Monday, June 27, 2011

A Road Trip That Is Just Magnifico... The Shadows of the Damned Review

Note - The gameplay footage can be NSFW, so you are warned!

If you ever liked underrated and crazy Japanese games, you might heard of a man named Suda 51 from Grasshopper, recently known for the No More Heroes franchise. Usually with his games, he delivers an unorthodox style that can be described as insane and twisted, but the gameplay aspect does lack a bit. If you combine that style of presentation, atmosphere, and storytelling with Resident Evil 4-like gunplay that was pioneered by Shinji Mikami, you get a game called Shadows of the Damned. Even though the gameplay premise might be familiar, it is a road trip worth taking from beginning to end, but it definitely has its bumps and bruises along the way.

The protagonist of Shadows of the Damned is a demon hunter named Garcia Hotspur as his lady Paula gets kidnapped by the lord of demons, Fleming. The goal is pretty much simple after that as it is up to Garcia to rescue her at the Underworld with his talking skull sidekick, Johnson, at his side. If I had compare how the story progresses, it takes a similar approach to the 2D Mario games oddly enough as Fleming holds Paula hostage at his castle. In other words, it is a Mario game, but you're in hell shooting demons and to me, that is a good take on a classic formula that still works today. Garcia and Johnson make a fantastic duo together as the banter between the two is hilarious most of the time with the game's great use of crude humor. The crude humor does not as seem as forced compared to some other games as if you can understand and deal with the jokes about private parts the game throws at you, then you'll have a blast trucking your way through the game's five acts.

If you ever played the recent Resident Evil games, you will feel right at home with Shadows of the Damned's core gunplay as it does not play like any other modern third-person shooter. The aiming can take some time to get used to at the beginning, but things will be fine as you keep progressing. Besides being a talking skull, Johnson can transform to multiple guns and also be used as a stick for melee attacks, but they're not as powerful as the guns are the stars of the show. There isn't really a variety of guns in the game as you have your conventional pistol, which is actually called the boner, a shotgun, and a machine gun, but they have multiple functions that are unlocked as you move along in the game. There is an upgrade system in which you have to collect red gems by finding them within the levels or buying them from the merchant Christopher to increase your health, your guns' damage input, reload speed, etc. Besides the gunplay, the other core gameplay mechanic in Shadows of the Damned is how it handles light and darkness. At numerous sections throughout the game, you will encounter darkness as being there for long will result in a loss of health or even death if you can't find fire at a mechanism that turns on the light. Examples of that range from a goat head, a pore, or setting up fireworks. Playing through these sections of darkness reminds me of another Nintendo game, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, but Grasshopper handles this mechanic better by throwing different situations at you to dispose the darkness. Even enemies will be in their dark form as you have to light them up before you can damage them at all. Specific enemies also have to killed in the darkness, so you have to be play carefully in these sections. There are also great boss fights against bigger enemies even though they consist of finding a way to shoot their red weak spot numerous times to defeat them. Both of the core gameplay mechanics work exceptionally well, but there are some questionable moments in the game in which I'll talk about next.

Besides going from one kill room to another, Grasshopper throws in some diversity giving players different things to do such as puzzles, instant death situations, turret sections, and even a change in dimension gameplay-wise. The puzzles are not that bad as they're not there to challenge your brain as most of them consist of finding a strawberry or a brain to unlock the next door or making a path within a big room that lets you keep going. Then there are the little situations that will throw players for a loop as some of them seem cool on paper, but they can be frustrating at the end of the day more than halfway into the game. Other than those frustrating parts, Shadows of the Damned is a short and easy game to blast through in seven to nine hours on average. There are difficulty options at the start of the game as the default normal difficulty is pretty easy since you will rarely die especially with the generous checkpoint system, it is better to start on Legion Hunter, the game's version of hard for a more challenging trip. There is definitely a lack of replay value as there are no other modes besides the main game, no level select, and even a no new game plus option, so this is something Grasshopper dropped the ball on.

The sense of tone and atmosphere has been nailed exceptionally well in Shadows of the Damned as Suda 51's take on the underworld looks great. You are always wandering what is the next for Garcia and Johnson whether it is another enemy encounter with darkness thrown in, a boss fight, or just the two interacting with the posters scattered throughout the game. Even the little details such as background or past stories about the characters and even the bosses are fascinatingly hilarious to listen to. There are some technical issues from the camera mishandling certain situations such as close enemy encounters, texture pop-in, after loading from a checkpoint, and other things not happening the way it should of (impossible to find any light mechanisms within darkness at times, which can lead to death). The game's sound is also amazing from the voice acting that can be cheesy at times even though I enjoyed it and specifically the soundtrack done by Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame. His tracks scattered throughout the game are just phenomenal corresponding the mood and atmosphere to the point it is a contender for best soundtrack for a game this year.

