Archive for May 2010

Sonic and the Unexpected Delay!

May 22, 2010

You know, I may just have to make a Sonic tag considering the amazing amount of discussion one can have on that darn blue hedgehog.

Anyway, we’ve received some highly unexpected Sonic 4 news: SEGA is delaying the game’s release until the end of the year!

This is incredibly unexpected when one realizes that the game was practically finished! Footage of the entire game, every single level, boss, and even the ending, were all leaked onto the internet. While SEGA tried to keep them down, the damage had been done.

As such, perhaps a large part of this delay is to redo all the levels to keep them fresh. Same tileset and music, but different layout perhaps? Possibly even swap one level with one from Episode 2 to keep players on their toes! As for what to do with the old levels? I’d think release them as DLC. They’re perfectly good stages so you may as well. I know I’d buy ’em for a couple bucks.

Of course that’s purely my theory based entirely on assumption and what I’d do in SEGA’s shoes. But heck, if I were them I would have just released Episode 1 as-is and put all the suggestions into Episode 2! Regardless, if they’re taking fan suggestions then let’s hope this means they’ll remove that mine cart stage.

Alternately, it could be SEGA giving up on the extra whiney fans already and the delay is to add Shadow to the game!

…okay, that was just mean. But, that does bring up one interesting idea.

While many fans demanded “only Sonic”, quite a few were sad to see the lack of side characters. Perhaps SEGA could attempt to please both with the delay being to make the game more DLC compatible.

Imagine this: Sonic 4 is released with just Sonic. Then, SEGA releases other characters as completely optional DLC. You download Tails and now you can play through Sonic 4 with Tails who gets his own storyline and ending and might even be able to be carried over to Episode 2. This means any characters you don’t want, you can avoid and any characters you do want can be downloaded! Is it just not right without Tails and Knuckles in the game? Download them. Are you a Shadow fan? Go ahead and take him! As for me? I’d be grabbing Marine, Espio, and Rouge myself.

Okay, that’s a pretty far fetched idea considering Sonic 4 was so heavily billed as being the “only Sonic”/ “return to his roots” game, but lord knows that’s how I’d like it to go down. But, I’ll be happy enough if they just remove that mine cart stage!

New Releases: May 2010

May 13, 2010

Thanks to some kind of horrible disease this update is a bit late, but you’re not missing too much. May is download month. No, really. There is almost nothing to actually buy in stores this month, only about 3 noteworthy boxed releases. But, there are plenty of intriguing downloads. Mostly shooters. Are they all running from Super Mario Galaxy 2?

…you do realize that the months aren’t supposed to be themed, right?

NOTE: Due to busy-ness and the already overdue nature of this post, images will be added later.

-Week 1-

Zombie Panic in Wonderland (WiiWare)

The spiritual sequel to kick-ass DS budget shooter Little Red Riding Hood’s Zombie BBQ (which I personally recommend). Made by the same team and with the same theme, but this time done from a back-view with 2-player co-op and Wiimote pointer use. As this week has already passed I can tell you now that it’s decent, but not as good as Zombie BBQ. Characters stay stationary as they shoot into the stage, not moving through it. Also, stages and especially bosses seem to drag on longer than they should. Still worth $10 though.

Zeno Clash (Live Arcade)

A first-person beat ’em up that received a lot of attention when it was released on Steam now finds it’s way to XBox Live Arcade. I know very little about this other than that it’s supposed to be awesome and I need to try it. Also that it received a good bit of delay due to some last minute additions.
RayStorm HD (LiveArcade)

Kicking off the unexpected deluge of shooters is an HD remake of classic PS1 SHMUP RayStorm. It’s slightly pricier than most Live Arcade releases, but fans of the original will probably pay. Just odd seeing an HD PS1 port cost more than freaking After Burner Climax.

-Week 2-

Monster Racers (DS)

Not to be confused with Monster Rancher, Monster Racers is some kind of 2D side scrolling platformer race using monsters you raise and train. As a fan of the monster training genre, I am picking this up.

