Archive for October 2010

Kinect unfortunately(?) has a chance

October 27, 2010

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but I personally consider myself a sort of motion control aficionado and as such have been gearing up to tackle the big comparison of the three controllers.

Thus far the Wiimote was the biggest disappointment of my life and could barely even be considered a motion controller. The MotionPlus was rudimentary but a massive improvement over the standard Wiimote.  The Move, however, was a dream come true with pinpoint accuracy that adds amazing depth to games.

The Kinect, however, is once I’ve been on the fence about. While the concept looks impressive, trying to swing a sword without holding something in your hand feels odd. Not to mention buttons are more important than you realize, even in motion control (as Sony has so handily pointed out). Then there’s the whole question of how well it works as the Kinect isn’t too far removed from an EyeToy. With every report on it claiming it to be laggy and inaccurate, the Kinect was definitely looking to be the biggest waste of money in gaming history.

However, a video from the Home Shopping Network has gotten me thinking. I know it’s painful to watch, but just watch a couple minutes and you’ll see what I mean:

There’s some pretty impressive things going on here at first glance. Notice how the system tracks the mother and daughter clasping their hands together or how  people can jump into and out of the raft? That’s pretty neat.

Of course if you pay attention you’ll notice significant amounts of lag, brief moments where on-screen characters glitch out, and general inaccuracies. In short it confirms everything we’ve already heard: The Kinect is laggy and inaccurate.

But that doesn’t make the stuff mentioned before any less impressive! Basically what I’m saying is that the Kinect is looking to be the ultimate gimmicky gadget. For those first 15 minutes it’s the most amazing thing, like stepping into the future. After those 15 minutes you realize it can’t really do much else though and is limited to basic mini-games, but by that point it no longer matters, Microsoft has your money.

Which brings us to the clincher: the 4 gig bundle. Normally the $150 price of the Kinect is way too high (though Rock Band 3 with a Keyboard was $130). However, Microsoft is selling a bundle of a 4gig slim 360 and Kinect together for $300 (Home Shopping Network was overpricing it). That’s right in the sweet spot! Yeah it costs more than a Wii, but it’s also more impressive and that extra $100 seems justified! What’s more, it seems impressive enough that existing Wii owners may want one.

Mind you this is a 4 gig slim we’re talking about. The slims have built-in harddrives that cannot be replaced or upgraded and 4 gigs is way too little space for a 360. In essence it’s a useless 360. However, that ultimately doesn’t matter because the customer will be sick of it after 15 minutes anyway and 4 gigs is just enough for 15 minutes!

As such the Kinect may, unfortunately, have a chance. However, I did just realize a snag: Microsoft generally loses money on every 360 made due to selling them for less, right? Are they making any money off these Kinect bundles? Because if not, if these bundles are still costing them money, then this could be an even bigger bungle! As I just said, I don’t see people staying interested in the Kinect after 15 minutes and as such they probably won’t buy any games for it. As such, if Microsoft isn’t actually making money off the bundle sales, this could end up costing them even more!

Well it’s only a week away so time will tell.

Your Analysis Sucks

October 27, 2010

You ever heard of Sean Malstrom? He’s an interesting fellow with a gaming blog of his own that provides a very different look at the industry. While I don’t always agree with him, his very different viewpoint is appreciated. Still, one does have to wonder why he’s always so pissy. But after reading this article a friend of mine linked me to, I fully understand. These analysts are idiots!

The article in question is from Gamespot and informs us that the PS3 managed to outsell the Wii in September:

http://www.gamespot.com/news/6282085.html

I would like to go on to state that none of this idiocy is the fault of the writer, he is merely reporting the stupid shit that the analysts have said.

What sort of stupid shit?

“The Wii, however, fared far worse, being beat by both the 360 and the PS3. “The Wii continues to struggle due to gamer fatigue and a lack of high-profile releases,” summarized Wedbush’s report. “The era of standard definition gaming is rapidly coming to an end, and Nintendo may have missed the opportunity to revitalize its large installed base of consumers by offering them an HD version of the Wii before Sony and Microsoft encroach with motion control schemes of their own.””

Okay, the Wii sold worse than the PS3 and 360 though all three console’s sales are down.  So why is the Wii selling worse? Because of “gamer fatigue”, which seems to mean that Wii owners are burnt out on gaming.