Despite some faults, Shadows of the Damned is one hell of a road trip worth playing through. The mix of Suda 51's stylish presentation and Mikami's Resident Evil 4-like gameplay equals pure brilliance. It is easy to love the ragtag duo of Garcia Hotspur and Johnson as they're just great characters to play as. I also enjoyed the crude humor a lot you don't see this style of humor handled effectively in most of today's games. Even though there are some design decisions that made me feel a little frustrated, it is still a fairly easy game to blast through in a few hours. The lack of extra content beyond the main game is disappointing as it may not be worth the full price tag, but if you're a Suda 51 fan, down to laugh, and love insane Japanese games, Shadows of the Damned is definitely worth your time and money as it is definitely my sleeper hit of the year so far.

Score = 8.5/10

  • As expected with a Suda 51 game, great sense of style and atmosphere
  • Great use of crude humor throughout this road trip
  • One of the best gaming soundtracks this year
  • The duo of Garcia and Johnson are such a blast play as
  • Core gameplay mechanics from the gunplay and the light/darkness work exceptionally well
  • Questionable design decisions especially at the second half of the game
  • Technical issues from a bad camera at times to texture pop-in
  • Definitely a short game, but it still feels like a road trip (seven to nine hours on normal for most folks)
  • Lack of extra content (no level select, bonus modes, no new game plus)

Is The World Ready For a Black Eyed Peas Game???

After successful sales of The Michael Jackson Experience on all consoles, Ubisoft has another franchise they can take advantage of money-wise making more artist-specific dance games even though it uses the Just Dance formula (then again these are pretty much spin-offs). Going from a legend such as Michael to one of today's most successful groups such as the Black Eyed Peas seems like a complete 180. Who knows if Will.I.Am, Fergie, Taboo, and deserve their own game as you can be the judge of that, but now they do with The Black Eyed Peas Experience. This is pretty much the MJ game or even Just Dance with only BEP songs. At first I thought, do they enough songs to satisfy their own game? The answer to that seems yes considering if you got at least 20 given songs in the game that covers from Elephunk onwards to The Beginning. I would be surprised if this includes pre-Fergie stuff specifically "Joints & Jam" as the guys pretty much breakdanced throughout that video. Another thing to keep in mind is since it is a dance game, BEP is more known for their party songs rather than having signature dance moves, so it is not like you're going to be excited doing some known choreography compared to the MJ game where moonwalking and crotch grabs are a plenty.

Of course, it is easy to hate The Black Eyed Peas Experience right away from this initial announcement (I was at first), but with the rhythm genre at its current dancing phase, you might as well take advantage of the craze as long as you can and that is what Ubisoft hopes to achieve with this game and Just Dance 3 this year. The lack of a PS3 version is kind of shocking as this is only coming out for 360 because of Kinect support and the Wii. The reason for that might be that the PS3 version of The Michael Jackson Experience didn't perform that well sales-wise and Ubisoft decided to stick with platforms that would give them better numbers. Hopefully people that buy this game will have the time of their lives (no pun intended).

Dirty Bit...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

At Least Sega Is Doing Something with Sonic's 20th Anniversary...

Today is the actual 20th Anniversary of Sonic The Hedgehog and at least Sega decided to do something cool unlike most companies (yeah you Nintendo). A limited demo for Sonic Generations was released today for Xbox Live and Playstation Network (At least the UK Playstation Store now as the US Store will likely get it later today unless they're lazy). What I mean by limited? Well, there is only one level which is the infamous Green Hill Zone and you play as just classic Sonic. The whole theme of Sonic Generations is playing as both classic and modern versions of Sonic as classic is in the glory 2D days as modern reminds you of recent games, so it is a little unfortunate modern Sonic is not playable in this demo. Another reason why it is limited is that you can only play it for 20 days (no pun intended I guess) and then it goes down. Then again, demos for games out in the fall usually don't get released this early, so Sega gave us a treat that at least is something. Besides this demo, there is a sale that you can buy a bundle of Sonic 1, 2, 4: Episode I, and Adventure DX for 20 bucks. That is not that bad of a deal if you haven't bought them yet on Xbox Live or PSN, but certainly there are better things to buy unless you're a Sonic nut.