3D Dot Game Heroes (PS3)

Now this is the big one. Easily the number one non-Mario title this month. 3D Dot Game Heroes is basically 8-bit Zelda in 3D but with everything made out of pixel blocks. It features 100% custom characters and a guest appearance by Spelunker. This will probably be the best Zelda in years. Also made by From Software, makers of Armored Core and Ninja Blade and easily one of my favorite companies!

-Week 3-

Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow (DS)

Remember Blue Dragon, the generic but high quality 360 JRPG with the kick-ass boss battle theme? Well Mist Walker still wants it to become a serious series. Luckily they picked just the thing to get me interested. Blue Dragon: Awakened Shadow is a 4-Player co-op action RPG, like Crystal Chronicles or Shining Soul! What’s more, you get to make your own custom Toriyama character! Needless to say I’m very interested.

Attack of the Movies 3D (Wii/360?!)

A 4-player light gun shooter with the basic theme of playing through generic movie worlds. Could be a fun romp on the Wii so I’ll give it a shot. The real question is why is it on 360?! Yes, it’s getting a 360 release, presumably with d-pad controls. Why!? The graphics are sub-par for a Wii game, but I’m allowing it because it’s a fun concept. But on 360!? That’s just so insane I still can’t believe it. So much so that it actually sapped most of my faith in the game! Why would you do that!
Rocket Knight (LiveArcade/PSN)

Sparkster the Rocket Knight finally returns after much fan demand. I have to admit, I love this Megaman 9/Bionic Commando Rearmed/New Super Mario Bros. Wii inspired trend of making new old games. While Rocket Knight is being handled by an American developers, things actually look promising for it. Besides, being on Live Arcade we’ll be able to try it before we buy! God I love that feature.
Gundemonium Recollection (PSN)

A collection of doujin cute ’em ups ported to PS3. Sure, why not? Seems to include both vertical and horizontal shooters and I am always up for some SHMUP as long as I don’t have to pay exorbitant import fees!

-Week 4-

Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)

Man, it’s like nothing is coming out this month! I wonder why that is? Oh. Yeah. Mario Galaxy 2. Taking the fantastic Mario Galaxy engine and doing more with it, Mario Galaxy 2 promises to be a damn good platformer at the very least.
Metal Torrent (DSi Ware)

Metal Torrent appears to be a manic vertical scrolling SHMUP coming to DSi Ware. Something about turning bullets into cubes? Regardless it looks like it could be good fun.
Witch’s Wish (DS)

Being brought to us courtesy of Natsume, Witch’s Wish seems to be a Harvest Moon-ish RPG where you play as a young Witch in Witch School. Though I doubt it’ll be as awesome as Magician’s Quest, I’m not even sure if that’s the route it’s trying to take. Whatever, it looks like something.

Legend of Kay (DS)

Now this is a weird one. Legend of Kay was a shockingly good Zelda clone on PS2 only really hurt by it’s terrible voicework. I played the demo and loved it, but never got around to buying it and kept meaning to. Now they’re claiming it’s coming to DS, but there are absolutely no screenshots of the DS version! All I can find is pictures of the PS2 game! Will it really look identical? That said, this release has been pushed back a lot already so I fully expect more delays.
Soldner X-2: Final Prototype (PSN)

Another interesting SHMUP, this time a side scroller. I admit, bullet hell sidescrollers are kinda rare and it does look fun. As I mentioned before, I’m not a hardcore SHMUP-phile, but I’ll give it a shot.

Why I Love We Cheer

May 5, 2010

As this blog goes on, there’s a number of titles that will probably be brought up again and again. Most of them are understandable to some degree, like Waku Waku 7 or Jak X. However, there is one game that is sure to raise an eyebrow every time I mention it: We Cheer.

That’s somewhat problematic as, knowing myself, it will probably be brought up on a number of different topics: Good Wii games? We Cheer. Unique music games? We Cheer. Games that actually make good use of the Wiimote? We Cheer. Lost gems? Obscure titles? Stuff you thought would suck but ended up being awesome? Let me tell you about We Cheer.