But, keep in mind we’re talking about system sales. As such, these people couldn’t be burnt out on gaming as they don’t own a Wii yet! People who already own a console seldom buy more! If we were talking about software sales then “gamer fatigue” may have been a reasonable response (though keep in mind few interesting titles were released in September) but hardware sales?!

Lemme give you a better suggestion: perhaps it’s because everyone already owns a Wii! No, seriously, think about it. The Wii was sold out for two years! No console in the history of gaming has ever done that! And remember that Nintendo was not shorting stores on their shipments, they were shipping Wiis as fast as they could make them! So of course the Wii’s sales are down.

They then suggest that Nintendo should have made an “HD Wii” before Microsoft and Sony could add motion control to their systems. Keep in mind the Kinect is not out yet (and I still think it will be the biggest waste of money in gaming history) and the Move’s sales are nowhere near Wii levels. I mean, this article openly states the 360 outsold the PS3 even though the PS3 has it’s motion control device ready.

What’s worse is that the analysts act like all motion control is the same. They fail to recognize that the Move and possibly even Kinect provide vastly superior motion control. As such, a Wii in HD wouldn’t really be able to “compete” with the Move and Kinect and would ultimately be an embarrassment. The Wii’s success is due in a large part to it’s low cost and vast game library and as such making the jump to HD now would be silly. The Wii already has a massive user base and Nintendo is not going to just suddenly abandon them as that would be bad business. Investors should be looking at software sales rather than hardware sales when it comes to Nintendo right now.

Which brings me to this lovely caption:

“Multiple analysts are predicting dark days ahead for the Wii.”

Multiple analysts are morons. Apparently they didn’t see Nintendo’s E3 lineup. This year Nintendo blew everyone away at E3 and they have numerous great looking games coming to their console for Christmas. Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Donkey Kong Country Returns head up their first party offerings and in terms of third party stuff, Sonic Colors is generating quite a buzz. Even if Kinect and Move make a dent with their newness, don’t forget that Nintendo has the power of Zelda on their hands with the upcoming Skyward Sword. Yes it will require a MotionPlus, but considering Nintendo can pack that in without costing more than an average HD game? I think it’s still going to pack a punch.

“Pacific Crest Securities’ Evan Wilson also believes the Wii’s best days are behind it. In his note, he said that, “September’s data is another reminder that the Wii is well past its peak in the United States. It is also clear that the peak it set was high enough that it will present a nearly impossible comparison for the gaming industry for the foreseeable future. And, now Nintendo’s partners are walking away from it. By our calculation, 26 percent fewer Wii games have been published this year. This does not mean that the Wii is finished selling units, but it does mean that this time, it wasn’t different, and we are once again on the tail of a cycle.””

This is a much more reasonable statement though and I give credit for it. Yes the Wii’s sales are in decline but in the long run it means very little. The Wii has made it’s money and the 3DS is coming. Which brings us back to crazy land because…

“The Wedbush report also predicted iPod Touch and iPhone sales will be “cannibalizing” the handheld market until the launch of the Nintendo 3DS next March, when he expects the Mario Factory’s fortunes to rebound.”

There’s a huge difference between apps and full fledged games and I think the iPhone/iPod Touch audience is almostly completely different from the DS one. PSP is a slightly different story due to it selling more to gadget hounds than actual gamers, but it’s sales have never been strong.

Not to mention they forgot to take Pokemon Black and White into account, which will be released in America sooner than you think. On a more relevant note:

“On the software front, Wedbush reported both Wii and DS software sales sank 38 percent in September, the former because of the inclusion of Wii Sports Resort and Wii Sports with every new Wii purchase. The report also called out year-to-date declines in Wii software sales (down 24 percent by $385 million-plus) and DS software sales (down 10 percent by $90 million).”

I’d really chalk that up to “not much came out on Wii and DS in September”. Seriously, look at that list. You know I’m a huge Wii/DS game monger and yet all I could find to care about was Batman: Brave and the Bold (pretty cool on both systems) and Samurai Warriors 3 (first SW I’ve actually enjoyed). Neither of which are particularly big name releases. I guess there’s some truth to software sales dropping due to the fact that new Wii owners don’t need to buy Wii Sports Resort but…I dunno…that almost doesn’t even count, does it? They’re buying it with their system purchase now!

While not as idiotic as some of the reviews I’ve read, it looks like analysts don’t know enough about what they’re analyzing.

 

But before I go, I’d like to point out a stupid comment on the article:

“On a positive note: yay for the downfall of social and casual gaming!”