Anyway, playing as classic Sonic in this short demo seems okay for the most part. It is definitely 2D bringing back the Genesis days (when Sonic games were good!!!) and he doesn't have the tricks modern Sonic would have such as the homing attack (he's classic for a reason). He does have the spin dash though, which makes playthroughs of this one Green Hill level seem fast. Sega so far has managed to get the sense of speed right especially when Sonic is running, but of course it still feels momentum-based as there will be moments of pacing methodically and carefully at platforming sections. Other than that, classic Sonic controls fine, but of course hardcore Sonic fans will get too picky especially with the physics, which Sega has struggled to find the sweet spot they would be satisfied with. Graphically, Sonic Generations could of looked better, but considering it is an early build, they have time to make some improvements, specifically with the framerate. Sega has a good track record of games that run smoothly at 60 frames per second, but if the final game is running at 30 fps like this demo, that is not going to cut it for the game in general. Then there is the motion blur, which is expected, but I can see it being a problem for some people (not me though). The music, however, is great as the remastered Green Hill Zone track turned on my nostalgia light bulb.

Although the demo is short, I do have some high hopes for Sonic Generations as it could finally be the one that Sega gets it right. Then again, I feel like I'm falling into the infamous trap that is the Sonic Cycle. Deep down, I have a feeling Sega will find a way to ruin it as they did with past Sonic games (the Werehog in Unleashed, the abomination that was Sonic 2006, and others). I can already see certain fans disappointed as they dig deep in the demo's files (yeah some people are too hardcore) figuring out any leaked details as they can. If those details and rumors are right, perhaps this is not the nostalgic trip most fans are hoping for with the inclusion of characters from recent games in some form. We shall see as Sonic Generations is out this fall on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Music Roundup for 6/16/11 of Let's Get Clubby!!!!

This music roundup features two albums that make you wanna party and how convenient they're by two mainstream "masters" of this craft. Love them or hate them, they know what it takes to make catchy singles that make you go nuts in nightclubs if you're into that. You can't go a hour without listening to either of them on the radio as their songs keep getting plays like no other. Both of these albums, which are out next week, I will talk about are very similar yet so different at the same time.

We start off with LMFAO's latest, Sorry for Party Rocking. After exploding the scene with Party Rock that we're in Miami trick, signing "La La La," and taking shots shots shots, the boys are back continuing what they left off last time with more songs that make you wanna party. It is actually nice of them starting off with "Rock the Beat II" as a sequel to their first song last time setting things off right. The title track could of been better though, but once "Party Rock Anthem" kicks in, that's when the album pops off and of course people get their shufflin' on. After that, it is more what you expect along with their crazy personalities such as "Sexy and I Know It" & "Champagne Showers" (their latest single). Surely there are the slower stuff too and at least one of them eventually will be a single, which would likely be "Best Night" featuring Will.I.Am. One of the better songs in the album personally is "Take to the Hole" featuring Busta Rhymes as it is the most rap you'll get here. It definitely has that fresstyle mentality, which kind of surprised me a bit as it would be cool to hear some remixes of it with different people. Besides that, you know what you're going to get with a LMFAO album even though there are obviosly hits and misses. I expect to hear lots to tracks from this one at the clubs for the coming months. Sorry for Party Rocking is a decent sophomoric effort in a nutshell with arguably one of the most played singles of this year with "Party Rock Anthem."

The other party album out next week is Pitbull's Planet Pit. Mr. 305 has been on a tear for the past year from "DJ Got Us Fallin in Love" with Usher, "I Like It" with Enrique Iglesias, "On the Floor" with Jennifer Lopez, and his own stuff. Especially with "Hey Baby (Drop It on the Floor)" featuring T-Pain and current smash hit "Give Me Everything" featuring Ne-Yo, there seems to be nobody stopping him at this rate. Compared to the LMFAO album, you get a different style of sound and arguably better production, specifically hit mastermind RedOne for "Rain over Me" with Marc Anthony, which at this point should be a single too. Pitbull still can't really handle a track solely on his own as he relies on cameos mostly for the hooks even though it still works. Besides Ne-Yo, T-Pain, & Marc, the cameo lineup is a who's who of pop music today from Enrique, Jamie Foxx, Chris Brown, Akon, and more. There is actually two tracks that just him and it definitely shows Mr. Worldwide needs others to do most of the dirty work, which is okay for the most part. One of them, "Pause" is not that bad being one of my personal favorites, but "Something for the DJs" is pretty bad. Especially in his not so crazy voice, hearing him sing "If you're sexy and you know it, clap your hands" makes me wonder why is that even a song on the album. His attempt of slower-paced songs also end up flat out as he should stick to what he's good at, but then again I give him some credit for trying though. Planet Pit has its own share of hits and misses as it is front loaded with the singles, but the rest struggles to match the first half's quality. Then again, leave it to Pitbull to put out the most catchiest songs you'll hear at the clubs like he has been for the past several years. After all, you're supposed to grab somebody sexy and tell 'em hey.

Even though both of these albums feel very one-dimensional as they are definitely meant for the parties, they have their obvious faults. There are surely the hit songs, but half of them are filled with these. These type of albums aren't meant to listen from beginning to end anyway as you'll pick your favorites and leave it at that.

