June 2012 Archives

Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: Not Radical

| No Comments

dcgamingbanner.jpg


Activision has done a fantastic job killing studios throughout this entire generation, closing around ten development houses after either one of their games fails at retail, or because they simply don’t need them anymore -- usually after franchise saturation. It almost seems like intentionally put themselves in competition with the just-as-excellent EA, who’s also gained this reputation -- among many others. The latest casualty from Activision came this week, with Canadian developer Radical Entertainment. The developer previously handled games like Scarface: The World is Yours, The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, The Simpsons: Hit & Run, Crash: Mind over Mutant, and Prototype. All of those games were received well by critics and fans and sold pretty well, but it appears the recent release of Prototype 2 was what did them in.


protoype2pic_063012.jpg

 

The studio probably expected this, too, after saying they wanted to sell four million copies of the game worldwide. That’s a ridiculous sales expectation, but it’s quickly becoming the norm for many games in development. For Activision’s standards: if it’s not a franchise that can sell millions of copies every year, it’s not worth keeping around. It’s the reason why they decided to drop their publishing duties from numerous games after merging with Vivendi Entertainment and Blizzard back in 2008. The yearly sequel strategy works great for some games (sports games, and especially the Call of Duty titles), but not others (Guitar Hero, the last batch of Tony Hawk games). They couldn’t find a way to do this for an open-world type game like Prototype 2, so that franchise had to go…along with the whole studio.

 

A minimal amount Radical’s staff will remain under a “support” capacity. They’ve yet to elaborate on what that means, but most are (probably correctly) guessing they’ll be working on CoD and Spyro: Skylanders games. That’s probably not so hard to believe, considering the publisher is in the midst of readying their studios for the next generation of consoles -- a time where development costs and workload will be higher. For reference, Activision currently has twelve studios, with around half of those working on CoD-related material.

 

It doesn’t help that this is another in a recent, steady line of Canadian developer casualties. The ever-troubled Silicon Knights may have gotten themselves into an unfortunate situation by not developing any good games, but the scope of their problems increased exponentially when they lost their case against Epic Games for troubles with the Unreal Engine 3 graphics engine. They ended up owing millions, and had to shed a sizable portion of their staff as a result. Also, the success of Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City didn’t help Slant Six, who had to lay off a number of their staff earlier this month. They’re hoping to rehire them, but that’s not an assurance.


spidermaneotpic_063012.jpg

 

But as far as Radical’s situation is concerned: did it really have to come to this? They could have at least been given the chance to work on a licensed property, particularly one involving a superhero, something they’ve proven with their previous works. For instance, Activision could let them handle a Spider-Man game one year, in lieu of forcing Beenox Software to make one a year after the previous installment, resulting in a rushed product. The potential they had makes this come off as a knee-jerk move.

 

And this is sadly going to be far from the last closure of a good studio in the near future, as so many big publishers refuse to change course from the business model that requires shelling out massive budgets. You can bet that there are going to be plenty of studios that won’t survive the push towards more “AAA” experiences, while the prevalence of B-tier titles reduces in prevalence, especially once systems with even higher graphics capabilities arrive. It’s going to be a rocky ride for nearly everyone involved.

cognitiondisseminationbanner.jpg


Though the suspicion was always there, I’ve been getting the impression that Sony Computer Entertainment of America really doesn’t care about their handhelds. It’s something that’s really become apparent this early in the Playstation Vita’s life, a time where their advertising and game development efforts from their studios for the platform have been subpar at best. Sure, while Vita isn’t doing very well anywhere in the world at the moment, Sony either doesn’t want to put their best studios on the platform in America, or lack control over them to force them to. Both of those are counter intuitive to establishing a successful handheld. So why haven’t they fixed them?

 

While Sony Computer Entertainment of Japan’s efforts haven’t been much better, they’re at least making a good effort. Not to mention that their efforts have been underwhelming on PS3 this generation too. They were good enough to throw a mainline installment of the Hot Shots Golf/Everybody’s Golf on Vita for launch, which was the highest selling title on the system until Persona 4: Golden came along and set a few records. They’re also funding an intriguing-looking game called Soul Sacrifice. If Sony’s western developers do nothing -- entailing handing franchise to B and C-tier developers -- then third-parties will also respond with nothing. This happened with the PSP, and it can easily happen again with Vita. A game like Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation will really end up an anomaly, provided it’s a quality product.


soulsacrificepic_062912.jpg

 

But SCEA’s issues with Vita run far deeper than that, enough to make the fact that they give their developers too much freedom a paltry issue, comparatively. The lack of focus on the system at E3 was embarrassing for both owners of the system and Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, who had to do damage control about it. It’s baffling, because there were enough games at the show for them to at least provide a montage showing its upcoming software. A lot of people also didn’t know the system was getting a Madden 13 bundle until it was pointed out on the official website, me included. Did you know it was getting one? They couldn’t be bothered to announce that at the conference alongside with the Liberation one, for some silly reason.

 

Even better: both bundles were announced around the time of E3, with each including the Wi-Fi version of the system -- the Madden one in basic black, the ACIII: Liberation one coming with the new Crystal White model -- the games and a 4GB memory card. SCEA later updated the Vita hardware section on the official Playstation website to show its price, which will be $250. The update also showed that they removed the memory card from the package.  This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, considering the price (with the Vita’s current price, you’re basically getting a free game), but both games require memory cards to run. That could easily create some confusion, and frustration when consumers realize how overpriced their proprietary cards are. There’s no word on whether this was an error or if they’re really that moronic. Gamestop still has them listed with the memory card, by the way.


gungnirpic_062912.jpg

 

Another strange issue is the lack of Vita compatibility with recently released PSP games. Both Atlus’ Gungnir and this week’s release of Unchained Blades from XSeed weren’t compatible out of the gate. It’s been well over two weeks since the former released, and it still doesn’t work on the system. Sony’s engineers have to make them compatible, and they’re apparently backlogged by a mere two games. There is no explanation for this other than pure incompetence. Meanwhile, Sony’s Japanese arm has to deal with a constant amount of releases, since the PSP is still popular there (though it’s admittedly losing market share at an alarming rate); and most games are compatible with Vita on the day they release. If they’re not, they’ll be compatible with the next firmware update. There may not be many games releasing for PSP outside of Japan these days, but Sony should at least do their best for the companies that still support it.

 

Just today, we received the latest blow. Sony Computer Entertainment of Europe had numerous Vita games on sale for the last two weeks, along with some PSP games. SCEA, in their infinite wisdom, announced today that they’re holding a sale next week for only PS3 games. This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. The European district has held numerous sales for PSP games in the past, while the NA district hasn’t had anywhere near as many. And if they happen, they’re barely advertised.

 

It’s not too late for SCEA to get it together, but they need to do so immediately. The Vita can’t continue on its current course, and neither can their level of incompetence. Maybe they’ll realize this soon, especially if the Japanese arm gives them a swift kick, but they’re easily avoidable mistakes that really shouldn’t have happened in the first place.

Dead or Alive 5: The New Rig (Updated)

| No Comments

doa5pic1_062812.jpg


Well, it sure didn’t take long for Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja to introduce the next Dead or Alive 5 character. This was an expected move, since the game is releasing within less than three months, and the development team wants to allocate time to show off every character in a variety of matches before it’s in the hands of players. The big surprise here?  They took this opportunity to introduce a brand new character for the franchise: a guy named Rig.

 

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen that name either; it appeared on the leaked list compiled from costume data included in the code for the beta, which came with a free copy of Ninja Gaiden 3 earlier this year. Who knows why developers leave things like this in the code at this point. Certain tech-savvy individuals will find this stuff. This also means anyone who still doubted the veracity of that leaked list can stop.

 

This new character is Rig, who’s someone many fans have been asking for. The DoA franchise had been bereft of a Tae Kwon Do fighter thus far, but Rig, who’s also Canadian, will be filling that role. The newest trailer, which is using English voices for the first time, shows Rig talking to both Christie (wearing an outfit made of pure fanservice) and Bass. He might have been previously acquainted with the former, but the latter battle begins after Rig disses Bass’ sweet ride. Fighting game stories in a nutshell. We also get to see Bass in action for the first time, who was only depicted in screens before.

 

There’s a new stage here too: a multi-tiered construction stage whose tanks will burst into fire as characters are smacked into them. This wouldn’t usually happen, but DoA’s characters tend to hit that hard.


doa5pic2_062812.jpg

A strategically-placed hand!


If you usually pay attention to English voice talent in video games and anime, you might recognize a few of the them here. Rig and Christie are definitely voiced by Liam O’Brien and Laura Bailey, respectively; Bass is, if I’m correct, Patrick Seitz. This means there have been some voice changes since Dead or Alive: Dimensions, and these particular examples probably aren’t the only ones.

 

Also, it was announced earlier this week that the game will have a “Collector’s Edition” for America when it releases on September 25th. There’s one catch, though: it’s Gamestop-exclusive, so hopefully you don’t hate them too much. The CE will be sold for $79.99 ($20 more than the standard edition), and will include a hardcover art book, a soundtrack CD, and a poster, all housed in a embossed steel case. And for those of you who were concerned, the CE will also include the swimsuit outfits for all the female characters, the same ones that were announced for Japan a few weeks ago. Does anyone still think they’re trying to reduce the fanservice for this installment?

 

And there’s more! Pre-ordering at Gamestop or Amazon will also get you more outfits. Choosing the former will get you “DoA Angels” bunny-style swimsuit outfits for Kasumi, Lei-Fang, and Hitomi, while going with the latter will get you similar “DoA Devils” outfits for Christie, Tina, and Ayane. They’ll undoubtedly be available as DLC later; if you want to wait to flush your dignity down the toilet, you’ll have the opportunity to. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the costumes or collector’s material yet, Kasumi’s swimsuit outfit notwithstanding.

 

Tecmo Koei still has plenty more characters to reveal in the coming months, including fan (and director) favorite Jann Lee, along with another apparently-new character named Mila. Hopefully there will be more opportunities for longtime fans of the franchise to get their hands on it, which very well might happen at EVO 2012 next weekend.


Update: Tecmo Koei and Team Ninja are having a contest for Japanese fans to vote for another special "DoA Angels" or "Devils" outfit, and they've given us a sneak peak of Kasumi "Angel" outfit and Ayane's "Devil" outfit. The pictures are small small, but you can make out most of the details you wanted to. These people have no shame whatsoever


Update 2: Because you asked for a bigger glimpse, 4Gamer uploaded with bigger screens.

If You're Going to Default, Do it Bravely

| No Comments

bdffpic1_062712.jpg


It’s been a while since Square Enix’s bizarrely-named Bravely Default: Flying Fairy has been discussed on this blog. In fact, it hasn’t been mentioned here since it was announced at last year’s Nintendo 3DS Conference, shortly before Tokyo Game Show began. Though quite a few of us were swept in by the art style and beautiful environments -- expect nothing less from Akihiko Yoshida -- we had no idea of who else was working on it. There was no mention of a developer or a music composer, despite some jumping to conclusions and assuming it was Matrix Software and Naoshi Mizuta, respectively.

 

It became apparent that it’s not as much of a sequel to Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light as some expected, mainly because of its visual similarities. Both have the same art director in the aforementioned Yoshida, and both have turn-based battle systems and multiple jobs. That it’s not a sequel is a good thing, though, given the mixed impressions that game received.


bdffpic2_062712.jpg

 

Not all of the creative staff has been announced yet, but it’s been revealed that Silicon Studio are serving as the code monkeys for the game. If you’re unfamiliar with that name: they previously worked with From Software on 3D Dot Game Heroes for PS3. SE also previously announced that the soundtrack was being handled by someone the company never worked with before, which turned out to be this suave buccaneer named Revo of Sound Horizon. You can hear a few of the compositions he’s provided in various trailers and on the official website. It sounds like he’s doing a good job. In terms of video games, Sound Horizon was previously responsible for the main theme to Chaos Wars. Yes, that Chaos Wars.

 

It was also confirmed that the game’s producer will be Tomoya Asano, who also served the same role on 4HoL, while Shinji Takahashi is serving as assistant producer. One of the most interesting additions to the development staff is BD’s writer, who is 5pb’s Naotaka Hayashi. He previously wrote Steins;Gate, which is known as one of the best visual novels to come out of Japan -- which criminally still hasn’t been translated into English, the anime notwithstanding. By that logic, the story should be pretty good, but we’ll see.

 

In terms of style, it looks like the child of Final Fantasy V and IX. Though this isn’t officially an FF game, its influence on BD is undeniable. Unsurprisingly, the names of the characters are just as bizarre as the name of the game itself. The protagonist is 16-year-old Tiz, a survivor whose hometown and its inhabitants, including his little brother, were sucked into a giant hole. This is the result of an unknown malignant force that the game’s heroine, Anies, is trying to stop. They both meet, and promise to stop it.


bdffpic3_062712.jpg

 

The most recently-revealed character is Idea Lee, a 15-year-old girl who meets Anies while working for the army of Eternia. Eternia is the enemy of the previously-mentioned characters, so apparently she ends up joining them. The fourth character hasn’t been officially revealed, but he been featured on the cover to the OST and was shown shortly in the newest trailer from last week’s Nintendo Direct. Yes, that’s a “he.” His looks are ambiguous from the artwork, but his voice is clearly male.

 

Characters wear different outfits in battle depending on which job you’ve selected, similar to older FF games with systems like this. The jobs that have been revealed thus far are pretty basic: there’s Knight, Monk, Black Mage, and White Mage; but more will be announced as the game nears its release date. In fact, you can see some of the yet-to-be-revealed classes in that trailer above.

 

It was announced through the official website that BD will release in Japan on October 11th. That’s not too long from now, so expect to see much more information about the game soon. As for a western release, the chances of it coming are pretty good. We’re still pretty early into the 3DS’ life, a time where many publishers are still open to localizing most of their games for the western markets. Don’t expect a localization announcement until around or after the game is released in Japan, though, unless they want to surprise us.

The Ultimate Evolution of Curly Moustaches

| No Comments

Oh, “It’s MAHVELL BAYBEE!!!” in more ways than one again.


umvc3pic_062612.jpg

 

Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 will be one of the six fighting games featured at this year’s Evolution Championship Series 2012 event (or EVO 2012, for short), along with Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition Ver. 2012, Street Fighter x Tekken, Soulcalibur V, The King of Fighters XIII, and Mortal Kombat. While all of those titles have varying levels of popularity, UMvC3 will be more popular than a good deal of them. EVO will be a good time to see new combos and techniques (or “new technology,” as it’s called in the Fighting Game Community) some of the best players around the world have acquired, and test them against other similarly-fantastic players.

 

Or you can see that right now! It might be Capcom’s worst nightmare that players have discovered a bunch of infinites for UMvC3 right before EVO, but who knows if they care after how it sold. The infinites are so apparently practical in an actual match that it makes the game look like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 never left. Some of them even involve some of the same characters, though their assists are different. The most popular video making the rounds at the moment stars the ever-popular Magneto, who’s, upon taking advantage of the game’s physics, capable of chaining together a combo most character will never get out of -- especially if they’re of the “large” variety. It’s a far cry from the days of characters like Sentinel, Phoenix, and Wolverine merely being dominant.

 

The EVO staff hasn’t announced whether they’ll be allowed in tournaments, but similar infinites (like, well, MvC2’s) have been allowed before. So you know everyone participating in the tournament is going to be studying these combos to either try to execute them, or find ways to avoid them. That is, if they’re able to master executing them in a real match by next weekend; and after looking at them, they’re going to take a good while to get down. Hopefully they have a lot of free time.

 

And here we all thought the hilarity would stem from people exploiting glitches in Street Fighter x Tekken, or simply laughing at how bored the audience might be while watching it. For as much promise as it had, SFxTk doesn’t seem to be holding any ground among the fighting game community because of its own numerous infinites and glitches -- some of which were introduced with patches. (For reference, EVO will be using the version prior to the Rolento knife freezing glitch, meaning many infinites.) And you’d be kidding yourself if you think the morass of DLC didn’t hurt it.

 

If anything, Seth Killian has to be glad that he doesn’t have to do damage control for these games anymore, considering he left last week. There’s no word on whether he’ll show up at EVO at the moment, but it would be a shock if he wasn’t in attendance. His departure means that Capcom is going to have a hell of a time marketing fighting games at any event, as he was pretty much the English voice for them at the company. Unless…they don’t have any left in the pipeline. It might be time to accept that the Darkstalkers are dead after all, along with producer Yoshinori Ono’s dream for rebooting the franchise.

 

In fact, Ono may not be an employee at Capcom for long either. We might be entering another tumultuous period for fighting games.

Square Enix's Hopes Lie in Agni's Philosophy

| No Comments

Square Enix’s Japanese game development studios (along with many others) haven’t had the best luck with HD console development in this generation, something best evinced by the still-in-limbo Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Their internally-developed games have been using Crystal Tools, which seems inefficient considering how long it took to release the first game running on the engine. Though Final Fantasy XIII’s development-to-release period seemed quick compared to the aforementioned Versus, it still took a long time compared to many other titles of the same caliber, especially outside of Japan.  Crystal Tools took so long to develop that they had to use Unreal Engine 3 for their first HD game, The Last Remnant, and they’re using the same engine for other games presently in development.

 

But it’s a problem they hope to avoid in the next generation, and Square Enix’s new graphics system, codenamed “Luminous Studio Engine,” is designed for precisely that purpose. This engine has been known about for a while, and is based off technology from their western development district, formerly known as Eidos Interactive.

 

To be precise, it was made from Crystal Dynamics’ Crystal Engine and IO Interactive’s Glacier 2 engine, which are currently powering Tomb Raider and Hitman: Absolution, respectively. Assuming that this is one of the main reasons why Square Enix purchased Eidos wouldn’t be farfetched, and it seems to be paying off for them from what they’ve shown so far. Neither of the aforementioned engines could  have been used to make the kind of games Square Enix Japan wants to develop in the future (RPGs and action/RPGs), and that led to the Luminous Engine’s creation.


agnisphilosophypic1_062512.jpg

 

We received a real showcase of its potential at E3 2012 with a little tech demo called Agni’s Philosophy: Final Fantasy, whose development was assisted by Visual Works. This may or may not be a tease for what lies ahead for the Final Fantasy franchise -- though if it was, it wouldn’t strike anyone as a surprise. Square Enix chose the FF lore because they wanted to depict a world that utilized magic and technology, all within a little less than four minutes. The results? They did a pretty good job, if the reaction around the internet is accurate. Square Enix CTO Yoshihisa Hashimoto said their plan was to show people that the Luminous Engine could be used to create a real time demo that resembled this generation’s pre-rendered CG.

 

The creative staff behind the video is comprised of Japanese and American staff, with some of the latter being from Crystal Dynamics. You might recognize some of the Square Enix Japan staff there. Isamu Kamikokuryou assisted with the concept, who served as art director for Final Fantasy XII, XIII, and XIII-2. Tetsuya Nomura served as character design advisor, a man whose reputation precedes him. Again, this isn’t intended to be a tease for a game in development, but most wouldn’t mind if there was a new game developed as a collaboration between Japanese and western staff.


agnisphilosophypic2_062512.jpg

 

Famitsu interviewed Square Enix CEO Yoichi Wada about the potential of the engine. He dodged the question about whether the engine would be used for future Final Fantasy games, but said he would like it to be used to make new IPs. He can see the engine being used for a variety of games across multiple genres, and plans on sharing it with contracted developers they intend on working with. Wada believes that Japanese companies shouldn’t give up on making games for the world without trying first, which is a good intention if the development team is capable of having success with that. Many Japanese developers have struggled with that during this generation, either coming too late to capitalize on trends, or through plain demographics mismatching. Hopefully they can do better next generation, or the repercussions could be dire with the perpetually rising cost of game development. Also, as AndriaSang noted, Wada didn’t mention Crystal Tools once in the interview.