So, I figured it was about time I sat down and explained, in detail, why I love We Cheer so much. No, I am not kidding. This is not me trolling the internet, though it’s easy to understand why someone would think that. After all, we are talking about this:

Yes, when I say “We Cheer” I mean that. One look at those covers and anyone would think that the game inside would be the very definition of “casual garbage”, a half-assed piece of shovelware only a complete moron would buy. But in reality, nothing is further from the truth. We Cheer is easily one of the finest games on Wii, a shockingly competent title that takes full advantage of what the Wii can do and provides a fun and entertaining gaming experience.

I’m still being completely serious. I mean, I did do three different episodes of my show devoted to it. Still not convinced? Look in the lower right hand corner of the box. See that logo? It’s made by Namco.

Enough begging you to believe me, it’s time I got to explaining. That should be more than enough to convince you that I really mean it. So then, why do I like We Cheer?

Well, for starters, I love the music/rythm game genre. I got into them back when Bust A Groove was released (still one of my all time favorites). At one point I even went so far as to try and play every single music game ever made, including imports, and nearly succeeded before Guitar Hero hit! With this in mind, my favorite music games are the ones that have a unique playstyle and aren’t just Bemani clones.

A Bemani-styled game is one like DDR, Guitar Hero, or Rock Band. Notes scroll across the screen and when they reach the marker you hit the appropriate button. This is the standard way music games are done and it’s not bad. However, it’s been done before and often. It’s generic and uninteresting. Titles like Bust A Groove or Gitarooman, however, use different playstyles. They find new and unique ways for you to rhythmically play the game.

What’s more, I’m often annoyed by the danmaku-esque note spam that plagues Bemani-style games. Often playing them well is less about rythm and musical talent and more about deciphering a near unreadable stream of commands at high speed with the lightning reflexes to hit the notes with the proper timing. It’s a challenge and a skill that I respect and it may even have similarities to playing a piano, but it’s a far cry from the kinds of music games I enjoy. This is especially true of dancing games. Sure the Bemani-styled play may bare a decent resemblance to reading music and playing an instrument, but it has nothing to do with dancing.

So then, how does We Cheer work? Well, you take two Wiimotes, one in each hand. Arrows appear on screen, coinciding with the routine the cheerleaders in the background are doing and you preform the appropriate motion with the right speed and timing. In essence, mimicking the routine the cheerleaders are preforming.

It seems like such an obvious concept at first, right? Of course something like this would be on the Wii! But you see, there’s a big difference between having a good concept and doing it right.

I’ve played a lot of Wii games and as anyone will tell you, poor controls are the most common issue with these games. Even first party Nintendo titles, when they bother to use the motion controls, have these issues! The fact of the matter is that the Wiimote is a terrible controller. I could go into why, but that is an article for another time I assure you. This is a fact many reviewers conveniently forget when covering a title like We Cheer.

With that in mind, it’s very difficult to do a good music game on the Wii. Trust me, being a fan of the genre I’ve subjected myself to a lot of them. Most just go with the standard Bemani-style system except asking the player to waggle in different directions. Even that is difficult to do as the programmers have to make up for misread motions and the inevitably off timing. The few that do require actual motions usually have a pool of about ten different actions. You then perform these actions in a rhythmic loop until the game asks you to switch to a different action.

Now, let’s look at We Cheer again. These aren’t canned actions from a small handful of motions. Each song has it’s own unique choreography with each motion smoothly flowing into the next.

What’s more is the use of two Wiimotes. Some might ask why they don’t just use the nunchuck, but I assure you they have good reason. Me and some friends have tried Wii music games that used the nunchuck for such motions and found ourselves either nearly ripping the nunchuck cord from it’s socket or lashing ourselves with the cord as we played. The nunchuck just isn’t meant to be used as a second Wiimote.