Next time on the music roundup is likely going to feature Beyonce and Lil' Wayne (whenever I get the Weezy album).

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mega E3 2011 Wrap-Up of No One Man Should Have All That Power!

So what have I learned from E3 this year??? Well, there are a lot of things that are telling where the game industry is at these days and heading towards for the coming year. The big three (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) have their pros and cons with their press conferences as there was no clear cut winner of who won E3, but if I had to pick one, it is Nintendo because of their showing of the WiiU. Their new console definitely shows promise and potential, but there are definitely some improvements that can be made. Plus, Nintendo didn't really handle how to release official information such as specs and features for the box itself is a slightly bigger Wii from what I seen despite focusing on the controller a whole bunch. Anyway, let's get going to what struck me at E3.


The number one thing out at E3 is that the oversaturation of shooters is at its boiling point to the point it felt like overkill. It is a sign that if you want to be a million dollar success, it has to be a shooter (whether first or third-person). It is pretty unfortunate that publishers and developers have to resort to games like these as an easy way to get money, but you know what, that whole plan can backfire because the competition is too crowded and people like me probably had enough of them. Even though some of the game of the show contenders are shooters, games that are trying too hard to be blockbuster/AAA quality would likely be left in the dust and the fact they probably weren't impressive at E3 this week. The heated battle between Battlefield 3 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 was front and center throughout the show as if you have to pick a side at this point, but cmon, might as well wait till the games actually come out this fall (BF3 at the end of October while MW3 is two weeks later). Seriously, I can compare this to this year's MTV Movie Awards, which happened recently, with the whole Team Twlight and Team Potter crap. If you're not Battlefield or Call or Duty this year (especially with military shooters), good luck trying to sell a million copies along with putting out a good game. If you don't have shooter fatigue yet, all power to you, but damn, I'm getting sick and tired of it.

Did Kinect and Move make their monumental leap in their second year at E3???

If I had to answer that, I would probably say no. Sure, we have to keep in mind these things have been out for a few months, but from what I seen, it seems to be more of the same as their launches with mini-game collections and an absurd amount of dance games. It is pretty safe to say that motion controlled dance games have replaced plastic instruments in the rhythm genre, but it is definitely something that still has a future as long it doesn't make the same mistakes the Guitar Hero/Rock Band franchises did (mainly Guitar Hero). Then again, the Just Dance franchise has quickly turned to the "Guitar Hero" of dance games as it is already in its third iteration this fall for all three consoles (Kinect/Move support for 360/PS3). Just Dance 3 seems to be more of the same with minor improvements (and still sell millions of copies) while Dance Central 2 (aka still the only reason to get Kinect now) is basically the Rock Band 2 of dance games, which is a good thing. We pretty much have our Rock Band/Guitar Hero rivalry again with dancing as Dance Central feels like the underdog despite being the better game (Harmonix knows what's up) while Just Dance is that "Guitar Hero-like" juggernaut that can eventually lose that status.

Yeah, Kinect and Move for the upcoming year is not just dance games, as other games supporting motion controls are trying too hard to be make a good impression. It is pretty telling during certain demos like Medieval Moves and Kinect Star Wars even though they're incomplete builds. I gotta give credit to Microsoft and Kinect though for finally branching out to more games which Move has been ahead of. It is nice that these options exist, but I'm surely rather play blockbuster games with a controller such as Ghost Recon: Future Soldier (which actually had a poor showing again this week). I just can't see myself doing that full body shooting animation, but surely there is an audience that will love it. The kiddy-targeted games will be fine such as Seasme Street: Once Upon a Monster (still awesome Double Fine is making that game) and Disneyland Adventures, but beyond that, Kinect and the Playstation Move didn't do enough to level up their game, but they're getting there slowly. For now, they're still only good for parties especially during drunken times.

On-Rail Segments = They're Getting Old Now...

Another theme of E3 demos being shown off this year was the over usage of on-rail segments. These parts of the game are as scripted as it gets and we don't get to see the full potential of the game unless you saw at closed door theaters. Sure, I know developers want to show off the coolest scene they have of their game so far, but it doesn't have to be on rails (basically going from point A to point B without going back) to be cool. You can show an awesome segment of the game by just playing it normally, which is where the cool demos shine like Uncharted 3 and BioShock Infinite. Having limited controls because of these sequences for the E3 demos pretty much holds developers back because you're not showing the full idea and promise of your game. It makes wander how these game publishers and developers think of what to show for something such as E3, which was discussed during some podcasts I listened to (mainly Giant Bomb's ones all this week). They can get it right or just fall flat on their face, which was the case for some demos I seen so far. Yeah, we don't get to fully play certain sequences in games in today's world because of cutscenes and on-rail segments because they want that theatrical mindset in regards to the experience (which is also why games are becoming less than they should be and turning more to be interactive experiences). It is just something game designers have to consider for the future.

