Archive for March 2010

New Releases: April 2010

March 29, 2010

It’s that time again! Time for another month of new releases. April is looking much quieter than March did, which is kinda good because we’re still recovering from that with an absolute barrage of last minute March 30th releases. Heck, we won’t be seeing anything interesting in April until the 3rd week of it! Also interesting is that much of the month is taken up by things I thought were supposed to be released months ago. So I guess April is The Month of Obscure Delays.

– Week 3 –

AlphaBounce (DS)

Some kind of Breakout/Space RPG hybrid I had never even heard of until today. Seems to be a port of an online Flash game you can play here:

http://www.alphabounce.com/

I might need to check that out later. Sounds interesting enough.

Arcade Shooter: Ilvelo (Wii)

Created by Milestone, the former shooter staff of Compile. They are also well known for making a number of postmortem Dreamcast shooters. Ilvelo is yet another in their long line of vertical scrolling Naomi shmups, now ported to Wii and to be released at a budget price by UFO Interactive. Very little is known about it, but some sites are claiming a large number of stages and branching paths. If nothing else, we can definitely see that it’ll have cel-shaded graphics and a wacky atmosphere.

Final Fight: Double Impact (XBLA/PSN)

A port of Final Fight and Magic Sword by Backbone Interactive. Supposedly it will be using the spectacular Good Game Peace Out netcode that Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix used. This means great online play even on the worst of connections. Some people are saying “Who cares about Magic Sword!”, but for me? That’s the reason I’m buying it! What? Final Fight is a really basic and outdated beat ’em up that is only really notable for it’s spectacular graphics! Magic Sword is at least a unique and interesting arcade RPG sidescroller thingy of awesomeness and one I have fond memories of.

– Week 4 –

Beat City (DS)

What is this? I have no clue. Apparently some kind of music game for DS, it’s brought to us by a company whose only previous titles were cellphone games. According to GameFAQs:

“In Beat City, players must find their rhythm in order to restore Beat City to the vibrant, melodious city it once was. Using the stylus, players simply tap, swipe or hold on queue to the music’s beat in order to receive a high star rating within each mini-game. While players are tapping to the beat, they can watch the city transform right before their eyes ridding the city of Dame Isolde Minor and her Cacophony Corporation, who bring nothing but monotony. The better a player is at keeping the beat the more items are unlocked in the environment.”

So…something sorta like Rhythm Heaven perhaps? We shall see.

After Burner Climax (XBLA/PSN)

Anyone who knows me knows that on-rails chase-view shooters are quite possibly my all-time favorite genre. The fact that I gave such a positive review to budget shooter Counter Force/Ex Zeus is proof enough of that! As such, I am absolutely giddy with excitement over the upcoming 360/PS3 port of After Burner Climax. Sure I have some complaints due to it’s excessively missile heavy nature (a problem far too many on-rails chase-view shooters have), but a rail shmup is a rail shmup and I’m desperate. Not to mention this thing looks gorgeous and at a low XBLA price? How can I possibly not buy it! No, the hard part will be finding a 360 flight stick for that, as Johnny Turbo puts it, “arcade feel”!

Monster Hunter Tri (Wii)

Hooboy…I’m gonna get in trouble for this one. Monster Hunter Tri is one of the newest entries in Capcom’s Monster Hunter series; a series of multiplayer online dungeon crawls of sorts.

The original Monster Hunter was released on PS2 in North America and bombed horrendously. Not without good reason either. It was slow, confusing, and plagued by the PS2’s limitations. Players continually had to plod between tiny empty rooms that were supposed to represent an expansive outdoor environment and endure countless excessively long loading screens. Of course the game bombed here! Even I could barely endure a single mission before calling it quits.

However, the series gained infamy after it’s uproarious success on PSP in Japan. The PSP was doing terrible worldwide and was the laughing stock of the entire planet. But, once Monster Hunter Portable came out in Japan, sales of the unit skyrocketed exclusively for that game! All of the sudden, America’s interest was piqued! Why weren’t we getting these!