Now, keep in mind that Namco was smart and We Cheer gives players the option to play with just a single Wiimote. However, the dual Wiimote control scheme adds an extra layer of complexity to the game that really makes things interesting. Players have to coordinate both hands and often preform two different motions simultaneously!

No doubt you’re starting to see how big a departure from Bemani-esque gameplay this is. Rather than inputting commands as fast as you can at the right time, you have to do each motion flowing from one into another with not just the proper timing but also the right speed! What’s more, the cheerleaders in the background aren’t fluff. No, they’re actually a vital part of the interface showing you the exact motion you need to be doing with the exact timing as well. The best way to tell when an arrow is about to go off is to watch the cheerleaders in the background.

But this raises the next question: Why does it work? One reason is because they use the AiLive middleware to help with the programming of motion detection. Every time that logo has shown up, with one distinct exception, I have seen above average (read: actually functional) motion detection.

The second reason is because We Cheer is only ever trying to detect one motion at a time. In other titles, the Wii has to differentiate between a number of different possible motions. Did the player shake up, down, left, or right? Often there’s some crossover in the detection and two motions can get confused, leading to faulty control. In We Cheer though, there’s only one motion: the right motion. It just has to detect how close to the proper motion you came and with the appropriate amount of leniency this works quite well.

So then, good motion controls and unique gameplay. These alone are reason enough to give We Cheer massive amounts of praise, but it goes the extra mile.

Most Wii games, the ones that really are shovelware, are very dry with little flash or needless polish. We Cheer, however, is actually well presented. The routines are well choreographed and the mocap is solid with no awkward bobbly body parts. There’s a large number of cheerleaders all moving together and plenty of stages. Each stage has a number of animated bits in the background as well. What’s more, the better you do the more animated the stage becomes, often filling with fireworks and particle effects. These are all nice touches that show how much further Namco was willing to go. But, to me the big kicker was Hard Mode. If you played on Hard, the stages would switch to nighttime variants with slightly different background bits. The most notable of these was the baseball stage, which replaced it’s baseball balloons with Pac-Man and ghosts! A pleasant reminder that this was no ordinary cheerleading game. The fact that Namco actually made night variants of the stages for Hard Mode was an excellent touch. It’s the kind of thing one should expect out of a quality videogame, and that’s exactly what We Cheer is!

But the real kicker was the sequel, We Cheer 2. Namco went above and beyond the call of duty with this one! Aside from the music, of course, all of the content of the original returned but was completely overhauled! The cheerleaders were taller and less super deformed, making them seem less Bratz-esque and more natural in their movement. All the stages returned too but were remodeled as well with more detail. My favorite example was the aforementioned Pac-Man balloons in the baseball stage, which now bobble around like actual balloons. Balloon physics in a freaking cheerleading game. Who does that? Who would go out of their way to add such a ridiculous detail?! Namco would, apparently.

But it’s more than that, the presentation was utterly overhauled and greatly enhanced. The main menu now featured your main cheerleader at the front with your entire custom squad in the background with your custom emblem flying on a flag overhead. If you chose to look at your photo album, your character would actually walk up to one of the other cheerleaders and look at her yearbook. If you chose to edit the outfit? She’d go to the locker room. Change the squad lineup? She’d approach the chalkboard with the lineup on it.

These minor details had no effect on the gameplay, but it added a distinct level of polish not present in most Wii games.

Of course there were plenty of other additions, like the aforementioned customization. It was downright insane what you could do with your squad! You could edit every single character, choosing from a variety of eyes, mouths, and hairstyles and editing the colors of them all. Hair color and highlights could be altered individually through a simplified slider bar and you could even go so far as to change lipstick colors! If you wanted to make a hot goth chick with black and red hair and purple lipstick, you could!