 

Luminous Engine won’t be ready for game development until sometime in 2013, so expect Square Enix’s first games for next gen consoles to use something else, probably Unreal Engine 3. Square Enix’s graphics engine issues might be fixed, but their internal development methodologies will have to change with them if they want to pursue HD console development.

A Tale of Two Lords of Shadow

| No Comments

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow didn’t set the world on fire in terms of sales, but Konami wanted to continue with the franchise. That’s likely due to the positive reception among both critics and fans, and the fact that Konami still doesn’t have any strong IP’s not named “Metal Gear” in their inventory. They have thus assigned developer MercurySteam to work on not one, but two sequels. They’re both LoS games, and one of them is a handheld title, meaning the chances of IGA and his team working on a Castlevania game again looks slim, if non-existent.

 

Since they’re both direct sequels to the first game, there’s no way I could describe them without going into some heavy spoilers for the first game.


cvlosmofpic1_062412.jpg

 

The first of these goes by the verbose name of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- Mirror of Fate for 3DS, to hammer home that it’s not associated with the pre-LoS Castlevania games. MoF will serve as a companion title that will tell the story of what happens 25 years after the end of the first game, and its ending will lead into the console sequel. Despite it being on a handheld and not having a number attached to it, the development team said this game is not a spin-off, and that it’s the second game in a trilogy. This makes three intriguing western third-party-developed games coming to dedicated portables this fall, in addition to Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for Vita -- covered in yesterday’s post -- and Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for 3DS. That this qualifies as significant support is sad.

 

The main star of the game will be Trevor Belmont, who fans of the franchise should know as one of the three protagonists of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, though this game has no story associations with that one. In this game, he’s the son of LoS protagonist Gabriel Belmont, which would assumingly make Marie the mother. Trevor uses the Combat Cross in battle, the weapon Gabriel used throughout the first game.

 

Also like Castlevania III, this game will have more than one playable character; a total of four, in fact. The second character revealed was Simon Belmont, well known as the first protagonist in Castlevania history. He hasn’t been shown in motion yet, but we do know that he uses the Vampire Killer and can summon creatures to assist him. The third character was revealed at the Nintendo 3DS Conference in Alucard, who apparently uses swords. There’s no word on what his business here is, sadly. The final playable character was apparently revealed in a Spanish article as…Gabriel, though Konami hasn’t officially confirmed that yet. I’m not sure if that’s legitimate; but if it is, hopefully you’re a fan of sausage fests.


cvlosmofpic2_062412.jpg

 

The game may look similar to the Rondo of Blood remake in Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles for PSP, but it plays more like its recent console brethren in 2D. Unlike the GBA and DS games, this game allows the characters to roll back and forth, and it has a combo system. That means the pace will be considerably slower than the older 2D games, but it could still be good if they approach it well. It’s easy to be skeptical that they won’t.

 

Producer David Cox adamantly denied that this is a Metroidvania title, but it follows its format. MoF allows for backtracking to previous levels to reach places you couldn’t before after obtaining new powers, one of the hallmarks of a Metroidvania title. This game will also allow for marking specific places on the map using the touch screen, which could be useful. Sounds like Cox and company want to distance themselves from the older games to the point of desperation, because of their mixed impressions.

 

Having four characters means there’s going to be a complicated plot thread. Since Trevor is Gabriel’s son, does that mean he’s going to inherit some of Dracula’s powers? Is Alucard still Dracula’s son in this canon? (He should be, or his name won’t make any sense.) Does this make Trevor and Alucard brothers? Could they be half-brothers!? Will this game even be any good? Is all of this speculation silly? Find out the answers to all of these questions and more this holiday season! In the meantime, you can watch the trailer.


cvlos2pic_062412.jpg

 

Meanwhile, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 was also announced for consoles. It was presented at E3 in the form of a CG trailer, and…well, that’s it. They sure didn’t come there with many concrete details about the actual game.

 

If you finished LoS (and, if you care, why the heck are you reading this if you haven’t?), you know that Gabriel becomes Dracula in the end. The trailer shows him using his new powers in full force, complete with wiping out a bunch of enemies in one fell swoop, Dynasty Warriors-style. He also transforms into a dragon to take down a monolithic figure. After his enemies are all disposed of Gabriel/Dracula (or whatever we’re calling him now. Gabriacula? Draculbriel?) comes face to face with a man with long, flowing white hair brandishing a sword who’s come to put an end to this -- a man who’s either Alucard or a very reasonable facsimile. Perhaps it’s Alucart!?

 

It’s expected that Alucard-looking person will be playable, but Cox confirmed that Gabriel will also be playable. That should be an interesting twist. LoS2 releases sometime next year for PS3 and 360. This game will also end the Lords of Shadow trilogy. What Konami plans to do with the franchise after this is anyone’s guess. Yes, even Konami’s.

The Dawn of Ys, the Sea of Trees

| No Comments

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees for Vita, since it’s reveal at Tokyo Game Show 2011 in September, in fact. Celceta is Falcom’s on version of Ys IV, which previously received two wildly different interpretations from Hudson and Advance Communication. Falcom regarded the latter’s version as canon, despite the former’s having a better reception. Though it sounds like a remake ostensibly, perhaps a redone version of Advance’s iteration, the initial trailer and its music makes it look and sound like something completely different from both of them. It’s a much different situation than, say, Oath in Felghana, which was mostly a straight remake with Ys VI’s battle system.

 

We hadn’t seen the game for a while because Falcom listened to the graphics complaints that arose when people first saw it. It previously resembled a PSP game without the dithering, making it not much better than Ys Seven in looks. Falcom CEO Toshihiro Kondo previously discussed its visual enhancements on their Twitter account and in interviews that were mainly about Zero no Kiseki: Evolution for Vita and Nayuta no Kiseki for PSP, but now we get to see how significant they are. The game now resembles a mid-to-late generation Playstation 2 game with a very pronounced bloom effect. That’s a step up for Falcom! The in-game art style was apparently made to take advantage of the Vita’s OLED screen, so the effect isn’t as pronounced on a computer screen.


yscelcetapic1_062312.jpg

 

This week’s Famitsu also revealed some characters and artwork, which have been posted on the official website. This game takes place well before Ys Seven, so protagonist Adol Christin is obviously younger here. But his look is still a wild departure from his trademark armor-clad self. He appears ready to go on a casual stroll instead of fending off monsters. His travelling companions are Carna, who’s even more bizarrely dressed, and Dulen, who seems like the “Dogi” of this title.

 

Celceta will let you control your team members with the touch screen, but it’s not known if you can completely control them a la Seven. There are also puzzles that make use of the Vita’s touch screen, though the one in the trailer looked gimmicky (though not to the extent of, say, Uncharted: Golden Abyss). Hopefully they get better as the game goes on. It also has a day and night cycle, though what bearing this has on gameplay hasn’t been revealed yet.


yscelcetapic2_062312.jpg

 

Upon looking at the character designs themselves, you’ll also notice that Falcom didn’t bring back Katsumi Enami to handle them. While these designs aren’t quite as bad as the initial, egregious ones from Ys Seven, they’re nowhere near as detailed as his. He’s not handling Nayuta no Kiseki’s either, so it’s possible that they’ve cut ties with him, at least for now. That’s too bad.

 

The game hits Japan on September 27th, and it’s coming with a collector’s set to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the franchise, though Falcom hasn’t detailed what its innards will be yet. The game itself is being made as a 25th Anniversary title, and Kondo is promising that this will be reflected in its quality.

 

As for whether it will leave Japan: XSeed has handled the localizations for four titles in the franchise, so it will likely come through them. Kondo told Gamasutra in an interview that plans for a western release were already set, and that he hopes westerners will enjoy it. That almost sounds like a confirmation! But I would recommend restraining your jubilation until XSeed (or whoever else) sends out a press release confirming it. XSeed has a lot of faith in the Vita’s future, so seeing their name on Celceta’s western cover art won’t be a surprise.

Nintendo: Directly to You

| No Comments

nsmb2pic_062212.jpg


Nintendo had a bunch of announcements to make over their collective Nintendo Directs last night, the vast majority of which were 3DS-centric. Definitive release dates for New Super Mario Bros. 2 were given in Japan and Europe (July 28th and August 17th, respectively). It was also announced that it will be the first Mario game to have paid DLC. The whereabouts of Animal Crossing for 3DS were confirmed on the Japanese and European versions, but not the American one for some silly reason. Some new localizations were announced, including Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask for a fall release in the west; and a more official confirmation for Fire Emblem: Awakening was provided, which releases in North America and Europe early next year. Your question might be where these were in the Nintendo 3DS Conference at E3 2012, and I don’t have an answer for you.

 

One of the biggest pieces of news was that Namco Bandai and Project Sora are collaborating on the development of the next Super Smash Bros. title for Wii U and 3DS. Masahiro Sakurai is overseeing the project, and key staff from the Soulcalibur, Tekken, and Gundam vs. Gundam development teams are involved. Apparently, it’s just getting started, which isn’t surprising since Project Sora recently finished Kid Icarus: Uprising. Prepare to wait a while for it.

 

As for Wii-related material: While only the Japanese one focused on Dragon Quest X (because it’s probably not releasing outside of Japan on Wii), both it and the American one discussed Kirby’s Dream Collection. This is being released for the franchise’s 20th Anniversary this year, and includes six games: Kirby’s Dream Land (GB), Kirby’s Adventure (NES), Kirby’s Dream Land 2 (GB), Kirby Super Star (SNES), Kirby’s DreamLand 3 (SNES), and Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards (N64). The package also comes with a soundtrack CD and art book. It releases in Japan on July 19th and America on September 18th. Eurogamer asked Nintendo of Europe about the collection, and said they have “nothing to announce at this time”.


3dsxlcomparison_062212.jpg

 

American 3DS owners might have noticed that Nintendo of America was being their usual silly selves by leaving the 3DS Virtual Console a barren wasteland since the first few months of this year. To make up for it, they’ll be releasing two new VC games every week throughout July. This includes games like Kirby’s Pinball Land and, finally, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 -- the latter of which has eluded the NA eShop for months.

 

By far the biggest announcement, though, was the reveal of a new hardware model: the Nintendo 3DS XL (or LL in Japan). This version, as the name implies, is similar to the jump from the DSi to the DSi XL. The screens for the 3DS XL are 90% larger, meaning the top screen has gone from a mere 3.5 inches to 4.88 inches -- which, by the way, isn’t much smaller than the Vita’s screen. The touch screen has gone from 3.02 inches to 4.18. The battery life isn’t much better though: it’s 3.5-6.5 hours for 3DS games (compared to 3-5), and 6-10 for DS games. Those of us who thought the DSi XL was the best model for the original DS were waiting for this model to come, and it surprisingly came sooner than many thought.

 

Or did it? Japanese business magazine Nikkei mentioned the day before Nintendo’s E3 2012 conference that a new model was on the way, and that it would be considerably larger than the current one and be released by the end of the summer. Nintendo swiftly denied their report, despite their excellent track record of leaking Nintendo information before they want the public to know it -- they also revealed the existence of the DSi and DSi XL before they were announced.

 

There are plenty complaining about the lack of a second analog nub, and why a revision of the system would lack it. There’s an easy answer for that: this is not a revision. The “similar to the jump from the DSi to the DSi XL” part above is closer to the truth than you might have thought. This is merely another option being offered in tandem with the current model. It’s not intended to replace it, though anyone who wants a bigger screen is obviously a target customer here.


3dsxlnabox_062212.png

 

So now the question is: what will you get inside the package? Here’s where things get complicated. All packages worldwide for the XL will include a 4GB SD card, up from 2GB for the current model. However, the packages in Japan and Europe will ship bizarrely without an AC Adapter, and there’s no charging cradle for any territory. You can use an older one if you purchased any of the DSi models or older 3DS, but that’s still a baffling idea, especially for Europe. Also, the colors are different for each territory:

 

Japan gets: White, Red, and Silver

Europe gets: Silver, Red, and Blue

America gets: Red and Blue

 

Someone’s getting shafted here! And you don’t need me to tell you who that is; this shouldn’t be a surprise at this point.

 

The release dates are also different for each territory. Japan and Europe both get it on July 28th, but America has to wait until August 19th. The Japanese and American districts wanted to have the system release in tandem with NSMB2, while it’s coming alongside Art Academy in Europe (which will also release in America at some currently-undetermined future date). The XL will cost 18,900 yen in Japan, and $199.99 in America. An official price was not announced in Europe.

 

All three Nintendo Directs were better than the dreadfully boring Nintendo 3DS Conference, which was seemingly not aimed at the gaming contingent with how it revealed absolutely nothing new. The Nintendo Directs are a nice trend, so look forward to the next ones mentioning Wii U.

flameday2012-inpiracywetrust.jpg


Summer Flame Day is back for another year of controversy (or a lack of)! Enjoy.


I recently read an article in GameInformer highlighting the uncertain longevity of video games as they increasingly become digital or major parts of them are located on publisher servers. A thought occurred to me as I read the article, some of these digital problems can actually be solved by piracy. As damaging as video game piracy can be it may have its uses as we make the transition from physical media to digital media and more single-player games are hosted in the cloud. I’m not advocating that people stop paying for games and simply pirate to their heart’s content but there has to be an alternative to games simply going away when publishers no longer want to sell them. As publishers and developers increasingly rely on digital distribution and server side hosting the rights of consumers have gone into a murky gray area.

According a multitude of EULAs we no longer own our games if we purchase them digitally or we make use of online features even with a physical copy. We’re simply renting them from the publisher and those games and DLC may not exist in the future. A physical copy of a game that goes out of print can often be found used at a video game store, flea market, purchased online or simply borrowed from a friend. However, a digital game that is pulled out of circulation is no longer available because of licensing issues and/or the unwillingness of the publisher to continue to make the game available for purchase. Why again should gamers be punished for failing to buy a digital game right away? That’s a problem. Piracy is certainly one very easy solution. But why is piracy a solution to problem that has recently started to exist in the gaming world? 

This latest generation of gaming and improvements to internet speeds has resulted in quite an upheaval in how people think about and purchase games. Ten years ago digital game purchases were relegated to computers. Even so, digital game purchases were limited by hard drive sizes and bandwidth speeds. Over the years bandwidth speeds increased and large hard drives because cheaper to produce. That in part led the way to console developers being able to make their consoles more and more like PCs. Thanks to those major improvements in internet speeds and large hard drives developers and publishers are slowly but steadily making the transition to a world where digital purchases are a regular affair. We’re getting to the point where a variety of game titles are available in physical and digital form and some niche releases only have digital versions. In the future there might not be a need for physical releases at all. Or they may be on a smaller scale. A multitude of games may be hosted on publisher servers or streaming video game services like OnLive will become common place. For those who’d prefer to have an all digital collection this is a quite a deal. Still, there’s that pesky problem of longevity and how one will be able to revisit a game in a decade from now or play it for the first time years after its original release. Sadly, publishers don’t seem interested in keeping a publicly accessible archive of their games due to licensing and very long-term server upkeep.

All forms of media have licensing terms and distribution rights. Some companies will indefinitely pay these fees in order to keep content available for fans because it is profitable. Other companies are unable or unwilling to keep up with licensing fees and let the content expire. One notable case came last June when Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time Re-Shelled was pulled from both XBLA and PSN by Konami due to an expired license. The game was regarded as mediocre at best but anyone who wanted to purchase the game after June 30, 2011 was simply out of luck. Games are delisted from XBLA and PSN from time to time and fans only have a small window of time to purchase them if they hear about the delisting in advance.


fateunlimitedcodes-06212012.jpg


What about non-arcade games? They don’t fair much better if the publisher decides not to pump more money into a license. Earlier this month Fate/unlimited codes, a PSP game only available on PSN was delisted because Capcom declined to renew the license. Do PC-based services such as Steam fare much better? No, they don’t. There are numerous examples of games that are delisted from Steam. The only rule for digitally distributed games seems to be that a copy must remain online for gamers who have already purchased the game and need to download it again. In short, unless a game is hugely profitable a publisher will eventually decline to renew a license and new purchasers will find themselves locked out of that content.

We’re just getting to the into the issue of having single-player games needing to be authenticated by an online service just to access that game. The most notable release would be Diablo III. In order to play the latest installment of Diablo gamers must always be online and everything is handled through Blizzard’s servers. No internet connection? No game time for you. Blizzard stated this was to help fight piracy although the real reason lies with the Real Money Auction House. To the anger of many when the game actually launched a large number of gamers were unable to play because the servers couldn’t handle the demand. Another notable case would be Capcom’s always-on DRM for arcade games such as Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 and Final Fight: Double Impact. When PSN went down for a month in 2011 gamers were unable to play those games. Online authentication and always-on DRM are problems because part of the game is hosted on a publisher’s server and one must always be able to connect to that server. When the server is no longer profitable in the eyes of the publisher the plug is usually pulled. As a result games needing online authentication could be rendered unplayable unless the DRM is patched out before the server is shut down. Disc-based games with always-on DRM face a similar problem to digital-only games even if the actual game can be purchased used long after going out of print.


finalfightDI-06212012.jpg


So that brings me to the issue or piracy as a last resort for someone who legally wanted to buy a digital game. If the game is no longer available for purchase due to licensing issues or a server shut down why should pirating it be shunned by the larger gaming community? It was the same problem that led to the rise of emulating old and unavailable console games on computers more than a decade ago. Unlike those emulated games buying an out of print physical copy isn’t an option. Going back to Fate/unlimited codes, as of this writing the game is no longer available to buy on PSN. If you didn’t get it by June 12 you’re SOL, as they say. Alternatively, a pirated version of the game is readily available for download on the internet. Once a game is delisted the financial argument of piracy is largely null and void—you can’t pirate what you can’t legally buy. Of course a hardcore fan could import a physical copy of Fate/unlimited codes to support the original developers and use a pirated game for translation purposes. Capcom wouldn’t see a dime but they didn’t renew the license so they’re not expecting further profit anyway. I fully support fans in their endeavor to import games available in other regions, yet that argument doesn’t work for purely digital games that have been delisted worldwide. Furthermore, if piracy were a major concern both the developer and publisher would find a way to keep a license renewed and the game available for fans to purchase.

I don’t condone piracy as a way to completely avoid paying for a digital release, especially if it is readily available. Between major sales on services like PSN, Xbox Live and Steam (with games up to 75-percent off their original prices) the argument that games aren’t affordable isn’t an issue here. If gamers are willing to wait long enough most digital games will either go on sale or receive significant price drops. Once again the issue is availability long after services go away or a game is delisted. Here piracy actually serves as a way to keep games playable long after they’re no longer available for purchase. The argument of piracy as a way to archive titles can also be made for games with always-on DRM. Illegally available games will ensure that gamers can still access titles longer after authentication services and various servers go offline for good.

Do the positive sides of piracy outweigh the negatives? No, but piracy isn’t going away any time soon. In an ideal world developers and publishers would find away to ensure everyone has access to their digital-only content with long-lasting license rights. For unprofitable titles with a dedicated fan base it would be great if those fans could chip in to keep those titles available via a kickstarter or some other capital generating venture. At the very least publishers should make it clear from the beginning that certain titles only have a limited lifespan.


diablo3-06212012.jpg


As for DRM, online authentication and always-on DRM, it has been shown that these practices do little to stem the tide of piracy. At the same time if a title is popular enough people will buy and play these games regardless of shrinking consumer rights. Gamers are still able to play various pirated Ubisoft and EA titles quite easily, despite these two publishers claiming DRM as a success. On the flip-side, the always-on DRM Diablo III still sold millions of copies despite the required internet connection. An ideal solution would be the banishment of DRM altogether. When a server goes down a game is still playable (except for multiplayer) and a purchased disc will still work when a game goes out of print or the publisher no longer exists. The solution to multiplayer is a little trickier. If fans were able to host private servers for multiplayer it would be an ideal solution for a major part of many games.