Wait, social gaming is a bad thing now?! I mean casual gaming being bad was stretching it as it was but now we’re lumping “social” gaming too?! Good lord how anti-social are we!?

Sonic Fan Remix: The Epic Cock Block

October 24, 2010

No sooner had I finished my write-up of how I felt about Sonic 4 than I discovered that the demo of Sonic Fan Remix had gone live. A remake of Sonic 2 made by two guys.

At first glance it appears to utterly demolish SEGA’s own efforts with it’s more accurate portrayal of Sonic’s physics and jawdropping 2.5D graphics packed with numerous amazing visual effects! Sonic 4 looks positively amateurish by comparison! What timing too, coming out so shortly after Sonic 4.

But it’s easy to point out how much these two outclassed SEGA, but let’s look at everyone else! This game absolutely blows away New Super Mario Bros. Wii too! Same with Megaman 9. Okay that one might not be fair since it’s meant to be 8-bit, but what about Megaman Universe? Looks a lot better than that! Gee, looks like these two just embarrassed the entire industry!

So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look. First of all, the game is running on an incredible pre-made engine: The Unity Engine. This alone helps them out a lot. On top of that, Sonic Fan Remix is a remake of Sonic 2 rather than a new game. As such the basic stage and game design is already done for them, they just needed to recreate it.

And let’s be honest here, had SEGA made this it would have been picked apart for minor things just like Sonic 4. “The visuals are too lush!”, “the graphics are too dark!”, “that tree shouldn’t be on fire!”. The music past stage 1 is crummy, there are occasional framerate hiccups, and considering I managed to fall through the world once I’m sure people could find just as many goofy glitches in this game as there are in Sonic 4. Yes it’s a work-in-progress but the point still stands.

This doesn’t make the project any less impressive though. The fact that two random guys were able to put together such an amazing game, even if it is just a demo right now, is indeed incredible. They deserve to be commended for their efforts and SEGA should probably look into hiring them and possibly making Sonic 2 HD an official release. The Unity engine does run on basically all platforms after all. However, don’t go off thinking that SEGA should be ashamed by this. Because if they should be embarrassed by this, Nintendo should be even more embarrassed.

Sonic 4: It’s Finally Here

October 23, 2010

This past generation we’ve seen an odd sort of neo-retro comeback. Many classic game series are getting new 2D installments, like Megaman 9 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii just to name a few of the most well known ones. Well, SEGA decided to jump on the bandwagon too with Sonic the Hedgehog 4. Unfortunately, there’s the Sonic fanbase. As I’ve said in the past, they’re quite possibly the most unpleaseable fandom ever. If you thought this game, a game designed to the fandom’s exact specifications, would be different; then you don’t know the Sonic fandom very well.

To their credit, the fandom’s complaining did result in one good thing: the removal of the Act 2 mini-games. Originally, the second act of every stage was going to be some kind of mini-game. This was a terrible idea and does show SEGA’s steadfast determination to screw up a Sonic at the very last second. SEGA just doesn’t seem to have confidence in pure Sonic gameplay being able to carry a title. Thankfully, SEGA listened and delayed the game in order to make new Act 2s.

So, with that hiccup fixed the game is good, right? If you ask me it’s a bit overpriced but yeah, it’s good stuff! Unfortunately, videos like this exist:

One look at a video like this has people shaking their heads and laughing at SEGA once again. Clearly they can’t do anything right!

But this video is incredibly out of context. What exactly is going on here? For this I have to hand it over to AGwolf2097:

To his credit, he does a fantastic job showing the differences between Sonic 4’s physics and Sonic 2’s physics and also openly admits that it’s silly to complain about it. So AGwolf2097, I applaud you.

However, pay careful attention to what exactly he’s complaining about. Pay careful attention to what these differences are. The “problem” is that if you’re not holding a direction, Sonic can now stop on a dime. In essence, the complaint is that the controls are too good!

I’ve heard of “So Bad It’s Good”, but I didn’t think “So Good It’s Bad” was even possible!

This is where I have to make a confession: I never beat Chemical Plant Zone in Sonic 2. Oh I could breeze through to the end no problem, but at the very end was a series of flipping platforms over a pool of acid that you had to jump across. Unfortunately, when Sonic landed he continued to slide forward, forcing you to hold back. This would then cause you to run back and by the time you finally got Sonic to stabilize, the platform would flip up and you’d fall down. Sonic was just too slippery! As a kid I always complained that he was worse than Luigi on an ice stage! Sonic 4 fixed this.