We did eventually receive the portable Monster Hunters, but with their online play removed. Capcom clearly felt that the market over here was too small and thus they shouldn’t waste time and money setting up US servers. Once again, the game bombed.

Now, Monster Hunter Tri on Wii has become the best selling third party title on the system in Japan and interest is once again piqued. The game is now set for a US release with GameStop giving away demo discs and even rumors of free online play just for the US! (It’s a pay service in Japan) Capcom is clearly going all out on this one and could serve as their last attempt at getting the series going in America.

However, I think we’re going about this all wrong. Much like how every hack n’ slash last console generation was called a “Devil May Cry clone”, every multiplayer Diablo-style dungeon crawl is being called a “Monster Hunter clone” these days regardless of the limited familiarity many players have with actually playing the series. The thing is, Monster Hunter is not a fast paced hack n’ slash refardless of what other people say:

“Providing us with more than a dozen items and equipment to use, Monster Hunter Tri is set to be a fantastic title for those in need for a hack and slash title that has role-playing elements mixed in.” – Dakota Grabowski, GameZone

This is how many people write about the game. From my limited experience with it, Monster Hunter is more of a slower paced monster hunting simulation than a fast paced hack n’ slash dungeon crawl. Yet people always seem to write about it as though it were the latter, consistently resulting in many confused and displeased consumers. Admittedly my experience with it is limited, but from what I’ve played it’s far from PSO, for better or for worse.

It’s also worth noting that Monster Hunter Tri can be bought packaged with a black PS2 shaped Classic Controller for the Wii. I find this fact hilarious.

Windy X Windam (DS)

Huh?! This was supposed to have come out months ago! I’ve been looking for it since October!

Anyway, Windy X Windam is a cheap $20 budget fighter for DS. Supposedly it has single pak multiplayer and uses both screens for a super tall battlefield. It also features characters from Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja. Early reports claim that it is absolutely terrible, horrendously unbalanced, and should never have gotten a US release. I’ll be the judge of that though.

– Week 5 –

Record of Agarest War (360, PS3)

The continuation of an obscure Compile game series being handled, appropriately enough, by Compile Heart. Record of Agarest War is yet another one of those “couldn’t you have done this on PS2?!”-style low budget tactics games that show up every now and then to the confusion of all. This one, however, features dating elements and spans multiple generations. In each generation you have a choice of one of 3 girls to eventually marry and then your offspring is the hero of the next generation. Similar in some ways to Phantasy Star III, but presumably without all the fail. The game itself spans 5 generations if I recall correctly. A fanservice caked limited edition will also be sold. Which reminds me, the game is absolutely coated with fanservice from head to toe. Much of which involves girls eating bananas.

Me? I only care about it because there’s a badass bunnygirl named Cure. Sadly she only shows up in the 4th or 5th generation and is not dateable. You taunt me, Compile Heart.

Super Street Fighter IV (360, PS3)

Know what I hated about the original Street Fighter IV? The complete snubbing SF3 got (with Capcom officially claiming that they sorta wanted to forget about it), the piddly number of new characters, the complete lack of ninjas, and the stiff controls. Super Street fighter IV looks to address most of these issues by adding in a number of Street Fighter III characters, including Ibuki who is also a ninja. Guy was also added, further fleshing out the ninja roster. On top of that are two new fighters, bringing us up to a nearly respectably 7 newcomers, 3 of which aren’t retarded! Now all they need to do is tighten up those controls and maybe get us some half decent SF1 representation (I vote for Geki, Retsu, Joe, or Eagle)!

Sorry, you’ll have to excuse me. I’m a rare SF1 fanboy who was disappointed by SF2’s lame character designs and was happy when SF3 was released (and displeased when they added in more SF2 characters)! I…probably shouldn’t talk about Street Fighter much. Regardless with Ibuki’s inclusion and SF4’s slightly greater story focus (in comparison to other Street Fighters), we might finally learn of Geki’s fate (what? he’s my favorite character!). Hopefully he fares better here than he did in Udon’s horrible comics (horrible only because they killed off Geki in one page).

Please excuse me, I’m horribly biased and also slightly insane.