Until a major consumer pushback occurs with digital games and their uncertain futures piracy is a viable option. It’s not a perfect solution but it may be the only way to find and play a digital-only release or a DRM-laden title as games are delisted and servers are shut down.

Flame Day 2012 -- Gamers vs. "Gamers" in Games

| No Comments

flameday2012banner.jpg


It was only a few months ago when Aris Bakhtanians caused an uproar on Street Fighter x Tekken’s Crossfire show, where he harassed Miranda “Super Yan” Pakozdi on it because it, along with other juvenile garbage, is supposedly an integral part of the fighting game community. This event naturally and rightfully caused a huge uproar, one that had people on both sides feuding with each other, despite there being only one morally correct one. It was here that we saw that some “gamers” within the “gaming” community have a massive and disturbing lack of empathy, and express that in the worst way. But little did we know that this event was the progenitor for a number of gender-related issues that would arise within only the first half of 2012.

 

Do you refer to yourself as a “gamer”? Trust me, you don’t want to do that anymore, and that’s not because of the previous stereotypes associated with it. There are way too many very vocal and very terrible people that refer to themselves as “gamers” these days. Sure, while they may have been around for a while, they’ve really come out of the woodwork in the last month, and they’re all vile pieces of filth. And no, we’re not even talking about silly stuff that happens on message boards like console wars. This is exponentially worse.

 

Now, that line above isn’t referring to every single person who wants to go by the label of “gamer”, but to a certain subset of insecure manchildren who constantly feel threatened that their hobby is losing their way whenever it attracts an audience besides themselves. This first started with the expanded audience that Nintendo attracted with the Wii and DS years ago, and got even worse when Facebook, mobile, and browser games started becoming a force to be reckoned with. But it’s become much worse in way too many ways.


hitmanabsolutionpic_062112.jpg

 

Another issue popped up when this utterly bizarre CG video advertising Hitman: Absolution was released by Square Enix/Eidos Interactive before E3. It depicts the series’ protagonist beating and killing a bunch of women draped in nun-style leather bondage gear. Let’s ignore the fact that it sure as hell doesn’t represent what Hitman is about (unless you associate the franchise with the movie), but seeing a man brutally beat up a bunch of women is disturbing because of the history associated with that. It’s why it was immediately labeled as having some misogynist undertones, and there were plenty of editorials detailing that matter. It didn’t take long for gamers to pile on the writers to say it was a non-event, usually to the tone of “LOL who cares it’s just a video game”. If that’s your first response to something like this, you are part of the problem.

 

And again, the actual game is nothing like that video. Apparently, the marketing team didn’t think we wanted to see anything stealthy, because that doesn’t make for a spectacle. No, we’re an audience that needs a morass of violence and explosions to be appeased. This is what they think we want to see, and that makes you wonder what kind of monsters they see us as. Considering the response to everyone who took offense to anyone who even mildly complained about it, maybe they aren’t too far off the mark.

 

The gender issues really became heinous in the wake of the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games kickstater from Anita Sarkeesian. Here we had a woman who needed a little funding to help make a series of videos about the sheer level of gender inequality in games, despite loving the hobby. She was greeted with a plethora of hateful comments, ranging from “gamers” telling her that she would be better off in the kitchen to calling her a “feminazi” or “vagina monster”, and that all the “white knights” that are trying to defend her will never get in her pants. It’s utterly embarrassing and juvenile humor that would have a better (but still not good) place in some high school.

 

It’s even better when people point out how males in video games are sexualized too, so it’s OK for women to be objectified. The phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right” exists for good reason.

 

This one has a good side, though: she received a plethora of funding from much better human beings who despised the actions of others. She’s now figuratively swimming in cash. We don’t know how she’s going to use it yet, but the support is heartwarming.


gowapic_062112.jpg

 

The other issue being dealt with at the moment is the amount of violence in video games. There is nothing wrong with some games having violent content, even titles that revel in being grotesque and are seemingly created by demented people like the God of War games. The problem is having a plethora of games that are brutally violent, and it was by far the most off-putting aspect of the presentations and titles shown at E3 2012, far worse than them all looking incredibly linear and filled with cinematics and QTEs. What we saw were the works of developers and publishers that are clearly being crippled by rising budgets, and feeling that appealing to the largest audience is the most necessary way to combat this. It’s not, and all it’s leading to is disturbing amount of homogeneity among the supposed “AAA” titles.

 

You attack that, and of course you’re faced with the wrath of raging “gamers” who don’t want anyone to change anything. They couldn’t even be bothered to read and conclude that no one’s asking for the complete removal of violence; the flood of it isn’t necessary, and continuing to appeal to this demographic and nothing but makes the hobby and its “gamers” look like they celebrate juvenility. There are assuredly plenty that do -- and some of them might be reading this -- but let’s leave them in their own disturbing fantasy. Not to mention that they’re not the only big audience of people that play video games on a regular basis.

 

Many of us love this hobby, but man is it rife with individuals incapable of exhibiting tact and rational thought in opportune times, and it’s disturbing to see that some developers and publishers (more the latter than the former, admittedly) are willing to bend over backwards for them. It’s not going to mean anything good for any of the parties involved in the future unless something changes.

I could remember my first exposure to Toonami like it was just yesterday.  I was at Anime Detour, having just finished with the day’s events when I saw a couple minutes of an anime called Outlaw Star.  Despite having a preference for subs, I nonetheless stood mesmerized and amused at the English dub, trying to see why the programming bloc was so popular and what all the hype was.  I slip off my Takuto cosplay and despite my exhaustion was able to enjoy the rest of the episode before conversing with my roommates.  They had told me that it was Cartoon Network’s idea of an April Fool’s joke for 2012, and it seemed to have worked, as my Twitter feed had soon lit up with cries calling for Toonami’s long term return that evening.

Toonami eventually returned to Cartoon Network on May 26, 2012, becoming a weekly programming bloc for 2 3-hour timeslots every Saturday evening and Sunday morning.  There was widespread speculation as to what series would be broadcast on the revived Toonami before its return.  When the actual schedule was announced, my reaction was with more than a hint of disappointment, even when taking into account the fact that the budget for the new Toonami was miniscule.  I had a general idea of what was broadcast on the old Toonami, the most well-known series amongst my friends being Gundam Wing, but still didn’t share their same enthusiasm as to the programming bloc’s return since I wasn’t an anime fan during Toonami’s heyday nor did I have access to cable television.  Despite this, however, I can see the point in the revival, and would more than willing to give Toonami a second chance if it continues on after the current set of shows finish up, despite my preference for subs over dubs.

The way I see it, there are two main groups of individuals who would watch the revived Toonami: former viewers who now watch it for nostalgia and new viewers who are trying to get more into anime.  The new Toonami falls short for both groups of viewers on multiple levels, with the biggest disappointment being the selection of the new series starting from their respective very first episodes, Deadman Wonderland and Casshern Sins.  I had watched a few episodes of Deadman Wonderland with a group of friends last year, and though I tried to tolerate and extract value from watching it, apart from the high-quality animation and drawings, it was a series I would come to despise and recommend that all individuals avoid.  I often refer to the series as “the anime for sadists”, with the numerous scenes of violence and torture served up with sides of someone in the series sadistically loving the pain being inflicted on the victim.  The producers spent most of their time and effort to ensure these violent scenes are done to ensure high levels of realism and evoke the greatest emotions of terror, seen whenever blood is spilled or splattered across the screen.  It’s not long before one develops feelings of hatred for the grinning main antagonist who masquerades as a lawyer, but somehow this doesn’t translate into pity or empathy for the main protagonist, Igurashi Ganta, nor any of the secondary protagonists.  Thank the producers who decided to give Ganta two moods to flip between rather than ease into:  scared schoolboy imprisoned against his will and vengeful warrior out for justice.  This flaw, combined with the numerous bleeps for the profanity (31 as of the end of the 4th episode), keeps the series from being appealing to a wide audience.  Every episode invokes an increasing sense of dread and hatred from the audience, with the violent scenes becoming more and more cringe-worthy as the series progresses, until the cringing turns into loathing.  What’s even more distressing is that the series was licensed and will be released on DVD later this year.

As for Casshern Sins, a series which I have seen the entirety of, the flaw here is the mood that it invokes.  Squarely aimed at older viewers and veterans of anime, this series is one where the fullest experience requires thought, analysis, paying attention, and backtracking.  The plotline is a hybrid of episodic and linear episodes, easiest to follow when viewing multiple episodes at one time, a viewing schedule that Toonami is unable to provide.  Characters come and go and the dialogue is soft and subtle, compounding its difficulty to follow, as key phrases that one ought to latch onto don’t distinguish themselves from others and one is uncertain of which secondary characters to follow.  Short appearances are usually enough to create an impression, but linking all of these impressions together to form one large picture is difficult since the characters that appear for only one episode are out of your mind the rest of the show so you are unable to reference him or her afterwards.  Despite the variety of characters and voices, the impression is that the dialogue in the anime comes off more as a monotone college literature lecture.  The series doesn’t provoke a lot of extroverted reactions from its viewers, even with the excellent animated action scenes.  As a result, portraying the series as being a forefront of the new, revived Toonami isn’t all that great a move.  It’s a series that plays its own tune and acquires its audience by having them take the extra step of trying to understand this story, rather than trying to pull the audience in.  I’m all for promoting series that may be off the primary radar, and I do hope that this increases the awareness of Casshern Sins, but putting this as the centerpiece pitch to Toonami newcomers seems at the very least questionable.  Combining a dystopic  anime with an action horror series as the block of new shows is unfortunate, as variety and wide appeal was not high on the priority list for Cartoon Network.

As for the rest of the lineup, while the series themselves may be more palatable to newcomers and veterans of anime, therein lies another flaw.  Take for example Bleach.  It will appeal to those following the American release schedule, but for new anime fans who plan on utilizing Toonami to get more into anime, it still does not solve the problem of it being 100 episodes behind the now completed Japanese release schedule, and new anime fans who wishes to view the series from the beginning and get the entire picture will need to first watch dozens if not over 200 prior episodes of anime.  Then there are the inherent problems with the fact that there are over 300 episodes of the show, the filler arcs (Bount arc, anyone?) that take up over half the number of episodes, and that in the later episodes, the format and formulaic approach taken to the show turns what is supposed to be a work of art into a boring commodity like wheat or corn.  A smaller flaw exists with Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood and Ghost in the Shell 2nd Gig, as these series have much smaller prior episode counts to their stories, and as a result will be much easier for viewers to get into.  However, the fact that these series were shown on Toonami in the middle of their plotlines still irks me, being someone who has not seen either series at all and would have appreciated starting from the beginning.

Nonetheless, despite my numerous criticisms in regards to the revived Toonami, I’m not confused as to why the programming bloc was so immensely popular with audiences back in its heyday.  This used to be the mainstream, the gateway for many to the anime fandom, with access provided to anyone with cable and an opportunity to watch.  Unfortunately, amongst the other options of anime consumption, it was inevitable that the revived Toonami would be a mere shell of its former self, hobbled by low funding, a cautious Cartoon Network, and a menu of poorly chosen shows and lousy starting points.  The point of the programming bloc was to reinject some of the nostalgia and also to reestablish Toonami as a respected place to acquire and consume anime.  While the former was accomplished to an extent, the latter was not.  Not by a mile.  However, despite the number of weeks that it will take to complete the new shows, it would be too hasty to completely write off the new Toonami as a dismal failure.  The best move would be to have Cartoon Network invest in their product and have faith in it because the Toonami name still has some value to it, as seen in the hundreds if not thousands of tweets that called out for its return.  It just now has a much larger field of competition in the anime world- streaming, deeply discounted boxsets, expanded use of torrents among them.  It would be possible to revive the bloc and once again establish itself as a gateway to anime fandom to a new generation of individuals especially if Cartoon Network could choose their series wisely.  The chosen series ought to appeal to a wide audience, both newcomers and veterans of anime and say “Sit down and watch me.  You will not be disappointed.”  These series ought to be newer or underappreciated, with a potential market of new viewers out there.  Even older series that could face an increase in fandom due to increased exposure would fit into Toonami.  I’m still optimistic about the programming bloc, hoping that it can survive this run to entertain us for another 6 months.  At the top of my list of shows to broadcast on the next Toonami?  The nearly universally admired Tiger and Bunny.

Man, nobody dared comment on my flame-day rant last year. How disappointing.

Hey, what's the matter? Where you going? Are you chicken?

Ugh, it's shouldn't be 96 degrees in Maine. There's far too much flame in my summer. It hasn't broken 90 in years, not even during the hottest dog days of late July and early August... but now we're starting summer even hotter.

But I digress. I have other things to complain about today.

drewflme2.png

I hate it here

The second convention I ever attended, and the one I have been to most often is my "hometown" convention of PortConMaine, more commonly referred to as simply PortCon.

As its website touts, "PortConMaine is Maine's first, longest running, and largest convention." Which is rubbish; there had been 30 or so UMF Cons (at the University of Maine at Farmington) before PortCon started, which in turn had inspired a prototype Portland convention by the name of Revelations in 2001 that, depending on how many long-buried drama bombs you want to dig up, could be called PortCon's "year zero."

While UMF Con had it's share of bumpy schedules, name changes (most recently to "Culture Shock"), and primary hosting club switches, it recently celebrated its 45th anniversary. PortCon's about 35 years too early to claim the "longest running" crown (bonus points: Eagle-eyed readers might catch the name of PortCon's Convention Chairman listed as an attendee in the linked article).

Kind of pointless to plead ignorance about that whole "first and longest running" thing isn't it?

Now, "largest" I WILL award as accurate. Good job. But the only truthful boast the convention makes is also its biggest problem:

This place

PortCon's first year was held at one of UMF's sister campuses, the University of Southern Maine. For its second year, it moved to the Merry Manor Inn. It was a lovely place, but it didn't have much event space to offer. At the time, though, it was more than enough Inn for the convention.

PortCon was a big and growing success, and soon demanded a much larger venue, the Maine Mall Sheraton Wyndham Hotel DoubleTree by Hilton.

This new hotel provided several more rooms for panels, showings and other small events. It was located directly across from the Maine Mall, far and away the largest shopping center in the state, and was still easily accessible from the interstate.

But while there was plenty of room at this new hotel for 1200 attendees (over the course of the weekend), it has since nearly doubled, with 2150 showing up in 2011. If the venue cap of 2000 simultaneous attendees is ever reached, I haven't a clue where they'd all fit.

The single, thin hallway is always clogged. Lines to even the worst-attended events snake out into the parking lot for lack of anywhere else to queue. A clog at any one location cuts that section off from the rest of the convention. The dance hall is no longer used for dancing, but rather partitioned in two to contain dwindling vendors and an overflowing artist's alley. The con's dance and other auditorium-level events are now held in a large tent erected behind the hotel.

There have been years in which I paid for a hotel room simply so I could have access to a low-traffic bathroom.

In 2008, there was a brief flirtation with the Eastland Park Hotel located in the heart of downtown Portland by the Old Port, another great location. I'm not sure why there was this blip. It was plain to see the hotel was too classy for a nerd convention; the staff were very high-strung and visually uncomfortable all weekend, and the decor was far from battle-hardened. Either we weren't invited back, chose to leave or it was only supposed to be a one-time stop due to a scheduling issue with the regular venue.

This zoo

Of course, the congestion in the lone hallway wouldn't be so bad if certain attendees found more logical places to dispense their free hugs.

Anecdotally speaking, PortCon seems to skew young. One year I lived in fear of getting arrested after being involuntarily glomped by a 12-year-old Rikku cosplayer who used the skimpy FFX-2 costume.

... is it one "p" or two for glompped?

I'm not saying a con should be quiet in orderly, but the lack of space with two thousand bodies (hell, 1600 was already too many people in '08) crammed in there, there isn't any room to let congoers be congoers.

...That includes One Piece fans using the Hetalia coplayers for a game of capture the flag.

It's the smell

Okay, we've all heard the same-old horror stories about Con Funk at any and every convention ever. It does, however, bear special mention here.

All of the problems with the size of the venue and the number of attendees amplifies an expected nuisance into a major problem. With only one room per activity, the many single-purpose attendees have little reason to move around. This means whatever con funk they have becomes ultra-concintrated (without the power of citrus, sadly) as they spend their day in the single room devoted to tabletop gaming. Or the single room where all the CCG players throw down. Or the single room where you can watch anime episodes. All day. All weekend. Hell, some people might not even have to change chairs.

For that matter, the cramped, one-room conditions for all the activity rooms creates a huge noise pollution problem. Entire rooms of one game-per table having to talk over each other to try to get through a game in the appointed time. It's even tighter in the CCG room, which puts big constraints on tournaments. Whenever an event is going down, space for free play is wiped out.

Have I mentioned PortCon has a space problem?

If there is such a thing

No, there really is con funk. I feel saturated by it. You can taste the stink and every time I go to the con, I fear that I've somehow been infected by it.

This convention, whatever you want to call it, I can't stand it any longer.

I know, I know; I'm using these paraphrased header quotes out of order. And if you didn't notice what I was doing with them, shame on you.

This weekend is the sendoff to my PortCon-going days. If I remember to, I'll record a few pictures highlighting these issues (or sudden, novel responses to them) and slip them into this article for posterity.

But PortCon does not have a history of pro-activeness. They've sat on their laurels for years. There hasn't been a major new con event in nearly half its lifespan. It's needed a bigger venue for about as long. Obviously, Portland doesn't have endless options, but there's still other places to work with. PortCon is simply choosing stagnation. And it bothers the hell out of me.

In the future, I'll be headed to bigger and brighter conventions: Another Anime Con in New Hampshire, Anime Boston and PAX East in Massachusetts. I might try to make SnoCon my new "hometown" convention.

But PortCon? This is it. Until you start moving in a direction again, you needn't worry about me darkening your door.

Does you own home con suffer the same way? Has it adapted to its growing pains? Did it stumble and die early? Did it never become too big for its own good to begin with?

Adventures2.jpg

There comes a point in every Internet user's life when they think they've finally seen everything, that nothing they come across can surprise them any more.  Two Girls, One Cup?  It's nothing more than the next step beyond shock images like Tubgirl and Meatspin.  People aren't content to just show you an image that may or may not be doctored and fake, so instead they show you something that apparently actually happened somewhere.  Honestly, I'm not surprised that someone decided to film something like that.

I'd really thought I had seen it all, but then along came My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.  As with everything else involving talking animals, I figured that maybe it would be a hit for the furry fandom, or at least a guilty pleasure for a few people outside of furry.  Apparently I underestimated this thing by a large magnitude.

Whenever you get a large amount of people interested in something, you'll get a few people who want to twist it for their own pleasure.  But if you think that there's only a few people who would dare to corrupt the new My Little Pony series, you're underestimating this thing just as I did.

The Mane 6 Shocked.jpg
Better strap yourselves in, girls.  This may get kinda rough.  (Image credit: My Little Pony News)

Not all of it is bad, I admit.  I can mostly handle the grimdark fan fictions if I take them one at a time.  And that's another thing: I'd never even heard the term "grimdark" until the bronies came along and made it a legitimate genre of its own instead of just another Warhammer 40000 joke.  Still, it doesn't surprise me that there are grimdark fan fics.  What does surprise me is the copious amounts of them.  Look at how many there are!  You wouldn't expect so many people to take a look at a fluffy and cute cartoon about colourful ponies and think, "This is good, but it could use a lot more death, destruction, and apocalypses."

But despite the surprisingly large amount of darkness present in My Little Pony fan fiction, most of it is benign enough that it shouldn't disturb anyone.  Most of it, anyway.  Anyone want a cupcake?  How about a visit to the Rainbow Factory?  What I'd like to know is, what kind of people would write something like these?

Probably the same kind of people who would post to Tumblr a blog about a comatose Fluttershy.  The Ask Flutterschiavo blog is just one of many questionable Ask blogs related to ponies, but this one makes fun of a real life tragedy as well.  Again, you have to ask, who would do something like this?