So, what was up with those glitches in the first video? Well the walking in place seems to be due to Sonic’s walk speed being equal to the backwards inertia at a certain point on a slope. Basically in this situation in Sonic 2, Sonic would slide backwards. Here though he stays in place. In order to fix it you have to walk backwards yourself rather than letting Sonic slide backwards. The falling in place is a legitimate glitch, though again fixed by moving. Everything else is just the nature of the new physics.

To the fandom’s credit this does mean Sonic 4 doesn’t play exactly like the old Sonics and as such, certain tricks and techniques involving his slippery physics may not work. One could indeed argue that this defeats the entire purpose of making a Sonic 4.

What’s depressing though is, once again, the seepage of opinion. Early reviews of Sonic 4 were overwhelmingly positive. However, reviews written after the fandom got their hands on it became increasingly negative as reviewers jumped on the bandwagon and whined about the physics.

So, what do I think of Sonic 4? I think it’s a touch slow and I dislike the puzzles presented in some stages. Sonic animates slightly oddly and the cel-shaded look is very awkward on Dr.Eggman/Robotnik. The music varies between great and passable, and the visuals are nice with plenty of minor background details like the flowers swaying as you run past them. The problem is mostly that everything is copied from an older game. Each stage is based on an old Sonic stage, each boss is based on an old Sonic boss, and so on. As such the experience feels a bit stale and more like “Sonic’s Greatest Hits” than a legitimate “Sonic 4”. It seems that, like Shining Force EXA, the problem is in the title more than the actual game. There’s also the matter of price. Sonic 4 is $15, which is a high price to pay for an “Episode 1” that consist of only 4 Zones and a boss rush. Mind you those Zones are 3 Acts long not counting the boss as opposed to the traditional 2 Acts. As such it’s basically a 6 Zone Sonic and thus technically about as long as the GBA games. However the GBA games had more visual variety, not to mention multiple characters. I know that last point is a sore point amongst the fandom but I still insist that having more characters is never a bad thing.

So ultimately it’s not bad. I do prefer Sonic Advance 1, but then again Advance 1 is probably my all-time favorite Sonic. Sonic 4 is still good and I do not regret purchasing it. To the fans, the best advice I can give is to ignore the game’s title and judge it on it’s own merits rather than how closely it follows the Genesis titles.

But yes, Sonic Colors will probably be better. That game looks amazing.

New Releases: October 2010

October 4, 2010

Now things are really kicking into high gear with a number of releases, and even a few surprises, for October! The Move kicks it up a notch, Vanquish redefines third person shooters, Shantae finally gets a sequel, and best of all: the Lufia II remake comes out in America! Awesome!

-Week 1-

Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (DSi Ware)

The original Shantae was a side-scrolling classic on Gameboy Color that pushed the system to it’s limits. Sadly, it took so long to find a publisher that by the time it hit the GBA was already out and the GBC was old news. As such it sold poorly and while a sequel was planned and nearly finished for GBA, it was never released as no one would publish a sequel to a game that sold so poorly. They attempted to make a sequel for DS as well but once again no one would publish it. Finally, thanks to DSi Ware, they can publish it themselves! Brace for impact, folks, this game is gonna be epic.

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light (DS)

A back-to-basics Final Fantasy with an oddly Animal Crossing-esque presentation and FF1’s plot. Sadly it’s also a somewhat dumbed down Final Fantasy with limited control over the cast and the characters are not customizeable, they just wear different hats. Still it looks intriguing enough that I can’t help but want to try it.

Haunted House (Wii)

This looked like generic shovelware at first but upon closer inspection it’s actually a direct sequel to Haunted House on the Atari 2600. I am not making this up. If it’s cheap enough, I’ll take a look.

-Week 2-

Sonic 4: Episode 1 (Wii Ware, XBLA, PSN)

Here it is, the game that’s too fast, too slow, too homing, too Dimps, and too green eyed to be any good! Hitting the Wii first and everything else shortly afterwards, Sonic 4 may finally destroy the insane fandom as they caniballize themselves over it. Me? I wish it had more characters because I’m a horrible human being!

Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (DS)

Wait what?! I thought this wasn’t coming to America! Sure enough though, it is (Dear SquareEnix: release SaGa 2 next please). For those of you who don’t know, this is a DS remake of Lufia II in the form of an action RPG. That might annoy some, but what you don’t know is that the original Lufia team actually made Shining Force Neo and Shining Force EXA! As such they’ve got experience in the field (Shining Force EXA was awesome) and combined with Lufia’s signature awesome writing, this is a match made in heaven!