Disappointed with the lack of Japanese games at E3? Yeah, wait till TGS.

The high profile no-shows at E3 this year were mostly Japanese games have been looking forward for years now. The Last Guardian and Metal Gear Solid Rising were specifically the ones that weren't mentioned at all this week. It has been known that Japanese gaming has been on the downside on the current generation of consoles as they never seem to catch up to other countries. This is mostly due to the different philosophies both Japanese and others spread across, but it is the Japanese philosophy that has not seen any significant progression especially in recent years. Most Japanese publishers/developers have been stuck in the "if it ain't broke/don't fix it" mentality for years even though they iterate little by little, but their core ideas are still intact and getting old. This E3 was indeed the case seeing similar Japanese games we have seen for years as even though they might be good at the end of the day, they have done little to innovate. It is a little hard to get excited for games such as Final Fantasy XIII-2 (trailer above) and Ninja Gaiden III (Yet I do love my Ninja Gaiden), but there are some games like Dark Souls that still give hope for Japanese games. The important thing is most of Japan didn't show up for E3 as if you want to see exciting Japanese games, wait till the Tokyo Game Show this September.

With my main trends from E3 2011 out of the way (besides the Nintendo WiiU and Playstation Vita which I talked about those briefly in my press conference recaps), I might as well move on to what matters... my favorite games of the show from what I seen (keep in mind I didn't see every game in action and this is no particular order).

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

What else can I say after talking about this in my Sony presser recap? This game is just too good right now and I can't wait to play Nathan Drake's third adventure. Yeah, there's the multiplayer beta at the end of the month, but cmon, the campaign is what still matters and damn, as if UC2's campaign was amazing, UC3 seems to be ten times that.

BioShock Infinite

The only first-person shooter that is actually making evolutionary steps to take the genre to the next level. It is probably just the setting alone not to mention how beautiful the game looks. Plus, you just gotta love Ken Levine especially when he talks abut this game (there's a new Giant Bomb interview with him proving that). I just love how different this game is, which is similar to my time with the first BioShock. If there's one shooter to get for the coming year, get BioShock Infinite. (Yeah, its out early next year)

Mass Effect 3

Despite what I saw from the Microsoft and EA press conferences, the closed door demos of Mass Effect 3 sound great from what I heard. They were able to make me believe that it is still Mass Effect with all the combat improvements since I was fearing the game becoming more action focused. It is that, but BioWare was able to retain the RPG aspects intact along with giving us crazier setpieces Shepard gets involved with. March 6, 2012 seems far away for the end of the trilogy, but I still have faith BioWare will finish things right.

Of course, there are other games that impressed me at E3 this week, but not as much as those big three above. I already mentioned Street Fighter X Tekken, SSX, Tomb Raider, and some others throughout the week as they'll be fine when they come out next year. The game of the show contenders are definitely those three above and perhaps others I didn't pay attention to. I didn't mention any Nintendo games specifically the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword as I'm still not excited yet for that game on the Wii and with that game out on the holiday season, who knows I would get it, but yeah, its Zelda however I'm been disappointed by a Zelda game before. E3 is always a good time to be a gamer seeing all the new reveals of what you care about, but I'm always more fascinated by the talk about the industry where it is now and how we can make things better. Till next year I guess!!!!

Oh... I forgot to say who is the MVP of E3?

Yeezy!!!!!! Kanye pretty much provided the song of the show with "Power" as multiple trailers used that song and I can't stop listening to it again now. Giant Bomb is right that any game trailer makes sense with that song. Who would of thought that one man had all that power this week?!?!?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More SSX footage from E3 2011

The new SSX keeps getting better and better the more I see it especially with all these videos EA Sports has been releasing this week. Kaori is the latest character reveal, so she's back alongside Elise and Mac. We also get to see tunnel levels, which look amazing and the signature SSX gameplay remains intact even with the terrain deformation when you have your tricky meter going at its maximum. I don't care if it is coming out on January, I want to play this now!

DmC Looks Better Now I Guess...

DmC, aka Ninja Theory's Devil May Cry reboot, is at E3 and after all the hate about Dante's new look, I started to get over it after watching the trailer above. Capcom seemed to listen to the complaints and at least we see what to expect out of gameplay this time. Of course, I don't expect it to be as good as past games, but I like the new direction this time around as its own game. Dante's hair goes white when in Devil Trigger mode (whatever its called this time), so there's a response to all the hatred for the character model. Ninja Theory's past action games have been good, but not great, so hopefully DmC is their home run they have been waiting for. Despite all of that, it is still going to be hard to please everyone with this reboot (as if the franchise needed a reboot, but I can see why they want mainstream success), so good luck to Capcom and Ninja Theory trying to prove everyone wrong.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Street Fighter X Tekken E3 2011 Blowout

The fighting game to beat at E3 this week is arguably Street Fighter X Tekken. Here's some gameplay videos featuring recently revealed characters Cammy, Sagat, Julia, and Hworang.