I've also seen a disturbing number of fan fics that romantically ship one of the ponies in the series with "you".  Not an original character, not another character in the show, but you.  They're written in the second person and have "you", sometimes as a pony and sometimes as a human, becoming romantically involved and many times actually mating with one of the ponies.  I didn't even know that there was so much demand for that kind of thing until My Little Pony came along.  I don't remember seeing anything like that in the Gargoyles fandom when it was the big thing on the Internet about a decade or so ago, but then it was probably hidden better back then, or there weren't enough people writing lemons to warrant its own site collecting them all.  Look upon their works, ye mighty, and despair for the bronies.

The site lists everything that would not be suitable for young eyes, and I do mean everything.  The descriptions alone should be enough to put you off of most of the stories.  "Pinkie Pie forgot to pee before getting into her skin-tight suit (contains watersports)"  "Public sex in the library. Nothing more needs to be said except HUMANIZED."  "Apple Bloom gets involved with Big Mac in an intimate way; will she finally discover her special talent and get her cutie mark?"  Wait, what the fuck?  They're siblings, that's just wrong.  "humanized Ponyville-wide gang rape of Fluttershy, with "female bukkake," featuring Photo Finish and her assistants"  Okay, I'm stopping right there.  I mean, really.  If you take a look at this face and the first word that comes to mind is "rape", I don't think you deserve to possess reproductive anatomy.


Now I know what you're thinking.  This kind of thing is natural.  There's going to be someone who writes a fan fic or three that aren't meant for the series's target audience.  To that, I say that you obviously didn't click the link because there's more than a few.  I would estimate that the adult fan fics written by the bronies number in the hundreds at this point.  Hundreds.  The series hasn't even been out for two years, and there are already hundreds of adult fics!  Furries don't write porn this quickly!

To be fair, I suppose I could see myself reading about Rarity and Fluttershy trying out a relationship, or Rainbow Dash meeting up with one of the Wonderbolts for a fling.  But whoever wrote a lemon where former United States President Bill Clinton gets romantically and sexually involved with a pony should be punched in the kidney.

I suppose I should be glad that, even though there are obviously immature Ask blogs and a large number of fan fics that centre completely around sex, none of this is actually bleeding over into real life.  This is all still restricted to the Internet, right?  Right?!

Damn you, bronies!

It's true that the person who made the Lyra plushie linked above did indicate a willingness to remove the questionable feature.  But come on, now.  How many people were in the market for a Lyra plushie, saw the fuckable version, and placed a bid on it?  They probably decided to look for one without the feature, especially as the price for Fuckable Lyra became more and more expensive.  And who is going to bid on this and then ask for the feature to be removed?  Be honest now.

I suppose the knee-jerk reaction to all of this is to say that these people don't represent bronies.  But that's the thing.  They do.  Just like Henrik Sedin represents the Vancouver Canucks whenever he's wearing their jersey, the people who write adult My Little Pony fan fics or create plushies with special holes can't be excluded from the rest of the bronies.  Like it or not, they're also a part of the fandom and aren't swept so easily under the rug.

Take one look at the dark side of the bronies and it's easy to conclude that they can be scary.  But fair warning, hanging around normal bronies can be a little scary, too.  Case in point: the 1000 Bronies In An Auditorium rendition of the Friendship is Magic theme song...


Flame on.


Video of the Week: Cupcakes HD

Oh, and did I mention that Cupcakes got animated?  See for yourself.


True story: I was a fan of Andrew W.K. long before Cupcakes.

Okami HD: The Hopes and Dreams

| No Comments

okamihdpic1_062012.jpg


Did you think Okami was popular enough for Capcom to give it the HD treatment? I didn’t, which is why I was hesitant to believe the rumors that it was coming to Playstation 3 yesterday morning. The games Capcom has provided HD remasters for were some of the most popular titles in their backlog from the last generation of consoles. The Devil May Cry games and two of the Resident Evil titles have received them, while games like the Maximo titles and God Hand were simply thrown on the PS2 Classics line on Playstation Network. I figured Okami would join the latter titles, since it sold closer to them, which would have been a shame. Okami was a beautiful-looking game with one of the best art styles seen in the medium, and seeing it in HD would be a sight to behold. It’s a good game, too. Thankfully, Capcom agreed.

 

Well, that, or they’re so hard up for cash that they’re willing to put out anything that has a chance to make them money. Take your pick.

 

It was revealed in this week’s Famitsu that the aforementioned rumor was true: Okami is indeed getting an HD remaster for PS3 under the literally-translated name Okami: Magnificent Version. It’s being released in Japan at retail on November 1st. Mere moments after the Famitsu announcement leaked, Capcom’s western offices confirmed that it’s releasing outside Japan as a digital download for $19.99 sometime this fall. This version will have Move support and Trophies, including a Platinum Trophy -- which they felt was worth mentioning since the HD versions of Resident Evil: Code Veronica X and Resident Evil 4 didn’t have them. The Famitsu article also mentioned 1080p support, but that wasn’t mentioned on the PS Blog post or on Capcom-Unity, so the verdict is out on that for now.

 

That it’s only getting a downloadable release in America and Europe isn’t surprising, and not because it will be easier to avoid having an IGN watermark. The game, sadly, wasn’t a strong seller at retail on PS2 or Wii. It’s not known if the Japanese retail version will include English text at the moment, but we do know that it will be expensive to import with the current exchange rate at 3,990 yen.


okamihdpic2_062012.jpg

 

Okami HD is the third port of this game, following the “enhanced” Wii version; “enhanced” is in quotes because that word works differently here. It added widescreen support and the ability to use the Wii Remote for brushstrokes, but it got a lot of other things wrong. The Wii Remote and Nunchuck control setup was good for painting, but was cumbersome for nearly everything else. The paper parchment filter, a post-processing effect that assisted in making the game look like a sumi-e painting come to life, was removed -- possibly due to its developer, Ready at Dawn, having too much trouble implementing it.

 

But the biggest issue was the removal of the credits, and director Hideki Kamiya, now of Platinum Games, explained why this was a huge deal. He said the credits were the game’s “omoi,” meaning it’s "a combination of thoughts, emotions, and messages" from the game. “They were the omoi of everyone who worked on the project, put together in a moment of bliss held out just for those who completed the journey,” he said, lamenting their loss. Soon-to-be-former Capcom Community manager Seth Killian explained that the credits couldn’t be used because they didn’t have the rights to the Clover Studios logo. Despite any claims, the credits were restored in the Japanese Wii version, which released a year-and-a-half later than the western version in October 2009.

 

Fortunately, the HD version is shaping up better. Though it’s a little hard to see in the trailer thanks to Youtube’s typical quality issues (though the game sure as hell didn’t look that blurry on PS2), the paper parchment filter has been restored. And the credits scene being restored for the Japanese Wii version bodes well for this version having that, but there’s no official word on it.

 

You’re in for a treat if you haven’t played Okami before. It’s a Zelda-like adventure game starring a the goddess of the sun named Amaterasu, where you have to paint brushstrokes using the Celestial Brush to progress. Despite feeling a little long in the tooth at times, it’s one of the best games in the genre. It wasn’t a huge seller, probably because of its unique art style, but hopefully lightning will strike this third time.

Anarchy Will Reign Later

| No Comments

anarchyreignspic_061912.jpg


We should have known something was going wrong with Anarchy Reigns’ western release back when Sega’s advertisements for it weren’t coming in tandem with the Japanese ads. The fears of a few were confirmed a little less than month ago when Sega silently changed the release date on their website and the game’s western website from July 3rd and 6th -- for America and Europe, respectively -- to TBA, despite the Japanese version  sticking to the same date of July 5th. A baffling turn of events, considering the English localization has apparently been done for a while now.

 

But we finally received an update! After clearly getting fed up with the constant amount of questions from fans concerned about the game’s release on their Twitter account (which they should have expected if they had any clue), Sega responded that Anarchy Reigns is releasing in the west…in Q1 2013. That’s quite a long way away from early July, and that makes this the third delay for this game, though this one is a case of Sega being silly people.

 

There is no logical explanation for this delay. As said in the previous post, the game was originally dated for a time where there would be zero competition. In the first quarter of next year, it now has to compete with:

 

DmC: Devil May Cry

Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch

Crysis 3

Dead Space 3

Bioshock Infinite

Aliens: Colonial Marines (which is also Sega-published)

Tomb Raider

and

God of War: Ascension

 

That’s a lot of competition! And Anarchy Reigns isn’t going to sell any better in that period than it will now. It’s pretty clear that Sega doesn’t care about this game given the lack of communication on all sides, and they sure aren’t going to care enough to actually advertise it. And if they do, it won’t make a difference because of that lineup you see above.

 

Platinum Games producer Atsushi Inaba has been talking about the situation on his Twitter account this morning. He reaffirmed that the game hasn’t been delayed in Japan, and that they have been completely in the dark about the situation in the west. It’s looking like Sega’s going to repeat the Alpha Protocol situation and not give Platinum any time to further polish it or add new features during the 6+ months it will take to reach the west.

 

This is an awfully raw deal for anyone who was looking forward to the game and its developer. After this and the definite cancellation of Bayonetta 2, thankfully Platinum has found potentially better partners in Nintendo and Konami with Project P-100 and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, respectively. Q1 2013 is a long wait, but you can check out the demo right now on the Japanese Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network, which includes English voices and text (search under the Japanese name: Max Anarchy). The Japanese PS3 version will be, as always, region free, but it’s looking highly likely that the 360 version will be to. Just be prepared to pay a hefty price if you want to import.

treasurehunter.jpg



E3 2012 was fairly unimpressive as far as E3 shows go, much to the disappointment and boredom of those who actually followed the show. June is also shaping up to be a let down for big game releases. Hopefully some of last month's larger releases are keeping you busy. There isn't a lot in the way of exciting titles and even less to find in terms of swag collecting. This month is far more interesting for anime fans as there are several box sets packed with physical goods.



guildwars2CE-06172012.jpg

Fans of MMOs looking for the next big game most likely have Guild Wars 2 pre-ordered or even pre-purchased. Guild Wars 2 takes place 250 years after Guild Wars and the landscape has completely changed in that time. War, natural disasters and other massive global events have left the human population in serious decline. Other races are stepping in to the resulting void to take power and land for themselves. Guild Wars 2 promises to be an interesting MMO and there is a GameStop exclusive collector's edition that promises to be just as epic-- provided you're willing to lay down the cash. The Guild Wars 2 Collector's Edition is packed with a lots of swag including an impressive 10-inch Rytlock figurine, an art frame, portfolio and five art prints for the said frame, a "best of" soundtrack CD, a 112-page making of Guild Wars 2 hardcover book and a metal box to hold everything. Guild Wars 2 and its hefty collector's edition releases on May 26 and will cost you $150.



recordofagaresteLE-06172012.jpg

Somehow Record of Agarest War and its prequel, Record of Agarest War Zero sold well enough for Aksys to justify bringing over Record of Agarest War 2. I played Agarest War when it was originally released in 2010 and couldn't bring myself to like it. This JRPG/SRPG/dating sim hybrid had a very slow-paced battle system and combined with its high random encounter rate the game was an exercise in frustration. I wasn't alone in my opinion but diehard fans liked the game anyway. So two years after its original debut we have the sequel and a extremely incoherent series of releases. The original Agarest War was a 360 retail release exclusive (PS3 fans had to download a huge 10GB game via PSN or import the UK version to get a physical copy), Agarest War Zero had both a 360 and PS3 retail release but Agarest War 2 is a PS3 exclusive this time around. For some reason Idea Factory did not make a 360 version and fans who've stuck with the 360 version of the previous games are out of luck if they don't have a PS3.

Record of Agarest War 2 continues the tradition of a mutli-generational line of protagonists via the game's dating sim elements. The combat has been revamped, there is a entirely new world to explore, the protagonists can forcibly marry love (or perhaps "lust") interests and this game has HD sprites. Hopefully the combat is much faster this time around. The tradition of collector's editions also continues with RoAW2's Limited Edition which stuffs a totally-not-shameless blow up mini-doll, a small hand towel and a hardcover art book into a regular cardboard game box. Sadly, there is no soundtrack CD this time around. The Limited Edition of Agarest War 2 is $60, ten dollars more than the standard edition. Both editions will be released on June 27.



zakuroPE-06072012.jpg

Going from anime themed video games to actual anime seems like the perfect transition for the rest of this month's Treasure Hunter. First up we have the latest NIS America release, Zakuro,or Otome Youkai Zakuro. This 2010 anime is an adaptation of manga artist Lily Hoshino's work of the same name. In an alternate Japan set in the Meiji Era humans and spirits both exist. The two groups have had a long running grudge but in the Westernization of Japan the two groups must somehow learn to co-exist. To that end the Ministry of Spirit Affairs is established to resolve problems arising from both camps. Three male members from the human side, Kei Agemaki, Hanakiri Ganryu and Riken Yoshinokazura join four half-spirit girls, Zakuro, Susukihotaru and twins, Bonbori and Houzuki in order to make the new agency work. Unfortunately Zakuro doesn't like the fact their human partners engage in Christianity and Agemaki is terrified of spirits. The Zakuro Premium Edition includes all 13 episodes on DVD within a hardcover slipcase, a 36-page art book and two large double-sided prints-- if you order directly from NIS America. Zakuro was released on June 12 will cost you $48 directly from NIS with free shipping. If you choose Right Stuf the price is $44 with a another $5 for shipping and you won't receive the double-sided prints. If you want to try Zakuro for free it is available on Crunchyroll.




madokamagicaLE-06172012.jpg

The swag-packed anime box sets continue with the release of volume 3 of the Puella Magi Madoka Magica Limited Edition set from Aniplex USA. If you're unfamiliar with Madoka Magica I wrote a little about the series in my "Highlights from the Aniplex of America Industry Panel" from Otakon 2011. Volume 3 of the Madoka Magica Limited Edition includes a number of goodies such as the last three episodes on both BD and DVD, the original soundtrack on CD, two-sided covers for the BD/DVD case, a two-sided cover for the soundtrack case, a 24-page book which includes artwork, staff and voice actor interviews, two doubled-sided posters, postcard preview illustrations from episodes 9 through 12 and a deluxe slipcase to hold everything. Madoka Magica's box set is filled with goodies but even on sale this final three-episode release will cost you $75. Given the entire series is only 12 episodes owning the entire set costs an impressive $225, not including shipping. Hardcore fans will gladly pay for the premium set. Thankfully each volume is also available on individual DVD and BD for $30 and $40, respectively. For the fans who want to try before they buy Madoka Magica is streaming on both Hulu and Crackle for free. The final volume of the collector's edition was released on June 12. Because there was no Treasure Hunter for April volume 2 of Madoka Magica was never mentioned. The limited edition is available directly from Aniplex via Right Stuf for $75.



blueexorcistbonus-06172012.jpg

We've (and by "we" I do mean Alex and me) mentioned Blue Exorcist quite a bit on Damage Control. If you're a frequent visitor you should have heard of this shonen series. If not, Alex has written an excellent review and I wrote about the series for previous Treasure Hunters and the same Aniplex panel at Otakon 2011. The fourth and final DVD volume of Blue Exorcist contains some interesting swag. Housed in an O-sleeve this small subtitles-only DVD set contains a double-sided poster and a reversible DVD cover. At $30 for six episodes this is also one of Aniplex USA's more reasonably priced DVD sets, with the entire 25-episode series only costing about $120. (Which is on par with what most new anime releases sell for when the costs of all the sets are totaled up.) You can complete your Blue Exorcist DVD set on June 19. Volume three was released in April and you can pick up a copy from Aniplex USA. If you want to try the series first you can find it on Crunchyroll, Crackle and Hulu for free.




Correction for May's Treasure Hunter: There is a collector's edition of Diablo III which was all but sold out until a few days before the game released. It is available at Amazon.com and on eBay for a variety of prices ranging from reasonable to outrageous.

A Tale of Two Assassin's Creeds

| No Comments

Ubisoft releases a lot of Assassin’s Creed games, hardly a surprise to anyone who follows the franchise or the publisher. They release one installment every year these days, but this year is another one different from the norm. Aside from the previously-announced Assassin’s Creed III, they have a companion title called Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for Playstation Vita also headed to store shelves this fall. This is similar to 2009, where both Assassin’s Creed II and Bloodlines released on consoles (and PC) and PSP, respectively, but Liberation admittedly looks like it has more potential than its spiritual PSP predecessor.

 

Liberation will take place in New Orleans between the years of 1765 and 1780, a time around the end of the French and Indian War and the beginning of the American Revolution. This game finally gives some fans what they were asking for: a female assassin.  Her name is Aveline de Grandpré, who’s a mix of African and French. It’s rare that a video game has a female protagonist, sure, but it’s more rare when she’s a minority. How the developers approach her development will be interesting, and hopefully it’s done well. Aveline became part of the Assassin Brotherhood through someone named Agate, an escaped slave who’s also a mentor for her. She’s also the first AC protagonist that won’t be viewed through the eyes Desmond Miles, another feature fans have been asking for. This is, instead, a world created through “Abstergo.”


ac3lpic1_061712.jpg

 

In addition to New Orleans, Liberation’s locations will also include the Louisiana Bayou, the Gulf of Mexico, and Mexico itself. The game revolves around the theme of “placage”, involving Indian, African, and Creole women marrying rich French and Spanish men to gain powerful positions and wealth in society. What that has to do with Aveline is currently unknown.

 

Aveline herself will have access to an arsenal similar to previous Assassins, such as swords, throwing knives, pistols, and the trademark hidden blade. But she’ll also have some equipment of her own, involving dual pistols, a sugarcane machete, and a blowpipe. No word on whether she has a bow yet. When asked about having a female Assassin before, AC creative director Alex Hutchinson remarked that it would be a “pain” because it’s historically inaccurate. It would also be a pain they would have to create a plethora of new animations for her (hint: this is probably the real reason). That’s precisely what’s happening with Aveline.

 

Similar to how Bloodlines linked with II, special items will be unlocked in Liberation if it’s linked the PS3 version of III, including Connor’s tomahawk, a new character skin, a multiplayer character (yes, there’s multiplayer too, though Ubisoft hasn’t elaborated on it yet), and an instant upgrade to all of Aveline’s weapon pouches. They all sound rudimentary aside from the last one, which could make things too easy in certain parts. The game is also using the same graphics engine as its console counterpart, which should have made transferring assets and animations easier for the development team.


ac3lpic2_061712.jpg

 

There are quite a few noteworthy changes to the controls. If you’ve played an AC game before, chances are you abused the blocking mechanics to simply parry and counter every enemy in a random skirmish. That combat option no longer exists in Liberation, as blocking has been removed entirely. You’ll seemingly have to put effort into fighting now, if Aveline’s ability to “chain kill” -- involving the game pausing while the player taps other soldiers with the touch screen to instantly kill them -- doesn’t make things too easy. Automated jumping is also gone, with the function mapped to a dedicated button. That makes that makes the platforming sound reminiscent of a Prince of Persia game.

 

Man, this game sure sounds great! But there’s a lot to worry about. Here we have a game being developed from the ground up for a handheld by a western developer. There are far too many western studios treat handhelds like they’re beneath them for this to be comforting, and this could be a game haphazardly handed to a B-team (or worse). Liberation is being handled by Ubisoft Sofia, and most of their resume does not inspire confidence. Ghost Recon: Shadow Wars is a quality title, but that means nothing for their experience with AC. Hopefully any concerns turn out to be unwarranted.