Dragon’s Lair Trilogy (Wii)

It got delayed. I want my budget priced three pack of Don Bluth psuedo-game goodness, dammit!
Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes (Wii/PS3)

The Sengoku Basara series finally returns to America…on Wii and PS3?! Sure enough it’s made for Wii and ported to PS3. Unfortunately they cut all my favorite characters and are toning down the silly, so I’m avoiding it until I get my Itsuki/Puff, Matsu/Bramble, and Venus back (I actually like their US names). There is literally no one I want to play as.
The Shoot (PS3 Move)

A lightgun-style rail shooter for the Move where you play an actor in a number of movies. It’s very accuracy based and does do some cool things with controller tracking based on the demo I played, so I intend to pick it up.

-Week 3-

Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Wii)

A new 2D sidescrolling Kirby game made entirely out of yarn. Awesome. Yeah, I tend to write less about games everyone already intends to buy.
DJ Hero 2 (360, PS3, Wii)

When I reviewed the original DJ Hero, I thought it was a guaranteed hit. I was wrong. But a DJ Hero 2 is still coming and while I don’t think it will add as much as a sequel should, it will provide us all with more tracks to scratch along to. I mean heck, they’ve got a captive audience now and with the original and it’s controller in bargain bins, maybe someone will give this one a spin.
Active Life Explorer (Wii)

Why does this look so good? No really, it looks like an old Namco arcade game and is giving me nostalgic feelings. It reminds me a little of Prop Cycle for some reason. I might buy this eventually.

Vaniquish (360, PS3)

You have 48 hours to stop that from happening. You will stop that from happening. I don’t know what I’m stopping but with rocket sliding and Steven J. Blume on my side, I’m up to the task in what appears to be best described as “Japan does Gears of War better”.

Rock of the Dead (360, PS3)

Typing of the Dead mixed with Guitar playing?! Well heck, if it’s cheap enough, I’ll bite.

Time Crisis: Raizing Storm (PS3)

Compatible with both the Move and Guncon 3, Time Crisis: Raizing Storm is a triple pack containing Raizing Storm, Time Crisis 4 (now with Move support), and Deadstorm Pirates. Guncon 3 owners will want to buy this and may even want to consider getting a Move instead of a second Guncon 3.

-Week 4-

Bakugan: Defenders of the Core (360, PS3, DS, PSP, Wii)

I know nothing about Bakugan. I do, however, know that this game looks like Godzilla meets Dragon Ball Z and I am down with that. Defenders of the Core looks to be some kind of fighter featuring gigantic Bakugan monsters and some excellent cel-shading. What’s most surprising is that even the DS version looks exceptional with full 3D models and identical looking gameplay!
Rock Band 3 (360, PS3, Wii, DS)

Rock Band is good stuff. Rock Band 3 adds more content and a keyboard on top of support for all existing songs, of which I already have many. I am down with this. I just hope I can import my old band as I have no clue how I got my vocalist to look so cute.

Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger vs. Darkdeath Evilman (PSP)

I don’t buy PSP games. I’m buying this. It’s a strategy game where you make your own sentai hero.

Fable III (360)

Fable was fun so I’ll probably buy this…yeah that’s all I got. I learned not to follow Peter Molenuex’s games too closely.

Chuck E. Cheese’s Kart Racing (Wii)

Yes, this is a real thing. No, I’m probably not buying it. I’m only listing it to see if it has the Rock-A-Fire Explosion in it (because seriously, what are you gonna do about characters?). If it does, and it’s cheap, I’m buying it. Otherwise? No. Long story.

The Fight: Lights Out (PS3 Move)

The Move game everyone is banking on. Most of the people who showed up to the Move’s midnight launch (yes, people did show up at my store) were waiting for this. The Fight is a black and white, grim and gritty, motion controlled fighting game that tracks full arm and even head movement. Unfortunately, early reports have been mixed as to if it’s laggy or not. I know the controller itself can handle it as it tracked my spontaneous air guitar solos in Sports Champions Beach Volleyball quite well, it all depends on what the developers did.

God Eater Burst (PSP)

Namco’s entry in the “Monster Hunter Clone” genre. As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like Monster Hunter but I love it’s “clones” so I am buying this.