Nier (360, PS3)

Nier is this month’s interesting and somewhat out of nowhere title and the one that probably most intrigues me. Created by Cavia of Bullet Witch “fame” and published by SquareEnix, Nier is an action RPG that looks like God of War at first. It should also win an award for Most Confusing Release Ever.

It took me awhile to piece this together. See, in Japan, there are two Niers: Nier Replicant on PS3 and Nier Gestalt on 360. The only difference is the main character’s design and relation to Yonah, the girl he’s trying to save. In PS3’s Replicant, he’s a young bishounen-esque guy and Yonah is his little sister. On the 360’s Gestalt, he’s an older, beefier guy and Yonah is his daughter.

In America, we will not be getting Nier Replicant. Instead we will be getting Nier Gestalt on both 360 and PS3.

At first this might make you think Nier Gestalt was “made for America”, hence why it’s the only one we’re getting. But then you might ask yourself if it’s not the other way around. Perhaps Nier was originally created for America and then, realizing it wouldn’t sell in Japan with a beefy older guy, they altered it for Japan? Either is possible.

Adding to the confusion is your sidekick, a scantily clad, foul mouthed hermaphrodite who has been seen threatening to chop a monster’s dick off and feed it to his children!

Adding to the confusion, it’s current gender status is said to be due to demonic possession. But his also means we don’t know it’s original gender. With the tagline “Nothing is as it seems”, the game seems to be toying with us. Congratulations, you’ve invented a whole new flavor of trap. Curse the popularity of that blasted Bridget!

And just when you think you have it all figured out, this interview adds even more to the confusion as the developers talk about fishing and farming and non-linearity in what originally looked like a God of War clone!

Still not convinced about the RPG? One of the early side quests sends you off to kill sheep and collect mutton. There is nothing more “RPG” than killing sheep for mutton. Nothing!”

They also prove to be completely insane.

Gamers who have read about NIER have heard about diseases and plagues, monsters and bosses, swords and magic spells, present day and far in the future, leveling up and character development, hermaphrodites and flying skeletons … and now, they are going to read about … Fishing and Cultivating! All of these small pieces of the game content are held together by the story which we have not revealed. The confusion reflects the concept that you can’t know what to expect from this game and it’s almost impossible to get an accurate picture of what you will find within until you actually play it through.”

At least they admit that the confusion is intentional though.

And we haven’t even started to show the top-down or side-scrolling gameplay yet!”

Ladies and gentlemen, this will either be one of the most amazing cult classics of this generation or the most spectacularly bad game ever made.

…and believe it or not, that wraps up April! A slow start and some big eyebrow raisers at the end. But whatever, after the onslaught of March with Zeno Clash’s 360 release sneaking up on me at the end and the inevitable wild goose chase I’ll be undertaking looking for Monster Rancher DS? I can take a little break.

Update: Monster Rancher DS has been delayed until summer.

GameBabble – Ep.11 Pop’N Music Wii

March 28, 2010

[blip.tv ?posts_id=3425998&dest=63762]

Pop’N Music finally gets a U.S. release that ISN’T a butcher job…at least…not because of the localization…

And yes I did complain despite the fact that I play 5 button. It may not affect me but I know Pop’N Music is MEANT to be played 9 button.

Check out the new GameBabble Blog at:
https://gamebabble.wordpress.com/

And other episodes at:
http://gamebabble.blip.tv/

Formats available: Windows Media (.wmv)

Not Available at your Local GameStop

March 16, 2010

As a gamer with peculiar tastes, if there’s one thing I understand it’s the logistics of the preorder. Sure, some people will cry bloody murder about it. Preordering hands your money to a retailer early. Some people forget about their preorders and the retailer can just pocket the change. Furthermore it almost guarantees a sale for that store, preventing you from shopping elsewhere. I have heard these arguments before.

However, look at it from the other perspective. You want a game that hasn’t seen a lot of publicity. Most stores would assume that this is a title that wouldn’t be in high demand. As such, they only get a few copies in stock. It’s also not prioritized so it may show up a week late. Not that it would make a difference as it seems not many people are that interested in the game.