 

Liberation releases on October 30th, the same day as the main console version. That sounds like a bad idea ostensibly, but it will also be available in a bundle that day for $250, which may or may not include a 4GB memory card. Having a bundle that includes the PS3 and Vita game would also be a good idea. Not everyone who owns both systems will be willing to drop $100 on the same day.


ac3pic_061712.jpg

 

Meanwhile, the console version was shown front and center at E3 2012, and represents an interesting study. Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics said their game is open world, though they didn’t show it in either demo presented at E3. Somehow, both ACIII demos did a fantastic job showing how open the game is. You’ve likely seen the live demo shown at Ubisoft’s Conference, but you may not have seen the show floor demo posted by GameTrailers, whose footage is taken from the Wii U version.

 

The city environment in the second demo shows how much of a breath of fresh air the new setting is, especially after the games began faltering in quality with each new installment after II (though they didn’t get bad). If you played them, you don’t have to look at much to tell that the team responsible for the second game is handling this one. That video also shows some of the new melee and maneuverability options.

 

This year could be good if you’re a fan of the franchise, so cross your fingers and hope that they’re both excellent titles.

Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: Protecting Lara Croft

| No Comments

dcgamingbanner.jpg


The announcement of the new Tomb Raider back in late-2010 came with many promises and expectations, an opportunity for Crystal Dynamics to free themselves from the shackles of the pre-established titles from Core Studios. Here was their chance to make Lara Croft a character of their own, and they wanted to portray her in the grittiest way they could. One of the first pieces of artwork showed Lara battered and bruised, showing the casual observer the harrowing journey she’d have to go through. Gone was the buxom “beauty” everyone (especially males) fawned over; in was a realistically-proportioned girl going on her first quest.

 

As it turns out, those depictions of a bruised Lara were actually a foretelling to what kind of media would be disseminated from the developers, and it hasn’t been to everyone’s tastes. Despite its concept initially intriguing many, the peculiar, overdone moaning from Lara in the E3 2011 demo was incredibly awkward. This was the start of when some of us began to question the precise direction they were going in. Though we saw what looked like a bondage fetishist’s simulator, we heard more details on the game that restated our excitement for it. Though we had no idea that it would go into hibernation for so long.


tombraiderpic1_061612.jpg

 

Fast forward to E3 2012, and both its demo and trailer reenergized the same fears the E3 2011 demo did and more. The moaning hadn’t been turned down; and though one E3 demo portrayed Lara having to deal with her first kill, another demo showing a later part had her mowing down her opposition with ease, Nathan Drake style. The excitement of having to survive an open world on an island was gone once everyone saw what looked like an Uncharted clone with possibly-creepy subtext. It’s like the developers had an axe to grind with their PR department.

 

But the real panic didn’t begin to set in until an interview with executive producer Ron Rosenberg was posted on Kotaku, saying that in the game, players would “want to protect Lara Croft.” That sounds like something right out of a clichéd Japanese RPG, whose male heroes are assigned the duty of protecting a traditionally-meek female character. It also sounds like American publishers have discovered the vile specter known as “moe.” And you have to love the insinuation that players can’t relate to a strong female protagonist, and that a weaker one is more appealing. He said the game would be full of continuous “Break the Cutie” moments, and confirmed that she’ll be kidnapped by scavengers who will try to rape her. As you could imagine, this upset quite a few people.


tombraiderpic3_060812.jpg

 

There’s also the very subtle implication that girls don’t play video games by saying that “when people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character." There were plenty of ladies who play games that certainly liked the old Ms. Croft, and they’re not happy with this.

 

(Let’s ignore the where he says “she is literally turned into a cornered animal.” Surely he didn’t spoil Lara’s embracement of anthropomorphism, right?)

 

Having a female character get stronger through rape is seen as taboo in storytelling for a multitude of reasons other than its obvious misogynist implications. It’s also bizarre and cliché, to the point that not even B-movies made in the last decade will touch it. That won’t stop video game writers from pursuing it, though! This isn’t saying a great story can’t be made from this premise, but that begs the question: do you trust video game writers to flesh that out well? The writing in most video games is not good, and if the cut scenes we’ve seen from this game so far are a good indication, this won’t be an exception. It’s here that I’d link to TV Tropes’ examples of rape in forms of entertainment media, if they hadn’t deleted their tropes related to the topic -- which I think was a mistake, but that’s another discussion.

 

Naturally, Eidos/Square Enix’s PR had to do damage control for this immediately. You saw an attempted rape in that trailer and gameplay demo? No, you didn’t, according to a statement released on thegame’s official website by Crystal Dynamics-head Darrell Gallagher. Yeah, we know what we saw. Their attempt to backpedal on this is only making the situation worse.


tombraiderpic2_061612.jpg

 

It’s pretty clear that Rosenberg went off kilter in his statements. Just look at a bunch of previous interviews with the developers and PR consultants, and you’ll see that “rape” isn’t even close to being mentioned. It’s an issue they wanted to dodge, but someone had to go shooting their mouth off about it.

 

No one is saying that the new Tomb Raider can’t or won’t be a good game. Given the developer’s pedigree, it probably will be a quality product. But it’s hard to deny the creepiness and bizarre innuendo currently surrounding it. There seems to be a trend with taking a previously-established strong female characters and portraying them weaker, as Metroid: Other M and The 3rd Birthday have shown. Apparently someone likes that, but there are quite a few who vocally don’t.

Missing from E3 2012: Part III

| No Comments

Yeah, that’s right. Part three. Is there another event later in the year that developers wanted to look so good that they were willing to sabotage E3 2012 for it?


dr3conceptart_061512.png

 

Dead Rising 3 (platforms unknown, but probably PS3, 360, and PC)

 

Capcom hasn’t officially confirmed the existence of Dead Rising 3, but we first received a hot scoop that it exists back in December. Siliconera posted leaked information about its scenario, along with some concept art. The game takes place in the fictional town of Los Perdidos, California, and stars an auto mechanic named Rick. Rick is trapped in a city infested by zombies, but instead of having a desire to fight them, he wants to build a plane and escape before the city is entirely overrun. DR3 will also revolve around the theme of illegal immigration.

 

Some expected the game to be announced at either Captivate 2012 or E3, but both events came and went without a mention of it. They could be saving it for the San Diego Comic-Con in July. But Capcom also isn’t averse to announcing western-developed games at Tokyo Game Show, since the game is likely still being developed by Blue Castle Games Capcom Vancouver. DmC: Devil May Cry was announced there, after all. Until then! Maybe.


dppic_061512.jpg

 

Deadly Premonition: Director’s Cut (PS3)

 

After the success of Deadly Premonition on Xbox 360 in America and Europe -- known in Japan as Red Seeds Profile, where it bombed -- executive producer Yasuhiro Wada  announced at this year’s Game Developers Conference that a “Director’s Cut” was coming to PS3, and that more details would be revealed at E3. Well, E3 is over, and we heard nothing. What happened?

 

Someone asked director and writer Swery65 (the nickname for Hidetaka Suehiro) about the whereabouts of the game on his Twitter account, to which he responded: “Aw, sorry I'm in Japan now. Sorry.” That doesn’t explain anything. Hopefully it will be shown soon, if it still exists.


anarchyreignspic_061512.jpg

 

Anarchy Reigns (PS3, 360)

 

E3 2012 has come and gone, and while the game is still releasing in Japan on July 5th (under the name Max Anarchy), Sega is still taking Platinum Games and everyone who was looking forward to this game in western territories for a ride. Apparently no one asked them about the game at the show either, which is disappointing. The game will be available as an import for the low, low price of $89.90 on Play Asia, not including shipping.

 

Speaking of Sega, I should also add that their upcoming 3DS game, Rhythm Thief & the Emperor’s Treasure wasn’t at E3 either. It’s still planned for release on July 10th, despite releasing in Europe back in April. Don’t want to give the game too much publicity now.


codbodlogo_061512.jpg

 

Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified (Vita)

 

A Call of Duty game was announced for Vita back when the system was revealed in January 2011, when it was still codenamed “NGP.” Following that, we heard nothing about it. It’s next concrete mention wouldn’t come until E3 2012, when it received the final name of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, and was stated to release this fall. It’s apparently around six months away, but we still haven’t seen the actual game yet. They’ll show it soon enough, but holding it back like this sure isn’t instilling any confidence.


contrateaser_061512.jpg

 

Contra

 

At the end of last pre-recorded “conference” from E3 2011, Konami teased a new Contra game by simply showing the “C” logo. Since then, we’ve heard nothing. It probably doesn’t have anything to do with the Contra game that showed up on preliminary 3DS lists, since they wouldn’t make such a big deal out a handheld game on a conference aimed at western audiences.

 

Really, as much as I would like to have Contra 5 (or whatever they would call it) from Wayforward, that probably wasn’t it.


respawngame_061512.jpg

 

Bungie’s New Game and Respawn’s New Game

 

Though the franchise’s both companies worked on were showcased front and center at Microsoft’s E3 conference (that’s Halo and Call of Duty), the new games these teams are working on were nowhere to be seen at the convention.

 

Bungie bid their previous franchise adieu after Halo: Reach released in 2010. Their game is being published by Activision, and is an MMOFPS called Destiny. It will likely be coming in 2013, so we might see it early next year.

 

The establishing of Respawn Entertainment with EA happened after the fallout between the aforementioned Activision and the former heads of Modern Warfare-developer Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella. The public has no idea of what Respawn’s game is, but we do know that it will have sci-fi elements and will be a competitor to Gears of War and Halo. West and Zampella were present at the EA’s E3 conference, but only to soak in the spectacle of it all. Maybe we’ll see their project soon.

 

That’s all I have for you in this feature, and honestly, that’s more than enough. This is it for the specific E3 2012 coverage on this blog too, so now we can totally put what was an utterly dire event behind us. Though given this week’s North American sales numbers, things aren’t looking rosy outside of E3 either. It’s going to be a rough time for a lot of developers and publishers in the future.

Missing from E3 2012: Part II

| No Comments

This entry is continuing from yesterday’s post, providing another six games conspicuously absent from E3 2012. If you needed evidence that some publishers were backing out of the convention, here it is.


thief4logo_061412.jpg

 

Thief 4 (Platforms unknown, but PC is a given)

 

Thief 4 (or Thi4f, as it’s sometimes referred to) is planned to be the first Thief game developed under Eidos Interactive,and published by Square Enix, and the first game in the franchise since Thief: Deadly Shadows released eight years ago (developer Ion Storm’s last game). Rumors of the fourth game started way back in 2008, and Eidos heavily teased the game in 2009. We probably should have seen it by now.

 

It’s possible Eidos and Square Enix wanted to focus on other titles at the moment (Hitman: Absolution, Tomb Raider, etc.), but it might be revealed soon, if this tease is believable.


biaf4pic_061412.jpg

 

Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

 

While Brothers in Arms: Furious 4 was still planned to utilize World War II as its backdrop, like many other war games, the CG trailer showed that this game clearly didn’t take itself seriously, complete with some gruesome over-the-top violence. Its Inglorious Basterds inspiration was clear, marking a wild departure from previous installments. As you could guess, this upset fans, but some of them were intrigued by the promise of having four player campaign co-op. The game was announced at E3 2011, with an intended release date of early 2012. Well, it’s mid-2012, and there’s no sign of it.

 

The only news we’ve received since then is that Ubisoft abandoned the trademark for it, leaving many to assume that it’s been cancelled.


prey2pic_061412.jpg

 

Prey 2 (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

 

Though Prey 2’s tone was a sizable departure from the original, its audience warmed up to it upon seeing its strong cyberpunk aesthetic, and that a developer still had the guts to make a single-player FPS in this day and age. It was shown throughout last year and playable at most press events, and those who played it came away with favorable impressions. Then, for some strange reason, Bethesda cancelled the planned live demo showcase from Game Developer’s Conference earlier this year; subsequently, rumors of its cancellation began to swirl. Panic ensued.

 

The good news is that it’s not cancelled. The bad news is that its developer, Human Head Studios, has been pulled off the project -- they hadn’t worked on the game since November, in fact. A replacement hasn’t been officially announced, but it’s worth noting that the last time Bethesda pulled a developer from a game and replaced them, we ended up with the much-reviled Rogue Warrior.


devilsthirdpic_092111.jpg

 

Devil’s Third (Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

 

Remember this game? This was the title former-Team Ninja head Tomonobu Itagaki is making at Valhalla Studios, a game development house established by many ex-Ninja Gaiden development heads -- which is why Ninja Gaiden 3 turned out the way it did. Unfortunately, we still haven’t seen it since its reveal at E3 2010. It was scheduled to be shown again at Tokyo Game Show last year, but currently-reeling publisher THQ pulled it. Right then, we knew something was up.

 

THQ revealed in an investor’s meeting that they’re looking to sell off the title to another publisher. If no one else picks it up, the repercussions could be dire.


bg&e2pic1_112411.jpg

 

Beyond Good & Evil 2

 

Beyond Good & Evil 2 has also had a popular home in “missing from E3” lists. Ubisoft hasn’t shown the game since it was revealed back in May 2008, but there have been plenty of comments from creator Michel Ancel. The game was in development for current generation consoles, but development was halted and the team was shifted to other games. Two years ago, Ancel said the game would be coming to next generation consoles, right around the same time a target video was leaked. Ubisoft likes to launch a new IP at the beginning of the generation, and it could be this, if they treat it that way.

 

But that new IP seems to be Watch Dogs. That doesn’t mean BG&E 2 won’t happen, but you have to wonder if Ubi’s higher ups will want to green light a sequel to a game that didn’t sell well, even if this installment’s style looks like it could have more mass market appeal.


awanpic_061412.jpg

Screen taken from Alan Wake's American Nightmare.


Alan Wake 2

 

A couple of days before E3 began, Remedy’s Sam Lake, Creative Director on Alan Wake, tweeted something ominous: “It's all true. ‘It will happen again, in another town, a town called Ordinary. It's happening now,” it said. His tweet linked to this blog, containing some interesting posts. Surely Remedy had something Alan Wake-related to reveal at E3, perhaps at Microsoft’s Conference. And there was nothing. That blog has been updated with more, so maybe we should stay tuned.

 

That’s your six for today. Come back for the third and final part! You’d think publishers wanted to make this E3 deliberately underwhelming.

Missing from E3 2012: Part I (Updated)

| 2 Comments

There’s always a list of games that happen to miss E3 every year, but that number is increasing more and more as time goes on. Many publishers are realizing that they don’t need E3 for promotion. While some niche publishers have believed that for a while, due to their games being overshadowed by whatever “AAA” experiences are in the limelight, some publishers of said “AAA” games are now of the same opinion. Why have it featured at a big convention when they can schedule their own press events? It kills E3 as a spectacle for us observers, but it was bound to happen.

 

Of course, some games don’t make it to the convention due to other circumstances. Either they aren’t ready to show, or have fully embraced development hell. And therein lies the premise of this feature.


gtavpic_061312.jpg

 

Grand Theft Auto V (platforms TBA)

 

Some actually expected this game to show up at E3. These people have no idea of how Rockstar operates these days. The company typically eludes E3 to schedule their own press showings. There was one point where some thought the game would show up, however. Near the end of the Microsoft’s press conference, Don Mattrick teased that a surprise title was going to be shown. Many thought he was referring to GTAV, but it turned out to be Call of Duty: Black Ops 2; a game whose appearance could hardly be called a surprise. We might see it again by the end of the year, but it will be on Rockstar’s terms. Also, any hopes that the game itself would release by the end of the year have been dashed.


ffv13pic2_050812.jpg

 

Final Fantasy Versus XIII (Playstation 3)

 

Ah, the game so engrossed in development hell that it needs no introduction!

 

You’re likely well aware of Final Fantasy Versus XIII’s predicament at the moment, unless you’ve completely given up on it. The game recently celebrated (from a certain point-of-view) its sixth anniversary, as the game was announced at E3 over six years ago. Since that post, Square Enix hasn’t mentioned it. It might show up again at this year’s Tokyo Game Show, though it’s still highly-anticipated enough that it could receive its own press conference in Japan.


tlgpic_061312.jpg

 

The Last Guardian (Playstation 3)

 

After the drama that ensued with staff members on The Last Guardian’s development team in Sony Computer Entertainment Japan -- including director and designer Fumito Ueda, who’s still working on it as a freelancer -- it was stated that American and European development studios had been brought on to help finish the game. It’s been about three years since we first saw the game, back at E3 2009. We last saw it at TGS 2010, and haven’t since. But it was mentioned at E3 last week. Giant Bomb’s Patrick Klepek asked Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, about its whereabouts. "We have the team working hard, and still it's not the right time to give people an update,” Yoshida said in response. He also had to laugh about its prolonged development time. Welp, on to Tokyo Game Show!


bioshockinfinitepic_061312.png

 

Bioshock Infinite (PC, Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

 

Some were surprised to see Bioshock Infinite was a no-show at E3, despite the developer and publisher saying it wouldn’t be there. The game was originally planned for release on October 16th, but was sadly delayed until February 26th of next year, presumably due to its multiplayer mode. Development seems to be proceeding fine at the moment, so look forward to it.


overstrikepic_061312.jpg

 

Overstrike (Playstation 3, Xbox 360)

 

Overstrike was revealed at EA’s E3 2011 Conference last year as the first multiplatform title from Insomniac Games. It’s a four-player cooperative action game starring a team of agents known as Overstirke 9, who infiltrate enemy territory with teamwork and useful gadgetry. The concept looked intriguing when we first heard about it, but we haven’t seen it since. Hopefully it surfaces soon.

 

Meanwhile, Insomniac is working on a Facebook game called Outernauts, and is preparing Ratchet & Clank: Full-Frontal Assault for PS3 as a digital download this fall. The game is still listed on Insomniac’s website, so it’s likely still coming.


Update: Apparently EA plans on showing the game sometime within the next few months. Pray that it's premise hasn't changed in the interim between its announcement and the present.


rsppic_061312.jpg

 

Rainbow Six: Patriots (Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC)

 

Rainbow Six: Patriots was announced late last year in the pages of Game Informer, to both cheers and jeers. One side liked it because it wasn’t another game demonizing brown people, the other didn’t like the tone they were going for. The game was announced at a time where the common folk in America, known as “the 99%,” was strongly rallying against “the 1%,” the wealthiest individuals in the country who were only getting richer. The enemies of the game are part of said 99%, making them domestic terrorists. They probably weren’t intentionally demonizing commoners as violent people, as some thought.

 

There have been some rumors of its cancellation, but the game was shown in Sony’s opening montage for their press conference, so it’s presumably still coming. In the meantime, part of the development team might have been moved to Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

 

That’s all I’m going to cover here today, lest I throw too many screenshots at you at once. There will be plenty more to talk about tomorrow, and possibly Friday too. Yeah, there was a lot missing from this year’s E3.

Yes, part two! Proof that there were more niche games at E3 than I originally thought. Yesterday’s post covered all of Atlus USA’s material, so this post will also round up titles that were either announced or had news about them around the time of E3, even if they weren’t actually at the show.


ragnaroktacticspic_061212.jpg

 

Aksys Games doesn’t attend E3 proper, but they had a new title to announce: Ragnarok Tactics for PSP. This game was released in Japan as Ragnarok: Princess of Light and Darkness in October of last year. It’s a strategy/RPG based on and set in the same world the MMORPG Ragnarok Online, and is developed by Apollo Soft, and comes with customizable characters and numerous job classes. There isn’t much information for the game available in English, nor are there many impressions. Interestingly enough, Aksys plans on releasing this digitally through PSN and at retail in November. 

 

(Also, don’t confuse this with Ragnarok Odyssey for Vita, a Monster Hunter-alike being localized by XSeed.)

 

Additionally, Aksys announced that Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward, the sequel to 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, is releasing in October for 3DS and Vita. Like 999 and the aforementioned Code of Princess, Kinu Nishimura served as character designer for this game.


thelaststorypic_061212.jpg

 

XSeed didn’t have much of a presence there, nor did they have anything new to announce. The Last Story for Wii was their main showcase, and was somewhat of a popular attraction due to it being the last semi-major release on Wii in America. Gametrailers posted an informative video interview with the lead producer, if you’re interested in its gameplay concepts. The game is still coming in the vague timeframe of “this summer.” Anyone who picks up the first printing will receive the game in a special case with an art book for no extra cost.