Then, of course, the clothing. While mostly re-textures, there were still literally hundreds of outfit parts to unlock. It was insanity. Heck, they even kicked the Namco references up a notch for some reason! Now there was an entire stage that was a giant Pac-Man or Galaga machine (depending upon if you went there during the day or night) with the appropriate themesong playing beforehand. Pac-Man and Special Flag face paint could be purchased, and Kuma and Panda from Tekken even show up in exercise mode. Arguably that makes We Cheer 2 part of the Tekken canon taking place between Tekken 5 and 6. Okay that might be going a bit too far, but it’s still a fun thing to point out!

But the gameplay changes were perhaps the smartest thing they did. The original We Cheer was difficult and unforgiving. You either did things exactly right or you failed. Some reviewers claimed the controls didn’t work. However, considering I was able to get 100% completion on the original, beating every song on every difficulty level and getting every piece of clothing, I think I can safely say that We Cheer’s controls worked. The scoring was just very strict, no doubt Namco was afraid they were too lenient due to the way the controls worked.

For We Cheer 2 though, they changed the scoring a bit. Firstly they added a new Easy Mode, a very wise choice for newcomers. Then they tweaked the scoring on Normal, now being a little bit too fast or slow would still count, you would just get less points. This change made the game drastically more playable. To counter this, the complexity of the routines was kicked up a notch. Of course, just in case someone was already a We Cheer veteran, there was Hard Mode which used the old scoring system but the new more complex routines. This provided a very difficult challenge, ensuring that We Cheer 2 wouldn’t devolve into mindless waggling.

So, now you can understand why I love We Cheer so much. It’s a solid, well made game with a good level of polish and a unique playstyle that takes full advantage of the Wiimote. Throw in my love of customization and it’s no wonder I love We Cheer so much!

But this raises one final question amongst some gamers. The concept of a made for America cheerleading game from Namco is pretty bizzare. Surely, We Cheer is actually an Americanized version of a similar or superior Japanese game, right?

Well believe it or not I did an entire episode devoted to that question. But to answer it now, the opposite is actually true. In Japan, Namco released a similar game called Happy Dance Collection. However, it was developed later and is actually inferior to We Cheer. It only uses one Wiimote, there’s only 5 stages, only 25 songs, the motion detection isn’t as good, and the dance routines are way more simplistic with little “waggle moments” thrown in.

It was alright, but I can safely say that We Cheer was superior. So much so, in fact, that it was later brought back to Japan almost completely unchanged from the US release aside from the addition of two bonus songs on a special preorder disc. We Cheer 2 is headed to Japan right now and also looks to have few, if any, changes made to it.

So, am I recommending We Cheer to you? Well, if you like dancing around like a fool, then yes. It’s a fantastic game, though I recommend starting with We Cheer 2 due to the difficulty level of the original.

Do I hope Namco will make a We Cheer 3? Of course I do! Though, in all honestly, I hope they make We Dance instead. Same gameplay, slightly different theme. Not only would We Dance attract a larger audience, as DDR fans might actually give it a second glance (and look and Just Dance’s ridiculous sales figures), but in all honesty they’ve run out of things to do with cheerleaders. Seriously, every classic cheerleader song is covered, every possible cheerleading uniform can be made, and every sports event that has cheerleaders can be cheered at (and quite a few that don’t). Namco could still surprise me though.

Regardless of if it’s We Cheer 3 or We Dance, I do hope to see more of the series. It’s an impressive and fun game and easily one of the Wii’s finest. Just don’t expect to enjoy it if you don’t like dancing, obviously.

Apologies!

May 3, 2010

Hello to anyone who reads this blog. I’d just like to apologize for the lack of updates this past month. I fell ill with a powerful stomach virus (possibly stomach flu) for a good two weeks and it has taken me a bit to recover.

I am feeling fine now and there should be more posts coming in the next few days, including that overdue monthly release list. May is looking like Downloadable Month as downloads dominate the list.

While I’m here, remember when I said that Nier would either be amazing or one of the worst games ever made? Shockingly it’s the former. I’m 12 hours into Nier and loving every minute of it. Poor graphics and rough edges aside, this thing is an absolute gem. Anyway, I will see you all shortly with a new post later.