But, if you preorder, it guarantees a sale once the title comes in. As such it is flagged in the system and prioritized. Now that store should get at least one copy in on time. But more than that, it shows that there is a greater interest in the title than originally anticipated. If one or two people preorder, that means that there might be one or two more walk-ins than expected as well. As such, more titles overall are shipped to that store.

Honestly, this is a good system and helps ensure that the right quantities of titles are shipped to the right stores. Yes it practically locks your purchase to a single store. But, if that store is the closest one to you anyway? Who cares!

There’s just one problem: games that can’t be preordered. These are known as C-List or D-List titles. Games deemed so unimportant that you can’t even preorder them.

This is a problem. With C-List titles if they aren’t preordered, they aren’t shipped. But C-List titles can’t be preordered. So they can’t be shipped. So they can’t ever get to the store and they never sell.

At first glance, you’d think they were just passed over. After all, there are a lot of games coming out these days so it’s perfectly plausible that someone would miss one or two of them, right? However, this is GameStop we’re talking about, the single largest video game retailer in America! Sure Best Buy might miss one or two, but when your company is devoted entirely to video game sales? Someone should be on that. Considering I can find them on GameFAQs and other sites, I should be able to find them in the GameStop listings.

This is further proven by the fact that some of these titles actually are in the system. They just don’t appear on the list of preorderables for one reason or another. Let’s not even get into the fact that some GameStop Exclusives have been unpreorderable!

This is hardly a new phenomenon. $20 titles are regularly passed over by GameStop’s computers. I guess they’re just not worth it as it’s such a small sale, but it still annoys me. Commando: Steel Disaster, Black Sigil, Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ, and Animal Boxing are all examples of titles in the past that one could not preorder.

However, as time goes by, bigger and bigger titles are slipping past the preorder list. The first one to really shock me was Way of the Samurai 3. A full priced XBox 360 title and part of a decently recognizable series. The official GameStop website listed it. Heck, there was even a special preorder bonus if you preordered from GameStop.com! But the stores themselves just did not list it.

Now they have officially crossed the line. Why? Because Monster Rancher DS is the latest game that cannot be preordered.

It’s a wallbanger of epic proportions. Monster Rancher is a well known and decently successful series. The DS entry is looking to be a well made and impeccably polished game for the system. It even has online play! Yet GameStop has decided not to allow any preorders of it.

I could, of course, go on about how odd this all is. For a company so obsessed with preorders to just randomly not allow them on certain titles is odd. I could also talk about how face punchingly annoying it is when, after asking if the game is in stock, the clerk then says “You should have preordered!”. However, every GameStop in the area has learned better by now. Yes, this has happened frequently enough that I have personally bitched out just about every single GameStop employee within a 100 mile radius of my house. I try to be nice though because I know their pain. I used to work there.

However, let’s look at this from the game company’s perspective. You have just spent years making and/or translating a game. You’re out of cash and can’t do much advertising, but your confident that good word of mouth will cause the game to sell well enough for you to turn a profit. Unfortunately, GameStop is about the only retailer that would carry such an obscure game and they have opted not to allow preorders on it. Meaning, again, that it either won’t ship or will ship late and in incredibly limited quantities. This means most people, even if they want to play your game, won’t be able to. No word of mouth, no sales, and a big loss for your company.

This is, of course, when people start talking about how downloads are the future. However, that is a story for another time.

Still, think about how this will affect the poor Monster Rancher series! It’s bad enough it has to go toe to toe with Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver; but this blatant mistreatment of the title ensures a complete lack of sales and it won’t be able to compete. Monster Rancher has already had a rocky sales history in America and with this as well as the recent Koei merger, it’s future does not look bright.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are not enough words in the English language to describe what a damn shame it would be if we lost the Monster Rancher series. Easily the deepest and most technical monster training simulation out there, it stands head and shoulders above it’s competition in terms of gameplay. Monster Rancher 4 is one of the very few games ever made that I would honestly give a perfect score to as it was just that good. No other game has even come close to that level of depth in their monster training. Not even Pokemon.

