanding where I'm coming from.

What -that- all means is that those 1.3 million copies sold on PS3/360 for Bayonetta does not, in any way, shape or form, guarantee 1.3 million copies sold on Wii U.  Generally speaking, even if the majority of games are bought as a series by the same people (meaning people who buy game 1 buy game 2 and 3 when they come out), not all of them are, as you have to account for people who didn't care for the first and thus don't buy the second as well as people who buy the second without caring about the first existing.  So, by that logic, Bayonetta 2 could really out-sell its predecessor if a lot of people who didn't play the first buy it, but if you're trying to market the game -to- the people who bought the first, and counting on them jumping ship as it were, you are definitely not going to get all of those people.  Even in a straight console progression, you don't get all those people, so that much less for abstract console progression.

So -basically- what I've danced around saying without just getting to it is that the real reason Bayonetta 2 won't see a PS3/360 port is that the game probably just isn't going to sell well enough to justify it to any one party.  For a Bayonetta 2 port you're going to have to A) Make it worth it to Sega (which will be hard enough) and then B) Hope Platinum can port it.  Point A pretty much entirely depends on Bayonetta 2 selling well on the Wii U which is an entire gamble in itself as for that to happen you have to assume that everyone who bought the first buys this, as well as many, many more people, which would entice Sony and/or Microsoft to approach Sega to do it.  I say it's this way simply because of Nintendo's involvement as Sega was clearly ready to step away from the series entirely for the time being before Nintendo threw some money at them.  And in all reality, Bayonetta 2 selling really well on Wii U would signify that your potential buyers elsewhere have already bought it.  It's a vicious circle, really.

A lot of people, including myself, don't really like it, but that's pretty much how it is.  For my part, I only dislike it because I just don't like abstract console progression since I like following, and when I cannot without throwing down cash beyond the game itself, I lose interest rapidly.  That's why I never bought into Dead Rising 2, as the first is never going to come to the console I want to play 2 on, so I simply wouldn't enjoy it.  Dead Rising isn't the best example, of course, as it's not particularly story heavy, but it doesn't really -matter- to me; if I have to cross platform lines to play a whole series that is linear, then it has to be damn well worth it, and I'm not convinced a whole lot of games are.  Of course it becomes a lot more palatable if I have both consoles that the series is on, but not entirely so because I am picky like that.  Again, this is just with the sort of crazy jumps across platforms and not the natural progressions.  And I suspect I'm not alone in this, but I do like to think that I'm at least a bit more rational about it.  I really don't hold any ill-will to Platinum, Sega or Nintendo over this whole Bayonetta ordeal, but I suspect it might be because I don't have an attachment to the series yet.  Still, if it tickles my fancy enough, I suppose I'll have to weigh it against the other prospects of owning a Wii U, since I don't expect Bayonetta 2 to stray anywhere else from there.