 

They also had Orgarhythm for Vita there, which is not what you would think it is upon first hearing its name. It’s a real time strategy game where they player has to use rhythm to fight enemies, thus coining the genre “Rhythm Time Strategy.” The game releases sometime later this year.


dw7epic_061212.jpg

 

Tecmo Koei had a few announcements too, aside from the Dead or Alive 5 material. Dynasty Warriors 7 Empires, recently announced for Japan, was announced for America and Europe. The only thing known about thus far is the inclusion of a new general: Xu Shu (seen in the screen above).  Like Dynasty Warriors 7 Xtreme Legends, the game is coming westward only on PS3, despite the original game releasing on 360 too. It hits Japan on September 20th, but us English-speaking folk will have to wait until February 2013.

 

Tecmo Koei also came to E3 with a brand new game to announce: Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage 2. Given how the first game sold in Japan, this isn’t too much of a surprise -- it single-handedly revitalized interest in the “Musou” (Warriors) games in that territory. A pity they didn’t have much information extending beyond “it’s coming,” but it will either encapsulate the story of Fist of the North Star 2 -- which, sadly, isn’t as good as the first one -- or they’re making up their own story. We’ll see soon enough.

 

This post would have been more than two parts if it was done, say, four years ago, but niche publishers have been slowly-but-surely moving away from E3? And can you blame them? The vast majority of attendees at the event are there to play the biggest games, many of which will have huge lines. That means even if they wanted to, they can’t afford the time to play anything smaller, especially if they’re part of the press. But that may change soon too, since even some slightly bigger publishers are starting to move away from it. E3 is going to have some interesting changes in the near future, and they’re not related to the convention’s home possibly leaving Los Angeles.

There were quite a few niche games announced at E3. Did YOU know that? You may or may not have.

 

But don’t fret! This post here exists for you, the person who might have overlooked info about these. But I’m not blaming you; niche games don’t get much coverage on bigger sites during E3 because of the rush to cover bigger games to boost readership and satiate the desires of everyone looking forward to them, so it’s very easy to miss. Also note that this E3 wasn’t particularly heavy on niche game announcements either; many of them are announcing their projects before or after E3 (or both) to prevent posts like this from happening.


testamentofsherlockholmespic_061112.jpg

 

NIS America and XSeed had press conferences prior to E3 to announce a bunch of games, but Atlus USA saved a batch of them for the show. First off, you should give them a pat on the back for picking up The Testament of Sherlock Holmes. It’s the sixth installment in the Sherlock Holmes adventure series from Frogwares, a game that’s finally releasing after we heard about it a while ago. It’s also a treat for console gamers, who usually don’t get the luxury of enjoying games in the genre very often. It was showcased at E3 last year, and many people remember it after Joystiq’s Justin McElroy discussed it on Giant Bombcast. He did go into some massive spoilers though, so you’ve been warned. This game releases in September for PS3, 360, and PC.

 

They also announced Zeno Clash II. This is the sequel to the popular indie first-person melee brawler from ACE Team, who also developed Rock of Ages. This installment will have a fully open world and will come with a refined combat system. There’s also drop-in and drop-out co-op this time around. The game releases for PC, Xbox Live Arcade, and (unlike the first game) Playstation Network in early 2013.


coppic_061112.jpg

 

But the newly-announced game that got the most attention was Code of Princess, a Guardian Heroes-like brawler for 3DS from Agatsuma Entertainment. Many of us didn’t think it would leave Japan, given the handful of niche titles that publishers have been hesitant to localize on the system. But here we have Atlus USA bringing it over, and as a retail release to boot.  This game’s protagonist is Solange, the princess of DeLuxia, whose duty it is to free her kingdom after monsters came and conquered it. She also clearly doesn’t believe in wearing clothes -- I didn’t embed a picture in this post since some of you might be at work, but here it is -- but her accomplices are dressed practically. The character designs are from Kinu Nishimura, who previously worked on many Capcom games.

 

Code of Princess has a plethora of playable characters, and comes with online co-op for up to four players. Atlus USA is also spoiling the game, as pre-ordered copies at certain retailers will come with an art book and soundtrack. The game releases this fall; possibly in October.

 

Atlus also had the Persona 4 duo there: Persona 4 Arena and Persona 4 Golden for HD consoles and Vita, respectively. Arena received a release date of August 7th for America, along with a new trailer containing a small sample of the English voices. The company announced today that pre-orders will come with an arrange soundtrack.


p4gpic_061112.jpg

 

Golden also received a new trailer, and was present at the convention in Japanese. That’s probably because Atlus Japan hasn’t finished coding for the English version, being in the middle of putting the finishing touches on the Japanese version releasing this Thursday. Atlus also mentioned that, like Arena, Chie and Teddie’s voices are being changed. Some fans are not going to be happy about that.

 

Today was all about Atlus USA, but every other publisher will be featured tomorrow. I hadn’t planned for this to be two posts, but there were actually more niche games showcased at E3 than I thought.

Another Four for Dead or Alive 5

| No Comments

doa5pic1_061012.jpg


We’re coming down to the last few months of reveals for Dead or Alive 5, and Team Ninja and Tecmo Koei are clearly running out of time to reveal them. This was evinced by the reveal of Lei Fang and Zack mere weeks ago, and they brought four more of them to show off at E3.

 

Can you believe there were some fans who thought Kokoro wouldn’t be back simply because Akira from Virtua Fighter made it into the mix? Though the two of them use the same fighting style, and thus use some of the same techniques, but they’re not clones of each other. To hammer this home, the new trailer starts with both of them fighting each other. It also shows that, like Dimensions, and unlike DoA4, Kokoro can use her kimono outfit in battle, but that’s not exactly a surprise after some fans begged for it.


doa5pic2_061012.jpg

 

Two more reveals were saved for the end of the trailer, though unfortunately not in gameplay form. Zack thinks he’s observing Tina’s “techniques” when she suddenly sneaks up to put him in a sleeper hold. It turns out he was staring at…Sarah Bryant from Virtua Fighter, the second inclusion from the franchise, following Akira. Though Tina wasn’t shown fighting in the trailer, there are plenty of videos from IGN Pro League on their Dead or Alive Youtube Channel showing what she’s capable of. (Thanks to Johnson Nguyen for informing me of this!) The page includes showcase videos for certain characters, along with footage from a tournament that took place at Tecmo Koei’s booth at E3. The play during that tournament wasn’t the best around, but it’s what you’d expect for a game that hasn’t released yet.

 

Tina’s move set hasn’t changed much, but she has a new outfit that accentuates her curves, so that’s something. And though he wasn’t in the trailer or playable at E3, Tina’s father, Bass is shown in the screen shots released by the publisher (like the first one above). Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a little while for Sarah’s gameplay debut, even in stills.

 

There’s something incredibly noticeable in those gameplay videos: they’ve made “Power Blows” useful. That sounds terrible ostensibly, but they’ve also seemingly sped up the animations that follow after one lands. Whether they’ve made them practical for use in an actual match is yet to be seen, but it sure seems like Team Ninja is trying their best to make it that way, to the chagrin of a few fans.


doa5pic3_061012.jpg

 

One of the biggest focuses in the new trailer is the showcasing some extra outfits every character will have. Some of them are back from the previous games (like Ayane’s and Ryu’s, the latter of which is an homage to the older Ninja Gaiden games), but others are new. Anyone who saw the circus stage that accompanied the last reveals should have expected that some of them would be wacky, and they are. Hitomi here looks like she would fit right in there.

 

Say, speaking of Hitomi: they indeed left her character model out of the last batch of CG models released because they were redoing her face. Here’s the result of Team Ninja’s retooling.

 

The game also received a release date or September 25th, meaning its releasing two weeks after Tekken Tag Tournament 2. By the same token, Japan is receiving the game on the 27th of the same month, predictably with a multitude of extras. There, it’s getting a premium edition containing an art book, soundtrack, eight post cards, ten special metal plates, and, erm, a voucher for twelve “sexy” costumes for the female characters. And here some of you thought they were toning down the fanservice. The standard edition will include premium outfits for Kasumi and Ayane. You can see Kasumi’s here. There’s no word on how they’ll make them available outside of Japan, but they’ll probably be DLC. Paid DLC.

Examples of Damage Control in Gaming: A Worldwide Awakening

| No Comments

dcgamingbanner.jpg


After the bitter disappointment that was last year’s E3, those of us well-versed in the hobby expected much better this year; especially from Nintendo, a company with a new console they’ll have to help move from store shelves this fall. In reality, we expected far too much. The two of the big three tried to strike a balance between the casual and hardcore audience in their press conferences, but the end result left us wondering precisely who their audience was. (The one not included there was Sony, because who knows what they were doing.) There weren’t any huge announcements, and many of the rumored ones didn’t come to pass. The result left many of us with a hollow feeling inside.

 

Oh, but Nintendo had one more opportunity to impress us. This year, the company decided to throw two shows (not including their Nintendo Direct on Sunday): one primarily aimed at Wii U, and the other showcasing 3DS software. The Wii U one turned out predictable at best, and a massive disappointment at worst. While no one asking themselves for disappointment was expecting some brand new game announcements at the 3DS Conference after that, we were at least hoping for some localization confirmations or the reemerging of previously-announced games. There’s Fire Emblem: Awakening! There’s Animal Crossing! There’s Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask! And so on. The results were the same as the main press conference. Yet another swift blow to the pants.


feapic1_060912.jpg

 

But wait! We ended up getting an announcement after all. As mentioned in the post summing up the highs and lows of the 3DS Conference, Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Aime let it slip that Fire Emblem: Awakening is definitely coming to America, which was subsequently confirmed on their Twitter account. It turned out to be one of the best announcements at E3, an event that was disturbingly light in terms of brand new titles being revealed out of the blue. How light was it? Until the confirmation of FE, Nintendo hadn’t announced a single game for 3DS at E3. Plenty of people criticized the Vita’s piss-poor showing at Sony’s Conference, but at least there were some Vita games announced at E3.

 

Fire Emblem: Awakening -- or whatever it will be called in western territories -- marks somewhat of a reboot for the franchise after it confusingly faltered after Radiant Dawn on Wii. Actually, you could make the argument that it started faltering after The Sacred Stones, considering the undewhelming graphical qualities of RD and its predecessor on Gamecube, Path of Radiance. And then there was Shadow Dragon, a remake of the first game, which divided the fanbase into two virulent halves with its gameplay decisions (no support conversations, having to sacrifice certain characters and units, etc.) and off-putting in-game character models, making it look worse than even the GBA games. And that’s likely a sizable part of the reason why its sequel, Heroes of Light and Shadow, never left Japan.

 

In fact, some made the argument that Nintendo didn’t care much about SD when they didn’t handle its localization internally. 8-4 fulfilled those duties. They do fantastic work, but you’d think Fire Emblem was important enough that they would hand it to their Treehouse.


feapic2_060912.jpg

 

But here’s Awakening, complete with a new character designer (Yusuke Kozaki, of the No More Heroes games) and approach to its presentation, the results making for a far prettier-looking game. The battle scenes are well animated and flashy, managing to capture the prettiness the 2D games excelled at and more. Support conversations have also returned, along with character marriages. In fact, not only can some of them marry, but their off-springs can grow up and be recruited in battle. It’s also the first Nintendo game to have downloadable content, which has come in the form of fan-favorite characters from guest character designers and new maps -- the first of which, Marth, was designed by ex-FE character designer Senri Kita. There was probably no question as to whether this game was releasing worldwide, considering the microtransaction possibilities. It just passed 400,000 this week in Japan, and hopefully it will do well here too.

 

So why didn’t they announce it at their conference? Because it’s very likely not coming out this year. This is happening because either Nintendo thinks the game might be buried in a plethora of other guaranteed holiday season sellers, or they don’t want two Intelligent Systems-developed games competing with each other (the other being Paper Mario: Sticker Star), or both. Look forward to it!

mgrrpic1_060912.png


It’s tough to look back on the days where the Japanese character action game genre was one of the biggest in gaming. It was the original Devil May Cry that pushed it into relevance, a game that redefined how 3D action games could be done. It was a test of skill and the player’s reflexes, giving them a satisfying sense of reward, all while disposing of their enemies stylishly. Like any genre that ascends to prominence, it quickly spawned a number of clones, while games in the main franchises that executed its core concepts exceptionally prospered.

 

And now we might be seeing its last days. The Devil May Cry franchise has been handed to Ninja Theory; and while DmC: Devil May Cry may not turn out bad, it clearly doesn’t have the same approach. Fans lost all hope for the Ninja Gaiden franchise after its much-maligned third installment. And the existence of Project P-100 and the utterly inane situation surrounding the western release of Anarchy Reigns is proof that Bayonetta 2 will never happen -- along with Platinum and Sega working together again. Fans of the genre never thought it would crumble this quickly, but now all we have is Revengeance. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, that is.

 

It’s funny, too, because Rising wasn’t originally supposed to be in this genre. This only happened after it was stripped from a team within Kojima Productions that proved too inefficient to handle it, leading to duties of development being handed to Platinum Games while the previous developers worked on the story. Kojipro, along with Hideo Kojima himself, felt Platinum’s style was befitting of its character, a cyborg ninja Raiden, and the setting, which wouldn’t look out of place in Vanquish. But that doesn’t mean they’ve forsaken the philosophy the previous developers wanted to establish. We saw before that this wasn’t the case, despite some Metal Gear fans desperately wanting to convince themselves of the opposite; and we saw even more with its showing at E3.


mgrrpic2_060912.png

 

Both developers involved said the “zan-datsu” feature (Cut what you will! What will YOU cut!?) is still in, but we saw that they weren’t lying. In fact, it looks far more intuitive than what we saw before, back when the original game was only in a tech demo stage (which it never left). It can be activated within the middle of combos, including mid-air ones. The environments may not be as detailed, but they were a worthy sacrifice for a higher framerate. The E3 trailer showed this well, but Gametrailers.TV did a fantastic job of showing every feature.

 

We also saw a surprise feature made a comeback after we were told it wouldn’t: stealth. The option is there, though it doesn’t have as big of a focus as it was in the original version, and for good reason. The biggest problem that Kojima Productions’ development team had was with implementing the stealth in a logical manner, the biggest factor that led to its cancellation. It was supposed to be similar to the Batman Arkham games, which wouldn’t make any sense considering Raiden isn’t a mere human in a bat suit with a bulletproof vest.


mgrrpic3_060912.png

 

But Platinum Games has a habit for making stylish games, and Revengeance is nowhere near a slouch in that area. Putting action in the forefront makes far more sense than the original concept, considering the stunts Raiden was performing on towering mechs back in Metal Gear Solid 4. And while said acrobatics were stylish, Platinum’s intention was to give the player the ability to execute those along with plenty of other techniques inspired by their previous titles (DMC and Bayonetta). That means dodging and parrying attacks, and enemies that will punish you if you use them poorly.

 

Revengeance has been made to keep both Metal Gear and Japanese character action fans happy. Though there will definitely be some who can’t let the old game go -- those too lazy to read and think about the reasons why -- Platinum’s done a fantastic job of making a product that already looks better than it after only a year-and-a-half of development time. The game’s coming out a little later than we expected, with a release date of “early 2013,” but a demo will be included with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection when it releases this fall. Enjoy it, because it could very well be the last of its kind.

A Tomb Raider that Hates Tombs

| No Comments

tombraiderpic1_060812.jpg


It was difficult not to be excited about the new Tomb Raider upon its original announcement. It’s an opportunity for Crystal Dynamics to establish their own canon after the franchise’s previous developer, Core, ran it into the ground with the dire Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. And it was promised not to be the same old thing with a new coat of paint. No, the intention for it was to take TR’s original concept and fully realize it with currently-existing technology.

 

But the situation didn’t take a favorable turn. However, last year’s live demo at E3 2011 was horribly awkward, featuring a very green Lara Croft screaming and panting far too constantly (which sounded like something else if you weren’t paying attention to the screen). This year’s E3 2012 trailer, first shown Thursday night on GameTrailers TV, did it no favors. No, it actually exacerbated the skepticism surrounding it. It had been a year since Square Enix showed it, but anyone who was hoping the more annoying aspects were dialed down was sorely disappointed. It could turn many fans off, which is a shame since the details about the actual game surrounding it sound great.

 

tombraiderpic3_060812.jpg


It’s admittedly difficult to display some of those concepts in a trailer, though. {arts of the game that follow a linear path, but it’s promised to have a semi-open world style that lets you, as Lara, journey through the jungle in a game of survival. That sound like the concept for Metal Gear Solid 3, and the scene from the trailer showing Lara kill a deer looked eerily similar to how Naked Snake had to kill animals for sustenance. The other gameplay parts made it look like precisely what people feared it would resemble when they first announced the reboot: Uncharted with a girl. Complete with some sections that look like they’re on rails and cover shooting.

 

And some of the story-based aspects starring a considerably meeker Lara led some to call it Tomb Raider: Other T. (Saying she looks as bad as Metroid: Other M’s Samus is an exaggeration, but you can see what they’re going for.) A good portion of us understand that, despite this not being the same Lara Croft portrayed in the previous games, this is supposed to be an origin story showing how this particular Lara can overcome a harrowing fate that’s been placed before her. That’s tough to convey in a three (or so) minute trailer, something you might be able to tell after watching it -- especially upon hearing the line “I hate tombs.” What counts isn’t that she’s portrayed as a greenhorn; the execution is going to be a huge key here. Showing how she’ll grow into someone similar to the Lara we know (you know, without the played up “assets”) is an excellent idea, and you can see why they wouldn’t show any spoiler-sensitive material in a trailer.

 

The article in the July issue of Game Informer does a good job of clearing up issues some think the game could potentially have. Showing elements that resembled Uncharted brought along fears that its platforming would be similarly automated. But no, they’re promising that it will actually allow for more freedom in jumping than even the older TR games, claiming you’ll be able to speed up and slow down jumps for added precision. That should make platforming more enjoyable than even the older games, provided the environmental design is up to par. There will also be an experience system to obtain new moves, and, thus, unlock new possibilities.


tombraiderpic2_060812.jpg

 

A pity they didn’t capitalize on that in their E3 demo during Microsoft’s press conference, which made everyone who said it was an Uncharted rip-off feel vindicated. None of the open sections or platforming mechanics were shown. Instead, we saw Lara go from one point to another, mowing down everyone in her path with her bow and shotgun, with sections filled with QTEs for good measure. Strange for a game that’s centered around a young Lara coming to grips with her first murder, but hey, video games. This only reduces the confidence of everyone looking forward to it even further.

 

Fortunately, it had a chance to redeem itself in the numerous stage demos featured on various websites, the Gamespot one in particular, which showed some of the mellower aspects the game will have. This probably wouldn’t have made a good demo for everyone watching and attending a press conference -- i.e. the audience that needs gunfire and explosions to remain attentive -- but it shows that it has serious potential for greatness.

 

And they still have plenty of time to provide us with more live demos and, even better, developer diaries that show us what the staff was talking about. The game was recently delayed from later this year to March 5th, 2013, so look forward to it in the similarly-crowded Q1 of next year.

We’ve been through all of the absolutely mortifying E3 2012 press conferences from the big three, but one of them wasn’t done yet. Nintendo still wanted to throw one more show before they left, one focused on their handheld: Nintendo 3DS. They didn’t get much time to talk about its upcoming software on at the actual press conference due to the focus being on Wii U, but this was the time to shine for them. While titles name-dropped at the conference were mentioned, we tuned in because perhaps they had a few surprises in store for us.

 

Look, I’m not going to beat around the bush here: there were zero surprises at this conference. It was yet another spectacular waste of time, just like every other conference at this E3, Ubisoft’s notwithstanding. Every game shown here was featured either on Nintendo’s E3 website, or was at their main conference. I figured I’d let you down easy; just because the conference was a waste of time doesn’t mean this blog post has to be.