So, what can we do? The heck if I know! However, whatever jackass runs GameStop is in serious need of a punch in the jaw.

Final Fantasy: A Quick Look Back

March 9, 2010

In a scant few hours I am going to be rushing off to the local GameStop in order to obtain my copy of the latest entry in Square’s long running Final Fantasy series. But before I do, let’s take a quick look back at the series. Especially it’s fandom.

As you know, I just wrote an article on the Sonic fandom and how they’re the worst one ever. The most common response I get to this is: “Wow! You mean they’re worse than the Final Fantasy fandom!?” Final Fantasy has perhaps the most well known broken fandom in the world. I often say that the topic of Final Fantasy is “Instant Flamewar! Just add Forum!”. It’s true too: mention Final Fantasy on any forum and no matter what you say, a small flamewar will erupt!

However, the very thing that makes Final Fantasy such a volatile topic is the same thing that keeps the fandom from complete stupidity: each one is different. This is an accepted fact. Every Final Fantasy does something new and is unrelated to the previous one. As such, once the dust settles, people are usually able to agree that it’s mostly just a difference of opinion. There are exceptions, of course. Younger or less mature fans might insist that one entry is superior to all others. However, for the most part, every Final Fantasy is of a high enough quality that you can see why someone out there would like it.

The big fandom wrecker was, of course, Final Fantasy VII. You see, prior to that, Final Fantasy and RPGs in general were a niche. Very few people really played them. So few, in fact, that Square actually made a game just for America to try and teach us how to play RPGs and get us addicted. This was, of course, the infamous Final Fantasy Mystic Quest. While most people today take this as a massive insult, it honestly made sense back in the SNES era. RPGs were that underplayed.

If anything, what defined the Final Fantasy series and set it apart from the rest was it’s storytelling. Even as far back as the first Final Fantasy, Square was throwing us more plot and twists than anyone else in the industry. It may not look it at first, but late in FF1 is a pretty creative (especially for it’s time) twist that turns the whole world upside-down!

With each entry, the writing improved. Despite it’s poor translation, Final Fantasy IV had more plot and better writing than any other game on the market in America! It began to show videogames as a viable storytelling medium and turned things on their heads. Of course, this was a different era long before titles like Heavy Rain made us wonder what the heck the point was. Back then, this was a radical new concept.

Final Fantasy VI was, of course, the big one. With a huge cast and incredible writing, it was on-par with or even superior to many movies. It was a huge cult hit and generated a lot more buzz for the genre.

Fast-forward a few years and Final Fantasy VII is the biggest news in gaming. By now, every serious gamer had played FFVI and was showing it to their friends while raving about how awesome FFVII would be. Every magazine was continually caked with multi-page articles on FFVII. As it was released, it even received full blown commercials, some even shown in theaters! Everyone who was into gaming knew about this supposedly legendary title and decided to give it a shot.

Mind you, Final Fantasy VII was also a huge gamble and many long time fans grew increasingly worried about it. It was a radical departure. It was the first FF on CD, the first one in 3D, the first with a blatantly futuristic world, and the first with character designs by Tetsuya Nomura. However, in the end, we enjoyed it. It was a radical departure, but it was still Final Fantasy. The old skool fans said “Great! That was a breath of fresh air! I can’t wait to see you guys do a more classic FF next!”

It’s here that we ran into the fandom shattering problem. Square had just acquired a slew of new fans who wanted more like Final Fantasy VII, but they also had the traditionalists. In the end they decided that FFVII’s departure from the traditions of the Final Fantasy series was what made it so great and decided to push it further. This, unfortunately, resulted in Final Fantasy VIII.

FFVIII is one of the most universally hated Final Fantasy games and it caused Square to lose a large chunk of their older fanbase. They tried to get them back with Final Fantasy IX, but it was too late. Many had either given up on the series or found FFIX to be too pandering to the point of being insulting.