UPDATE - Maxmillian put up a nice and informative video about his impressions of the game along with some footage as it seems like most of the tourney players are enjoying it so far.

Nintendo E3 2011 Press Conference Recap

Nintendo was the big of the last three to have their press conference this week ate E3 and the opportunity to steal the show once again, which I think did enough to do so. The excitement of a new console reveal is always good and of course the diehard fanboys would be out there in full force.

Even though this trailer wasn't shown at the presser, Nintendo started off talking about the 25th Anniversary of the Legend of Zelda franchise. An orchestra was there playing all the hits as they announced a live concert around the world sometime later this year. There's definitely a lot of Zelda out this year to celebrate that feat with Link's Awakening DX out now on the 3DS eShop, Four Swords will be on DSiWare, Ocarina of Time 3D out next weekend, and Skyward Sword (out this holiday season on Wii). I'm still not that hyped up for Skyward Sword and the fact it is out on the crowded holiday stretch, I'm not sure if I would get it. Yeah, its Zelda, but cmon, release it earlier than November Nintendo! Even with all those games celebrating the franchise's 25th anniversary, I'm actually a little disappointed they didn't announce some collection or even a new 2D game in the vein of New Super Mario Bros., but oh well with that.

Reggie came on to talk about the upcoming lineup for 3DS games, which they are desperate for now considering the launch was sort of a flop. Mario Kart 3DS, Star Fox 64 3D, the new 3D Mario game, Kid Icarus, and newly announced Luigi's Mansion 2 were what Nintendo has for the upcoming months. Luigi's Mansion 2 is probably the sequel no one expected at all to happen and especially on 3DS, but I'm actually glad it exists now since it was definitely an underrated game during the Gamecube's launch. As expected Mario Kart looks great, which now features hang gliding and driving on water, so it is going to sell gangbusters along with some more 3DS units. Star Fox 64 3D (the better remake I've been waiting for) is out on September and their versus mode seems better with camera support as people can see your reaction with your Arwing gets blown up by someone else. They have a solid 3DS lineup, so we'll see sales rise for that thing despite no early price drop announcement as some assumed they would drop price in response to the Playstation Vita.

The main event of the conference was the new console announcement, which is now called WiiU. As rumored for months, it is Nintendo's entry to HD even though the power for the thing is more equal to the 360 and the PS3. The big story is the controller which is a second screen that can be touched along with buttons seen in a Wii Classic Controller Pro. The use of the controller is pretty amazing as it can be a little hard to describe what the thing actually does (I'll let the video above demonstrate that). Its also one of those you have to play it to truly know what's up deals as people had some shaky first impressions when seen at the presser. Then again, Nintendo has been in this position before with the original DS, Wii, and the 3DS, so I'm pretty sure magic will strike again for the house that built Mario. More third-party games are coming to the WiiU at its launch next year and even if they get those big names, who knows how long they'll stick around trying to figure out innovative ways that 360 and PS3 versions won't have controls-wise. The WiiU is definitely an evolution of the Wii and it definitely has potential as I'm sure I'll buy it at its launch. Like the Wii though, I'll still only get it for the Nintendo games only (u know the Marios, Zeldas, Smash Bros., which got a mention and fanboys got hype, etc.), but so far I'm sold of how unique it is.

That's pretty much Nintendo's conference this year in a nutshell as I liked what I saw of the WiiU. It is definitely going to be the talk of the show since it is a new home console and lines will be filled up in just seconds just to try it out. They definitely had the best presser out of the big three for a second year in a row, which is good for them even though all three had their own flaws of what was shown and not.

Anyway, more E3 stuff throughout the week folks!!!

Rock Band Catches Grenades...

Yup, Rock Band 3 is still around pumping out DLC every week and one of the featured artists is another mainstream pop superstar, which is Bruno Mars. I never thought I would see Bruno songs appear in Rock Band (then again, same thing with Gaga), but it makes sense to a degree even though they're easy songs. "Grenade," "Just the Way Are," and "Marry You" are the three songs that are downloadable as if making YouTube videos of yourself singing this nonsense was enough. Keyboard players will have a good time with this, but I'm not sure with guitar players (well there's new Rise Against stuff out too).

Monday, June 6, 2011

Sony E3 2011 Press Conference Recap

I'll try to keep this one shorter than the Microsoft presser... just the highlights worth mentioning. It was the Playstation Vita's time to shine at Sony's E3 2011 Press Conference and even though it didn't hog all the spotlight along with some dragging moments, Sony will be fine this holiday season after what they showed off tonight. Plus, count on good old Jack Tretton to deliver the goods again (he's a pretty good MC at these things anyway).