 

Things started out with…jokes between Nintendo of America CEO Reggie Fils-Amie and Senior VP Scott Moffitt. That’s just excellent. The show began in earnest when Moffitt hopped up on stage to focus on upcoming first-party and third-party titles.


cvlosmofpic_060712.jpg

 

Interestingly, the show began with a third-party title: a game with an utter mouthful of a name called Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- Mirror of Fate. This game is, of course, part of the Lords of Shadow saga, and will act as a tale that branches together both console games. It sounds nice, and has some great voice acting. Unfortunately, the game itself looks very iffy. Maybe it plays better than it looks. Producer David Cox also confirmed that, in addition to Trevor and Simon Belmont, Alucard will also be a playable character. There are supposed to be four of them, so maybe they’ll throw in Sypha Belnades to feature the whole Castlevania III trio. The game releases this holiday season.


lmdarkmoonpic_060712.jpg

 

Next was a trailer for Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. You’d think would have been a good time to mention that their friends at Next Level Games are developing this game, rather than Nintendo EAD in Kyoto. But then you’d be thinking logically; that’s far too rudimentary for a rote conference like this. The game releases this holiday season at retail and on the eShop. It would be fitting if it released around Halloween.

 

A trailer and gameplay description of what’s going into Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion followed this. Warren Spector of Junction Point Studios and Peter Ong of Dreamrift discussed about how the game was made. Both Dreamrift and Ong were previously responsible for Monster Tale and Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure -- the latter of which was developed at EA, and the team subsequently departed the company afterward. Ong said every game he’s done was inspired by Castle of Illusion on Sega Genesis, and it was a pleasure to work on this game. You could tell that he was being genuine. Power of Illusion is coming on November 18th.


pmsspic_060712.jpg

 

After this, it was time to talk about another first-party game in Paper Mario: Sticker Star. As said before, it’s this game’s third E3 in a row. We were treated to a walkthrough of the game’s features by Nate Bihldorff of Nintendo’s Treehouse localization team. While the game looks predictably fantastic, Bihldorff’s elaboration on its features was a pleasure to listen to. Paper Mario is special to him because the first game on Nintendo 64 was the first game he worked on at the Treehouse, so working on another one is a treat. And you can tell that he was incredibly enthusiastic about the title, making it one of the best live demos at E3, if not the best. The game finally releases this holiday season simultaneously at retail and on the eShop.

 

It was here that we started to realize how much of a chore Scott Moffitt is to listen to. Regardless of how great the game he was talking about looked, the man has the uncanny ability to suck every amount of excitement out of it. He might be a nice guy, but he’s one of the most boring public speakers I’ve ever heard at an E3 event.


kh3dpic_060712.jpg

 

The Paper Mario demo was followed by trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (wouldn’t it have been nice to show this immediately after Epic Mickey: PoI?), Scribblenauts Unlimited, and other third-party games. You can also see these on Nintendo’s E3 website. In fact, you could see them there before the conference, but they decided to show them here because who knows.

 

Though it’s not a 3DS game, they mentioned that Pokemon Black and White 2 are coming to DS this fall, and have unique features for 3DS. This was followed by the always-great back-patting (Look at how many 3DSes we’ve sold! Look at how many downloads we’ve had on the eShop! Look at…wel,l you get it.) An original series called Threediots is also now available on the eShop. It’s worth noting that this was the only announcement at the conference, and the audience was not thrilled.

 

Following this was a description and trailer for Lego Batman 2: DC Superheroes, saying that it not only includes Batman, but other DC superheroes. Bet you didn’t guess that!


nsmb2pic_060712.jpg

 

And now, it was time to close the conference with…New Super Mario Bros. 2. Moffitt once again (thankfully) invited Bihldorff to the stage, who emphasized that coins are important in this game. One new power-up is a golden fire flower that will turn everything you shoot a fireball at into gold, including blocks. And here you thought the NSMB games were a little too generous with 1up’s before. The Raccoon Tail has returned, and unlike New Super Mario Bros. 3D, it actually lets you fly. The game also has co-op, but curiously, both characters have to be on the same screen at all times, despite not playing on the same console. The demo gave me the feeling that this game is from the B team inside Nintendo, while the main one is focused on New Super Mario Bros. U. I sincerely hope I’m wrong. NSMB2 hits store shelves and the eShop on August 19th.

 

And that’s it! Yet another conference that leaves you with a hollow feeling inside. Also notice that Nintendo didn’t officially announce a single 3DS game at this year’s E3.

 

But where’s my Fire Emblem, you jerks!?


feawakeningpic_060712.jpg

 

Funny you should (supposedly) ask that! Following the conference, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier asked Reggie if Fire Emblem: Awakening was coming to America. He answered “yes.” Unsure of whether he heard him right, he asked again, and received the same answer. He also remarked that it was in the press packet, though it wasn’t. There’s nothing like a genuine slip-up. Since the cat was out of the bag, Nintendo just went ahead and confirmed it themselves via their Twitter account.

 

Despite that, there were still quite a few games conspicuously absent from their lineup this year. The biggest one (as in, bigger than Fire Emblem) was Animal Crossing for 3DS, originally announced along with the system itself two years ago. And this is the first E3 where Layton didn’t make an appearance since 2008. The next game, Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask, was expected to be there since Nintendo’s been publishing a game in the franchise every holiday season since ’09, and the game’s name was trademarked in America.

 

Nintendo was intently focused on only talking about games coming out in 2012 at this E3. Was that a good decision? For the “gamers” who pay attention to this, probably not. Do they care? Probably not.

Hidden within Nintendo's E3 Site: Wii U Edition

| No Comments

Do you remember the “Buried within Nintendo’s Press Packet” features I did after the Nintendo conferences ended at E3? I’ve been doing them for the last three years, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to do that this year. Nintendo previously always had special username and password credentials that let everyone observe and download whatever they wanted on their E3 press site, but they changed that this year. Taking its place will be “Hidden within Nintendo’s E3 Website,” which regrettably doesn’t have the same “investigative” ring to it. I’ll have to rely on that website for information on games that weren’t featured at the press conference. But as of last year, both the press and E3 sites have contained similar content, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

 

We saw an OK amount of upcoming first-party software due for release on Wii U in the launch window at Nintendo’s conference. But the big question was whether they adhered to their usual standard of having some titles that weren’t featured there. It turns out they did, and at least one of them will leave you wondering why it wasn’t focused on while they wasted everyone’s time talking about a game already available on three platforms.


projectp100pic_060612.jpg

 

The biggest title of these is Project P-100, being developed by none other than Platinum Games. It’s an action game whose aesthetics are heavily inspired by Japanese “Tokusatsu” shows (what shows like Power Rangers were derived from) and superhero comics, similar to Viewtiful Joe. Like them, the game is about a bunch of heroes that have to save random citizens to protect the earth from an alien attack. But you won’t be simply saving them from harm. No, you’ll recruit them to join your merry band to unlock another arsenal of options. You’ll give the heroes commands and solve puzzles by using the Wii U GamePad’s touch screen.

 

The game was first revealed on GameTrailers TV yesterday, and was eventually featured on Gamespot. The latter did a much better job showing and explaining how the game plays. It looks like a real-time strategy game from the screen shots, but it’s actually a straight action game. You’re also probably wondering who within Platinum is working on this. Well, it was announced that the director is indeed Hideki Kamiya, means those rumors saying that Bayonetta 2 is dead are now 100% confirmed.

 

But hold your morbidity for a minute, and let’s look on the bright side. Instead of a sequel, we’re getting a new, inventive IP with serious potential. Project P-100 may not be the final name, and we’ll find out soon as it’s scheduled to release within the system’s launch window.


game&wariopic_060612.jpg

Yes, we can see that!


Another title not at their conference was Game & Wario, developed by Intelligent Systems. It probably wasn’t there because it’s another mini-game collection, containing games that can be played either in single-player or with up to five partners. Unlike Nintendo Land, though, this one -- at least, the games we’ve seen so far -- doesn’t utilize old Nintendo properties for inspiration. They take their own appealingly wacky tone that’s not dissimilar to the Wario Ware games, all of which utilize the Wii U GamePad. It’s tough to gauge the depth they could offer right now, but we should find out soon, since it’s also planned for release in the game’s launch window.


wiiupanoramaviewpic_060612.jpg

A rare picture of a Mii mesmerized by a tablet.


Lastly, there’s this…thing. It’s called Wii U Panorama View, a piece of software that will let the viewer explore lands by using the gyroscope embedded in the Wii U GamePad. At the end of a section, you’ll be shown the three areas you focused on most. It doesn’t seem like something that could be sold on store shelves, so it could be preinstalled software on the console to offer a little more than merely showing the capabilities of both the screen and gyroscope on the pad. It’s due this holiday season, in some form.

 

For those of you wondering: for Wii U, the launch window refers first three to four months of the console’s life, according to Reggie Fils-Aime. This was pretty much all Nintendo showed at their conference yesterday, which, given the reaction to the conference, was a mistake. They might find some new opportunities to raise confidence in the system, but these were puzzling actions from a company that was forced to endure a harsh lesson with the 3DS about a year ago. This has been one strange E3.

Nintendo's E3 2012 Press Conference: Your Body was Too Ready

| No Comments

It was pretty evident that Sony and Microsoft were on cruise control with yesterday’s E3 conferences, given that both of their consoles are being phased out soon. But today was Nintendo’s proving ground, as a company with new console coming this holiday season. Their intention here would be to sell prospective purchasers on software, since they got a good portion of the hardware elements out of the way with their Nintendo Direct on Sunday.


pikmin3pic_060512.jpg

 

The conference started off on a right note, with Shigeru Miyamoto walking with Pikmin on stage. He, along with translator Bill Trinen, was there to announce Pikmin 3 for Wii U. It looks like a familiar Pikmin experience, albeit in HD and with new control methods. The game can be played on the TV screen while a map is presented on the Wii U GamePad screen, but there’s an option to play the game solely on the pad as well. Miyamoto feels the latter is the best way to play it. Unfortunately, there was no release date given.

 

Miyamoto then bids us adieu and fan-favorite Reggie-Fils Aime came out on stage to announce that the conference would be focused on Wii U --which, by the way, now comes in glossy black -- with the intention to show off 23 software offerings. That certainly sounds promising, at least. He also confirmed that Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon Video will be on the system.

 

Reggie began talking about the hardware by saying the system now supports two Wii U pads, though many of the first generation “launch window” games will only support one. He also described the pads features as having “asymmetric gameplay.” And thus, “asymmetric” (and its variants) is now the favorite word of the day. He also detailed Miiverse, though the description of it was far more in-depth in the aforementioned Nintendo Direct. Everything he went over was covered better before, making this an fantastic waste of eight minutes.


nsmbupic_060512.jpg

 

Now, it’s time to talk about new games again. First up: New Super Mario Bros. U for Wii U. This is the game shown at Nintendo Direct Sunday, formerly known as New Super Mario Bros. Mii. The graphics have been enhanced to take advantage of its HD resolutions, but it doesn’t look too different from the older games stylistically. This time, the game will support up to five players, but they didn’t specify whether it would have online multiplayer. Also, it’s a pity that some players will still be stuck with generic Toads. It releases this holiday season, making it the first time a Nintendo system is coming out with or close to a Mario game in a long time.

 

The next game they chose to spend time with was…Batman: Arkham City -- Armored Edition, an enhanced version of the game you likely already played months ago (and recently received a Game of the Year Edition), despite how Reggie tried to desperately dance around that fact. This version will have features that take advantage of the Wii U pad, and armored versions of playable characters Batman and Catwoman. That’s great and all, but demoing a game that came out a year ago isn’t going to get anyone interested in a new system, regardless of it being well received. Why they focused on this at all is mind-boggling.


scribblenautsunlimitedpic_060512.jpg

 

While Warner Bros. was there, they also announced Scribblenauts Unlimited for the system. This game, like the older ones, lets you create objects that can be used in the game. You’ll also be able to share the experience with your friends. It looks and sounds nice, but the question is whether its potential audience will be willing to purchase a new system and spend $60 for a game that has a “lighter” version on iOS for only a few dollars. A 3DS version of Unlimited is coming as well. Both versions are coming this holiday season.

 

Following this was a third-party game reel, featuring previously-announced titles like Darksiders II and Assassin’s Creed 3, along with Mass Effect 3 and Tank! Tank! Tank! from Namco Bandai. It was not very long, and the general reaction to it (along with mine) was a nearly-simultaneous “That’s it!?” Not a good sign for third-party releases on Wii U.

 

Reggie acknowledged the very-prevalent “My body is ready” meme right before announcing Wii Fit U. This version offers a number of new exercises, only possible with the Wii U pad. It can also be played without using the TV. The game releases around the system’s launch window.

 

Following this was the announcement of the temporarily-titled SiNG, which is being developed by Performance Party and published by Nintendo. As you could guess, it’s a singing game, with the twist of having the lyrics displayed on the Wii U pad. As you could also guess, the audience could not have been more disinterested. I personally think it could be entertaining if you have a huge crowd around a house. The game releases in the launch window.


nsmb2pic_060512.jpg

 

Though the main focus of this conference was on Wii U, Reggie decided to take a break from talking about it to show some 3DS games for a few minutes with Executive Vice President of Nintendo of America, Scott Moffitt. The first game featured was predictably New Super Mario Bros. 2. Moffitt said this game will be all about the gold, which is an interesting decision. The game releases in America on August 19th.

 

Second was the third showing at E3 for Paper Mario on 3DS, which has the final name of Paper Mario: Sticker Star. The third and final first-party game being shown was Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, a renamed version of Luigi’s Mansion 2. Both of these will release in the holiday season. Following this was a third-party reel showing other games like Kingdom Hearts 3D and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- Mirror of Fate. There’s going to be an hour-long showcase focused on 3DS tomorrow starting at 6PM PT/9PM ET, so if there’s a game you want to see on 3DS but didn’t, I would suggest waiting until tomorrow before raging.

 

It’s worth noting that though this wasn’t focused on 3DS, Nintendo showed more for it here than Sony showed for Vita at their conference. That speaks volumes.

 

Next was the re-unveil of the Lego City game announced last year, given the final name of Lego City Undercover. It’s a game about an undercover agent named Chase McCain, who can switch into numerous disguises to get around. He’ll be chasing a man named Rex Fury across the city. The Wii pad will be used as a police gadget for McCain, and game is coming around the launch window. There’s also a 3DS game in the works, which will be a completely different game.

 

Ubisoft was the last third-party studio featured, and they decided to show off Just Dance 4 first. Reggie acted as a puppet master for the dancers with the Wii U pad, and said he feels like he’s in the same position as president of Nintendo of America. Following this was ZobmiU, a Wii U-exclusive zombie shooter, which was the game shown on the bizarre segment on Nintendo Direct. You can scan items and go through the inventory using the Wii U pad, and play with others online. Following this was a sizzle reel featuring other games like the aforementioned AC3 and Rayman Legends.


nintendolandpic_060512.jpg

 

The final game Nintendo had to announce for Wii U was Nintendo Land, the system’s equivalent of Wii Sports. This is a mini-game collection featuring games inspired by gameplay in other Nintendo titles, and featuring fun in solo play and multiplayer. The final version will have twelve games to try, but only five have been revealed at the moment. The game demoed at the conference was Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, where software producer Katsuya Eguchi spent an unbelievable amount of time explaining a concept that’s mainly a twist on Pac-Man Vs. This could be an enormous amount of fun with others, but they had trouble keeping the audience interested.

 

And that’s the show! And it was yet another disappointing E3 conference, despite having such a promising start. Nintendo’s aim here was to sell the core gamers watching on a Wii U, and they didn’t do a good job of that. The first-party lineup looked OK (and just OK), but the current third-party lineup is frighteningly anemic. Unless they have other plans between now and this holiday season, they’re going to have a tough time selling the system to anyone still currently satisfied with their PS3s and 360s.

 

Everything from this conference can be seen on Nintendo’s E3 page.

Sony had no choice but to put on a great show this year, and absolutely. After all, they’ve had a rough past year with their stock and financials dropping tremendously -- the former of which tumbled to its lowest point since 1984 yesterday. Their gaming district isn’t among those suffering the worst, but every facet of Sony needs to look strong, and today was their proving point. It was also the time to prove that the Playstation Vita has some potential, given the thorough ravaging it’s receiving in the retail market.


beyondpic_060412.jpg

 

The conference started with the announcement of Heavy Rain-developer Quantic Dream’s new game: Beyond: Two Souls for PS3. The reveal was somewhat ruined thanks to some screens and info being leaked this morning, but what matters with their games is seeing them in motion, and it looked great. It also stars the actual Ellen Page, and not a clone like The Last of Us has. It probably seemed even greater given that it wasn’t another demo featuring someone shooting or stabbing random dudes and blood splattering. No details on how the game plays were given, nor a release date.

 

A live demo for Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale was shown next, featuring four players battling it out in a game you, of course, can’t help but compare to Super Smash Bros. They also made a special announcement (that many of us speculated beforehand): it’s also coming to Vita. They also revealed two characters: Nathan Drake from Uncharted and Big Daddy from Bioshock. It’s worth noting that both of these were leaked beforehand. Man, these guys just can’t keep a secret.

 

The next announcement was that the Vita will function as a special controller for LittleBigPlanet 2 with DLC this fall. This doesn’t mean they have so little use for Vita that they just see it as an add-on peripheral for PS3, right? Not quite, but it’s not a vote of confidence. It gave me flashbacks of Sony using the PSP as a rear view mirror for Gran Turismo 5 back at E3 2006.

 

Next was for Playstation Plus, where they announced the free games that would be available for the service this month, including, Infamous 2, the aforementioned LittleBigPlanet 2, and Saints Row 2. They also gave everyone in the audience a free month of the service. That’s not quite as bad as giving them a free console, but it’s pretty shady. Lastly, PSOne Classics are coming to Vita, starting with Final Fantasy VII and Tomb Raider. That doesn’t sound like it means all games on the service will be playable on Vita immediately, which is disappointing.

 

Sony also didn’t do the best they could to sell their new handheld. They reconfirmed the existence of Call of Duty for Vita, which has been given the final name of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified. And you’d think this would be the biggest opportunity to show it, but they didn’t, for some silly reason. It’s coming this holiday season, so maybe we’ll see it before then.


ac3liberationpic_060412.jpg

 

The second game they announced for Vita? Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. It’s an exclusive title that finally stars what some fans of the franchise were waiting for: a female assassin. It’s promised to be a big, open world experience on a handheld, made in the traditional AC mold. It releases on the same day as the console game (October 30th), and is getting its own bundle with the Ceramic White Vita and a 4GB card. Yes, a white Vita is coming with a game that features a half-black protagonist.

 

And…that’s it for Vita. Uh oh. E3 was supposed to be the proving ground for it, and they proved absolutely nothing. They could have at least given us a montage of what software titles are coming for the system. Onward to Tokyo Game Show, I suppose.

 

Following Liberation was another Assassin’s Creed III demo, but this one was different from the earlier one featured at the Ubisoft conference. While that focused on combat and exploration, this one showed the experience of being out at sea to steer a ship. The AC games have never been very good at sections where you’re not on-foot, and this one looked similarly underwhelming. Hopefully it’s better to play than watch. ACIII is also getting some exclusive DLC for the PS3 version, and is getting a bundle that, sadly, still includes the normal black PS3. A missed opportunity for a while PS3 bundle to go with the white Vita one.