However, the worst thing to happen to Final Fantasy was it’s movie: Spirits Within. Only a few years earlier, fans were dreaming of a Final Fantasy movie. With it’s fantastic settings and great writing, it seemed like a Final Fantasy movie would be a no brainer! Unfortunately, the theme of being as un-Final Fantasy as possible remained. The end result was a watchable, but shockingly generic sci-fi movie of all things! It’s still amazing to think that Squaresoft themselves produced this film and yet the end result was the least Final Fantasy thing possible! Even Uwe Boll films are more accurate! This has gone down in history as quite possibly Square’s biggest mistake.

Regardless, Final Fantasy X hit and was the most linear in the series (at the time) but also the most cinematic. While people had issues with it, those that played it generally enjoyed it. Sure older fans found it inferior to VI or even VII, but at least it wasn’t VIII!

Then, things got weird. Square decided that the next numeric Final Fantasy would be online with Final Fantasy XI. Then, strapped for cash, they quickly threw together a sequel to Final Fantasy X which would quickly become even more loathed than even Mystic Quest (though I personally have a soft spot for it)! The Enix merger made things even worse as by the time Final Fantasy X-2 had made it to America, the merger had been completed and many fans blamed it on “The Evil of Enix” (I wish I was making that up).

At this point, one chunk of the old Final Fantasy team left and formed the company Mist Walker. Meanwhile, the rest of the team was too busy with Kingdom Hearts II to make the next entry in the Final Fantasy series. The end result was that Final Fantasy XII would fall to the FF Tactics team.

There was a lot of pre-release hate for Final Fantasy XII. Every Final Fantasy comes under some criticism, but XII got it the worst. Announced hot on the heels of the controversial FFX-2, XII’s scantily clad protagonists made many fear for more of the same. Meanwhile, the fact that Tetsuya Nomura wasn’t doing the art had more people worried. Newer fans balked at the more Fantasy-like setting while older fans cringed at the high-tech air battles. Perhaps the mightiest blow came from, believe it or not, Penny Arcade. The infamous webcomic complained repeatedly about Final Fantasy XII’s new battle system for years prior to the game’s release. It seems silly, but an unfortunate chunk of the videogame community consists of people who just parrot the opinions of others rather than thinking for themselves. As such, this grew concerns about XII’s gameplay. Penny Arcade would later retract their statements post-release, but did so in a half-hearted and low key manner, unaware of the damage they caused to the game’s sales. It wasn’t their fault, they had no clue about the effect they would have.

When it was released, it received a perfect score from Famitsu which practically demanded hype backlash. It enjoyed a brief period of praise shortly after release, but this was cut tragically short. Normally it’s that period of wanton word of mouth praise that really helps sell a Final Fantasy. Everyone who thought they would be skipping it changes their mind as they hear about how good it is. FFXII did not have this luxury. Only a week or two after release and the majority of the fandom had turned on it, declaring it a “grind fest” that “played itself”. It’s sad because the designers actively tried to avoid this. They jacked up the monster difficulty to require player interaction, but this only caused players to grind until they could win on auto-pilot. So they made it so EXP gain from monsters quickly drops off, making grinding futile. This didn’t stop people from trying though and as such it turned into a “grind fest” to anyone not willing to actually play the game.

Long story short, Final Fantasy XII is one of the most skipped Final Fantasy titles of all time. A shame too as I considered it a wonderful return to form and the most Final Fantasy-esque title in the series since before VII! One could easily call it the second Final Fantasy IX!

You’ll have to excuse my extra opinionated rambling there, dear reader. As you might have guessed, I have a soft spot for Final Fantasy XII.

So now, here we are. Mere hours away from the US release of Final Fantasy XIII. The post-VI Final Fantasy team is back at the helm, it’s the first Final Fantasy of this console generation, and there’s plenty of anti-hype floating around. I definitely have my reservations, but this is the kind of thing you need to give a shot. While initial complaints about it’s linearity were disconcerning, further research shows that it seems a lot like Final Fantasy X. Indeed, FFX was also incredibly linear, but it wasn’t bad. Will FFXIII follow in it’s footsteps? Will it be a linear, yet enjoyable, cinematic thrill ride? Or will it be the second coming of Final Fantasy VIII? All shall be revealed soon.

If you would like a more thorough look back, I highly recommend this feature at Socks Make People Sexy.