Sony started off with the showstopper as Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception gets the demo spotlight. Nathan Drake is in some ship level and the amazing water effects gets shown off here. Its one of many reasons why its my most anticipated game of the year and also contender for game of the show. The new campaign trailer is also pretty nuts as well with the epic locales Drake and Sully travel plus it confirmed Chloe and Elena!

There was a Resistance 3 demo too, but it didn't seem that impressive. Then again, I'm not a Resistance fan, but there are fans out there for that franchise. Even Infamous 2, out tomorrow, got a mention tonight, which I thought was funny talking about a game out the same week as E3. Sony is also continuing the HD collection business with the already announced Ico/Shadow of the Collosus Collection and God of War: Origins Collection, which are the two PSP games remastered and 3D support. Speaking of 3D, Jack announced a Playstation-branded 24-inch 3DTV and 3D glasses at affordable prices (The TV is I think 500 bucks) especially a bundle with Resistance 3.

Playstation Move also had some minutes in the spotlight with a crappy game called Medieval Moves (pretty much Sorcery now). NBA 2K12 is a different story with their new point and play Move control scheme. It seemed sketchy during the demo, but at least Kobe was there to help out even though he felt trolled playing against the Heat (You could of done something about that Kobe if you're in the finals now). LittleBigPlanet2 is also getting a big Move patch soon as well.

Another PS3 exclusive only got the trailer treatment at tonight's press conference which was Starhawk. Looks like a lot of people watched the GameTrailers TV reveal a couple weeks back. However, one returning character is finally getting his fourth game as Sly Cooper returns to the Playstation 3 with Thieves on Time. Besides the trailer above, it is Sly's turn to mess around with time (Ratchet did that already this generation).

One of the other new games announced at Sony's presser was Dust 514 from the Eve Online peeps. Its just another third-person shooter to me, but it apparently has PS3/PC connectivity support and some sharing feature with Eve Online (from what I can remember). Still though, its just another shooter that will be swept up by the competition. The new Star Trek game that is related to the movies, however, (trailer below) could of pretty cool and for once be something good for the franchise.

The big third party dude at Sony's presser was Irrational's Ken Levine as he showed off BioShock Infinite's newest trailer. That game continues to amaze as it is also a top contender for game of the show. Ken had his doubts about motion controls, but he announced Move support for Infinite along with a BioShock game for Playstation Vita. The original game is also exclusively packaged with PS3 versions of Infinite, so that's a win for Sony for me. Sony has their own exclusive deals with third parties such as Move support for Saints Row: The Third, exclusive levels for the new SSX (Yes!), Battlefield 1943 free when you buy the PS3 version of Battlefield 3, and also Need for Speed: The Run.

With the PS3 only stuff out of the way, time for Kaz Hirai to talk PS Vita details!!!

  • 250 bucks Wi-Fi! 300 bucks Wi-Fi/3G! (That's a deal folks!)
  • Party systems with friends, "Near" social network service, AT&T provider (lol), cloud saves with PS3 versions
  • Still the same looking NGP (touch controls, rear/front cameras, gyroscope, etc.)
  • Holiday 2011 launch
  • First party lineup - Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Modnation Racers, Ruin (also for PS3 - cloud save feature was demoed), LittleBigPlanet Touch, and more to come.

The fighting game fan in me went nuts when a Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken got announced. The same console game will be there on the handheld along with touch controls for simple commands (like SSFIV 3D Edition on 3DS) and a guest exclusive character only for the Vita version, which is Cole from Infamous. Okay, Cole doesn't seem like a guy that would appear in a Capcom fighting game (I rather see him in Marvel vs. Capcom 3 than this since it probably makes more sense), but Ono and crew can pull it off. I'll have more about the console versions later this week (UPDATE - Cole is also confirmed for the PS3 version too = yay?).
That's pretty much it about Sony's press conference this year. They have a solid lineup for the rest of 2011 and the first half of next year. Uncharted 3 is gonna blow people's minds as their big first-party game of the holiday season. Their Move games are not impressive though, but at least they're trying to be better than Kinect and Wii on the motion control front. Playstation Vita's pricing shows that Sony is willing to compete against Nintendo's 3DS rather than try to be its own thing (Even though it pretty much is since they're two completely different systems now). They knew the PSN outage was very unfortunate, but Sony was able to rebound on the right track and it indeed shows at E3 this week.

3rd Strike y'all...

After nearly a year since its announcement, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition is finally coming out this summer on Xbox Live and Playstation Network. This ain't some lazy Capcom/Backbone port though as it looked like they have learned their lessons from Super Turbo HD Remix and Marvel 2. This version is arcade perfect, has GGPO-online play (Yes!), and the YouTube sharing feature. The filtering seems okay, but you never know those purists that love the game too much. The tournament scene will love this and I would love to see how the SF4-only crowd handle a game like this too.