 

Sony had another Ubisoft demo with Far Cry 3, which was also different from the version at Ubi’s press conference (which contains nudity, so watch out). This one focused on four-player co-op, and really didn’t provide anything we haven’t seen in a game like this before. Not quite as effective as a demo that focused on the psychological, mind screw elements. FC3 will also have free exclusive DLC for the PS3 version.


wonderbookpic_060412.jpg

 

Now it was time for a brand new IP: Wonderbook: Book of Spells. This game is about a book coming to life and inviting you into a brand new world (don’t they already do this!?) using Playstation Move. It started off nice with the announcement that Harry Potter author JK Rowling would be contributing to it, but then put us to sleep with a very slow and mellow live demo. They announced Rowling’s involvement again at the end of it, perhaps proof that they knew it was boring. They also remarked that they were happy that this game wasn’t leaked, but there’s probably a good reason for that. The game hits shelves this holiday season.

 

Remember Playstation Suite? Its beta concluded earlier this year, and they announced that it’s coming soon to Android phones and tablets. It also has a new name: Playstation Mobile. They also announced a partnership with HTC.


gowascensionpic_060412.jpg

 

The penultimate live demo was for the first opportunity to show the single-player campaign to God of War: Ascension. It was…well, God of War. That means a cacophony of bloody, messy head-ripping and gratuitous stabbing ensued. They didn’t show anything that differentiated it from the other games. It hits store shelves on March 12th, 2013.


tloupic_060412.png

 

Closing out the show was, of course, the first gameplay demo for the highly-anticipated The Last of Us. This demo focused on the game’s methodical elements, featuring survival through limited ammo and stealth. It got pretty violent at time (though it was tepid after the demo that proceeded it), but they focused on every element of gameplay they wanted to show. Overall, a great demo. A pity they left without giving us a release date -- not even a vague one.

 

So, here’s Sony’s conference. They started and ended with two great reveals, but its innards were worryingly hollow. Their remaining PS3 offerings look great as they’re bringing this console generation to a close, but they did a horrible job selling anyone on a Vita. It’s time to worry about that system, and it’s time to worry about Sony’s morale.


All videos from the conference can be seen on Sony's Youtube channel.

Microsoft's E3 2012 Press Conference: Entertainment Evolved

| No Comments

E3 2012 began in earnest with Microsoft’s press conference today. Before it began, it was announced that the focus wouldn’t be on solely on showing games, but on the “Entertainment” experience too. If you were planning on watching it, you should have been preparing yourself for a lot of Kinect demonstrations and information about other, non-gaming content you can find on Xbox Live.


halo4pic_060412.jpg

 

But they started the show on a high note with Halo 4. This was the first opportunity for Microsoft and new developer 343 Industries to show off a significant amount of gameplay footage, and they put on a very impressive display. Though the games are no longer coming from Bungie, 343 showed that they know how what Halo is about, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t add some additional features. While watching it, I wasn’t the only one to remark that some parts looked eerily similar to something out of a Metroid Prime game. But its influences work well with Halo, as was shown here. The live demo was an incredible sight, to the point that it unfortunately made every subsequent one look paltry in comparison.


scbpic_060412.jpg

 

Following this was the unveil of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, though the surprise of it was dulled due to its existence being leaked late last week, and screens being leaked hours before the conference. There’s still stealth, but if this demo was indicative of the final product, anyone who was hoping for this game to be a return to form after the “actionized” Conviction is going to be very disappointed. Also, anyone who liked hearing Michael Ironside as the voice of Sam Fisher will also be disappointed. They also showed that you can yell out to attract enemies using Kinect. Fans aren’t going to like that either.

 

With that, displaying the Kinect-centric features in Madden 13 was next, with special guest Joe Montana, featuring calling out your plays with Kinect. It was as exciting as it sounds. The game hits store shelves on August 28st. A new trailer for Fable: The Journey was also shown, which releases on October 9th, but no live demo was provided. An all CG trailer for the recently revealed Gears of War: Judgment was also shown, which releases in 2013. The same goes for Forza Horizons, which looked remarkably similar to a Need for Speed game. That releases on October 23rd.

 

Then it was time to bid adieu to video games, because discussion about the Xbox ecosystem expanding to new entertainment horizons needed to happen. Xbox Bing can now find movies and shows via genre, and supports additional languages. There’s also Nike+ Kinect Training, which allows you to share your fitness information over Xbox Live. Someone will get some mileage out of that, but they likely weren’t watching this. The “biggest” reveal was Xbox SmartGlass, in which you can use your mobile device (tablet or phone) to navigate around Xbox Live. You can also send a movie from your tablet to Xbox Live, and vice versa, while it’s in progress. You’ll also be able to use Internet Explorer on Xbox Live come this fall, which I’m sure excites someone.  Upon hearing all of this, now you know why Nintendo threw a surprise Nintendo Direct to focus on the Wii U’s features yesterday.

 

They also decided to demonstrate some of this by showing a pretty big spoiler for Prometheus. Thanks guys.


tombraiderpic_060412.jpg

 

It was finally time to get back to video games with the Tomb Raider demo. Crystal Dynamics really needed to impress everyone this time after the awkward E3 2012 trailer, and they sadly didn’t quite do that. However, they did get a few more people excited for it, so it’s an improvement, but it still looks a little too close to Uncharted. They have plenty of time to impress people later, since it doesn’t release until March 5th, 2013. It was also announced that DLC will be released exclusively for 360 for a limited time.

 

Microsoft decided to use the next opportunity to show off some new IPs. First was Ascend: New Gods, a third-person action/RPG coming from the developers responsible for Toy Soldiers: Signal Studios. The second was LocoCycle, from Twisted Pixel Studios (of Splosion Man). The final one was a new title from Gore Verbinski called Matter, which is “Made for Kinect.” Gameplay was shown for Ascend, but the last two were only given teaser trailers.


re6pic_060412.jpg

 

It was now time to demo Resident Evil 6. Hopefully you weren’t hoping for Capcom to show off some of the horror and atmospheric elements during the conference, because they had nothing but shooting and explosions for us. The demo showed some of the new gameplay features, including moving while shooting, cover shooting, new melee attacks, and co-op features. There were also a lot of QTEs. Hopefully there’s another demo for this later on, because it looked a little rough. The game releases on October 2nd.

 

And thus began the odd transition from the gruesome RE6 to a much more family-friendly Wreckateer for Xbox Live Arcade, developed by Iron Galaxy Studios. A confusingly lengthy description of its gameplay style was provided, which can be easily summed up as “Angry Birds in 3D with Kinect.”  It’s coming as part of the Summer of Arcade this summer.

 

We finally got to see a trailer for THQ and Obsidian Entertainment’s South Park: The Stick of Truth, which fans of the show should love. But you didn’t even have to be a fan to find the show’s creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, likable. Finally, special guests at an E3 conference that didn’t look horribly awkward. The game releases in 2013.

 

They followed this up with…oh my. Did you catch the word about Microsoft having a Grammy Award-winning artist performing at the conference beforehand? Turns out it was Usher, and he was performing for Dance Central 3. It seems like the video of the game was pre-recorded, understandable since everyone was focused on the main attraction.


codbo2pic_060412.jpg

 

Before Microsoft bid us adieu, they had one more surprise live demo for us…Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. After seeing so many live demos featuring players shooting random folk, this one received a tepid reaction. The game releases on November 13th.

 

And that’s the show! It wasn’t the worst E3 press conference in recent memory, and it wasn’t the worst show Microsoft put on. But it was far from the best one we’ve seen. It’s nothing we didn’t expect, though. Next year should be better, considering they’ll likely be trying to sell some new hardware.


All videos from the conference can be seen on Xbox.com.

Nintendo’s re-unveil of the Wii U is easily the most anticipated of all the E3 presentations, given that it’s a brand new system. Plenty were hyped up for the showing on Tuesday, but in a stunning twist, every Nintendo district worldwide posted on their respective Twitter and Facebook accounts that they would be having a special Nintendo Direct the Sunday before E3. The question of why their conference was only going to be an hour long was answered: it’s because they wanted to get some Wii U specific aspects out of the way early, and ahead of their competitors’ conferences scheduled for tomorrow.


wiiugamepadpic_060312.jpg

 

The entirety of this Nintendo Direct was hosted by Nintendo Ltd. CEO Satoru Iwata. His first order of business was to show off the brand new, slightly redesigned Wii U GamePad. Though the surprise was somewhat ruined because a picture of it was leaked a hair over two weeks ago, it confirmed many questions we had. The Circle Pads have both been replaced with actual analog sticks, grips have been added to the back of the controller, and some buttons have been shuffled around -- all to make it more comfortable. There’s also a button in the lower left corner reserved for using items to interact with the screen, which was shown when the Rayman Legends trailer was leaked a while back.


wiiuprocontroller_060312.jpg

 

Despite that, there will still be some who don’t like the idea of using a tablet controller, and Nintendo has an answer for that too, as far as third-party games are concerned: enter the Wii U Pro Controller. The first thing that likely popped into everyone’s mind was how much it resembles the 360 controller, aside from the right analog stick and face buttons switching positions. The triggers are even in the same spots! The bad news is that it won’t be available on the same day the system launches, which is a missed opportunity. Hopefully it hits store shelves before Christmas.

 

Following this, Nintendo showed one of the most awkward and hilarious videos we’ve ever seen in a presentation, featuring people even those of us deeply versed in the hobby would call “nerds.” Mind-boggling as it was, it did a good job conveying some of the messaging features the Wii U will have though a generic zombie shooting game (which may or may not be an actual game). Yes, you can send messages to people online through the system, which is a huge step forward for Nintendo. That should put them in, what, 2005?


miiversepic_060312.jpg

 

But there’s more! Of course, Nintendo has their own name for this connection system, and they have dubbed it: Miiverse, short for “Mii Universe.” Through this you can see Miis gather around certain icons for games to see what they’re all playing, or send messages to many of them to get tips for games. Other players can also leave messages in certain games, though Iwata said Nintendo would have a way of filtering out material that contains spoilers. How they’ll do this is currently a mystery. The system’s OS bears a strong resemblance to the Vita’s, by the way. Iwata claimed that it would (and I’m paraphrasing here) connect Wii U’s across time and space. That apparently means you can play with alien life forms too, which is neat.

 

(That, or he was hinting at a new Metroid!)

 

Miiverse will initially only be available on Wii U, but there are plans to expand this to 3DS, PC, and web-enabled mobile devices. Nintendo definitely realizes the importance of social gaming experiences.


nsmbwiiupic_060312.png

 

The game used to show some of these features off was New Super Mario Bros Mii., or whatever they’re calling it now. Given how well the previous New Super Mario games have sold, this could be a killer app, especially if it’s there at launch.

 

The Wii U Pad also doubles as a remote controller. If the console is connected to the same TV the family is gathered around, you can apparently send images from the controller to the screen to interrupt what they’re watching. There could be some excellent trolling possibilities with this, some of which could be egregious.

 

In closing, Iwata said the focus of their E3 Conference on Tuesday would be on Wii U, meaning don’t expect to hear much on 3DS. (And there went the speculation that a redesigned 3DS would be debuting there.) Since Nintendo got a portion of the hardware-focused presentation out of the way today, there could be plenty of software to see at their conference. Stay tuned!

The Next Tales: Returning to Xillia

| No Comments

Remember the tease for that new Tales game? It was officially revealed at the Tales Festival in Japan this weekend, during a stream shown in the wee hours of the night for us Americans. Fans of the franchise have been asking for a title that broke away from the anime-style pseudo-medieval fantasy aesthetic that became so commonplace for the franchise. It’s why the concept art released a few weeks back got them so excited for a reveal. And the game shown was definitely not the one some of them expected.


tox2pic1_060212.jpg

 

The next “Mothership” Tales game is Tales of Xillia 2, which is, of course, a sequel to last year’s Tales of Xillia. The game takes place one year after the original and stars a new main character named Rudger Will Krusnik, who comes along with a pet cat named Lulu. Joining him is El Mel Mata, a girl who’s said to be a key character in this tale. (The name translations aren’t clear at the moment, so we won’t have accurate versions until Namco Bandai updates the official website with information about them.) You may remember the quote, “Are you prepared to destroy the world for the sake of a girl?” from the last post. Well, it’s highly likely that it refers to El, who is eight years old. Who expected her to be that young after reading that? Oh Japan.

 

Xillia had a system where you could play the story from the perspective of one of two characters: Jude Mathis or Milla Maxwell. Unless they’re going to reveal a surprise down the line, this game will only have one.

 

A big change in Xillia 2 will be the ability to make decisions that shape the story, minor or major; and the trailer provided examples of both. The first involves the use of different ingredients for a recipe for cooking purposes. Apparently El hates tomatoes, so the outcome of a cut scene will be different depending on whether you choose for Rudger to use them or not. The second example involves the player being given the chance to initiate battle with an enemy or backing off. It’s tough to tell how deep this will get in the main game, but hopefully it’s not just a mechanic thrown in haphazardly.


tox2pic2_060212.jpg

 

Xillia 2 uses an enhanced version of the first game’s battle system. It goes by the inscrutable name of “XDR LMBS,” which means “Cross Double Raid Linear Battle Motion System.” Battles take place in real time, like the previous games, but this one allows for weapon switching on the fly. Rugder, for instance, is shown switching between a hammer, dual pistols, and dual swords. It looks heavily influenced by the Devil May Cry games.

 

Maybe the video feed wasn’t good, or the pictures taken by random Japanese bloggers are heavily compressed, but this game sure looks like a step down from the first one graphically. And we’re talking about a sequel to a game that wasn’t all the way there in its looks for a PS3 game in 2011. The pain of that is dulled by its steampunk-fueled art style and heavy cel shading, but its shortcomings remain noticeable, especially with its comparatively muted color palette. This could change once they provide a better look at it.

 

The graphics might have something to do with the development team working on it, though details about its members are scarce currently. Given that it’s coming so quickly after the first game (which released less than a year ago), some are skeptical that this is a sequel similar to Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World, commonly referred to as a massive step down from the first one. We do know that the duo of Tales’ revered character designers from Xillia, Kousuke Fujishima and Mutsumi Inomata, are out. Replacing them is an internal designer for Namco Bandai in Daigo Okamura. He also provided the designs for the aforementioned DotNW, making that another commonality. As always, Motoi Sakuraba will be handling the music.


tox2pic3_060212.jpg

 

Some fans are also scratching their heads because Xillia received a polarizing reception. Some thought it was a fine game, but others felt its empty fields, a battle system that was considerably more limited than Vesperia’s and Graces’ in its creativity, reused assets from the previous two games, and random graphical issues hampered its quality. Making a sequel to it makes sense business wise, since Xillia was the best-selling game the franchise had since Tales of Destiny 2, but this move may not pay off.

 

Xillia 2 currently has a vague release date of “this winter,” but a concrete date and price will be announced on June 27th. Meanwhile, those of us outside Japan that don’t speak the language are still waiting for Namco Bandai to make up their mind about localizing the first game -- or if they’re going to localize any more Tales games at all. Maybe we’ll find out soon.

Konami Pre-E3 2012 Conference: Transfarring Out

| 2 Comments

mgrrpic_060112.jpg


Here’s a little spoiler for the Konami Pre-E3 2012 “Conference,” if you want to call it that: like last year, it was a pre-recorded presentation of some games the company has coming for the rest of 2012 and into early 2013. It was silly in parts, sure, but it didn’t have anywhere near the level of campiness we expected from them. Despite how unintentionally hilarious and memetic we felt it was, Konami was pretty embarrassed by it. The entire affair showed us how severe of a state of disarray the company was in, and it’s why they took a step back in 2011 and realized a conference that wasn’t live was far less prone to mistakes. It’s a pity, but it’s understandable to an extent.

 

But that doesn’t mean this year’s presentation was bereft of any awkwardness. The video started by showing Tomoyuki Suboi, the president of Konami Digital Entertainment America, in a hologram amidst a 90s-era CGI-draped city, attempting to explain what Konami is these days. This segues into the first game presentation segment with…an explanation about how they produce games for the social market, and the Frogger games they’re approaching it with. They announced their partnership with the ever-popular Zynga for the venture. Given the audience that tends to tune in to these kinds of videos: Why would they start off with something like this? Why would something like this be a main feature the video at all? The vast majority that would bother to watch a Konami presentation does not care about this.

 

A presentation of Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 came next, wherein members of the development team explained how fan feedback shaped this year’s installment. The players will have more personality in the way they move and act on the field. Controlling the ball and defending against opposition is also being given a significant retooling. Fans of the franchise will be able to experience these changes themselves when they release a demo shortly before its release this fall.


zoehdcollectionpic_060112.jpg

 

Up next? It’s Zone of the Enders time. Hideo Kojima talks about a few details that I already covered in these two posts. Just like in Japan, the HD Collection is hitting North America and Europe this fall. As you might remember if you’re interested in the package, there’s a brand new anime intro from Sunrise, but they didn’t show it during the presentation. You’ll have to head here to see it. Just a little warning: there is a little female nudity around the three minute mark, but it’s nothing explicit.

 

This year is the Metal Gear franchise’s 25th Anniversary, and Kojima talked about how it came into existence and provided highlights about where it’s gone over the years. He also teased the audience about the future of the series’ potential with the Fox Engine (which was revealed last year), but details on that will have to wait. This naturally segues right into the segment for the next Metal Gear game: the previously-announced Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Following the showing of an extended version of the trailer that premiered on Spike TV, Kojima Productions’ staff explained that the intent of the game’s existence is to give the player what they wanted to experience upon seeing Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 4. Following that, developer Platinum Games’ staff expounded upon the gameplay concepts.

 

This was followed by a Mega64 segment spoofing the game. The bulk of the “conference” was dedicated to this game (nearly 1/3 or it!), and there’s enough new info that it deserves its own post. If you want an early taste of Revengeance, a demo will be included with the Zone of the Enders HD Collection. That same demo will hit the Xbox Live Marketplace and Playstation Network shortly afterward. The game releases in early 2013.


cvlos2pic_060112.jpg

 

The final segment was dedicated to the new Castlevania games from Mercury Steam. First was the announcement trailer for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. I’m not going into the details here, but know that you do not want to watch this if you haven’t finished the first game, because it spoils the biggest twist. And that’s despite the fact that it’s been discussed so openly that it’s almost a late arrival spoiler at this point, but I’m going to maintain a sense of tact about it. This was followed by a very short teaser for the 3DS tie-in: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow -- Mirror of Fate, which takes place between the first and second console games. They’re not going to share any details until June 5th. For now, you’ll have to grab the new Nintendo Power to see what’s going on with it.

 

And that’s it! Want to know what happened with that Contra game they teased last year? Konami hasn’t mentioned it since then, and there was nothing about it here either. It will be yet another one of life’s greatest mysteries. Until next year’s pre-recorded conference.

October 2013

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    

Recent Comments

  • Sakti: Well, it helps that AMC aired a marathon of the read more
  • Angela Moseley: I guess they wanted to keep the anime close the read more
  • Geoffrey Barnes: I almost find it hard to believe that the team read more
  • Geoffrey Barnes: Hmm, good questions. Sometimes these games are localized on a read more
  • Reset Tears: I'd like to be able to guess what will come read more
  • Joseph Daniels: Myself, I chose to play the originals, just because I read more
  • Geoffrey Barnes: Yup, I plan to throw in some cash...eventually. I'm lazy. read more
  • Joseph Daniels: I wonder if his name in the English translation was read more
  • Drew Young: KNEEL before Zog! read more
  • Drew Young: I'm getting them $20 closer to a console release. Considering read more

Archives

Blogroll

Damage Control Columns
Damage Control Exclusives
Follow The Staff On Twitter
Friends
Host Sites
Places of Interest

Recent Assets

  • spidermaneotpic_063012.jpg
  • protoype2pic_063012.jpg
  • gungnirpic_062912.jpg
  • soulsacrificepic_062912.jpg
  • doa5pic2_062812.jpg
  • doa5pic1_062812.jpg
  • bdffpic3_062712.jpg
  • bdffpic2_062712.jpg
  • bdffpic1_062712.jpg
  • umvc3pic_062612.jpg