Microsoft E3 2011 Press Conference Recap

Microsoft kicks off E3 proper with their press conference showing off what's next for the Xbox 360 and Kinect. Love or hate their direction on gaming especially with Kinect, they will be okay with their upcoming lineup.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 started off the show with a bang because its Call of Duty (Also, shoutouts to reconnecting controllers!). This is probably the best demo level they have showed in a E3 presser starting underwater and then raiding some submarine outside a messed up Manhattan. Besides all the setpieces filled with craziness, it is the same old shooting fans have been addicted to for years. For Microsoft, this started off a shooter-heavy conference as expected.

Next up was a Tomb Raider (Reboot) demo and it definitely looks good even though it is still coming out next fall as mentioned when I put up the trailer a couple days ago. I'm not as annoyed with Lara's voice yet compared to some folks and the theme of survival is definitely implemented well so far. I expect this game to be a game of the show contender among the interwebs.

A big theme of Microsoft's presser this year is the evolution of Kinect and how more games are getting integrated with the controller-free technology especially voice control (As demoed during Mass Effect 3 - no wonder it got delayed?). With Mass Effect 3, you can say the dialogue tree commands as well as tactical commands too during battle. Its nice that ME3 has some Kinect support, but it is not "omg I have to get a Kinect" worthy, which is the case for most of the titles shown off this morning.

Tom Clancy's Chost Recon: Future Soldier still exists and Ubisoft is going hard with Kinect support from the Minority Report-like gun customization to actually shooting without a controller. As expected, shooting with an invisible gun is weird and most people would still prefer controller, but this demo proves that a well-known franchise like Ghost Recon would have shooting controls via Kinect.

On the Xbox Live front, Microsoft to bring more services to the console from YouTube, searching by Bing, and finally live television on the fall dashboard update. My issue with Kinect still to this day is saying Xbox first and then the certain command (imagine saying Xbox... Bing a lot) as it looks they're not going to change that. One of the more impressive feature announcements though is the UFC app as Dana White came out to show off how UFC fights can be viewed on the 360. This can be pretty sick when watching live PPVs calling who wins the fight, comparing those answers across Xbox Live, and watch previous fights based on the fighter.

Gears of War 3 once again gets the press conference treatment as Cliffy B and special guest Ice T demoed a never before seen campaign level. I always loved the campaigns in the Gears games and this one is no different delivering crazy moments. Mechs are introduced for the first time in this demo (who knows if they're playable multiplayer... probably not for balance reasons). I'm still stoked to play this with someone else since I don't have a Xbox anymore.

Crytek's Codename Kingdoms is now called Ryse and also features Kinect controls. Finally, a hardcore first-party Kinect game? This is still ways off as it it coming out next year.

After being rumored for years, the Halo remake is finally revealed as a 10-year anniversary edition. Everything is remade in HD from the campaign and the multiplayer (the maps are in Reach rules though). Actually, it is pretty cool to see those levels again in better form. The campaign can be played also by online co-op. The surprising thing is that Halo Anniversary is now a fully priced retail release, which is okay because it is Halo and people would buy it no matter what the price is, but if it was downloadable though, that would of been way better. The Halo remake will be released on November 15.

Forza Motorsport 4 is out this October and another trailer that uses Kanye's "Power." Yup, people are gonna get sick of that song by the end of the week (The song was used better for the Saints Row: The Third trailer anyway).

Everyone's favorite British dude that loves to talk, but can't back it up Peter Molyneux is back showing off Fable: The Journey. This Fable game has Kinect controls and the dude playing was sitting down!!! (a first for E3 demos!!!!). Anyway, if you like Fable and support Peter's ambitious claims, then Fable: The Journey is for you when comes out next year.

The only "no one expected this" announcement out of Microsoft's E3 presser is having Minecraft exclusively on their console. This is pretty big having one of the PC's latest successes only on your console especially for those creative minds along with Kinect support.

Now to the casual Kinect part of the show...

Disneyland Adventures is basically Kinect Adventures 2 and this is gonna be pretty cool for the kids. Then again, would you rather take your kids to the real Disneyland than get this game? Those kids acting though during the demos made me cringe.

Briefly teased last year, Kinect Star Wars is back and still looks pretty bad. Sure, a Star Wars Kinect game sounds good on paper, but the demo felt laggy with the hand motions. Plus, saying "lightsaber on!" is also a bad idea. Again, kids would love this, but I'm not sure about anyone else. Even if Disneyland Adventures and this game suck, they will still sell just by the brands alone.

Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster was also shown off thanks to Double Fine's Tim Schaefer. Those two together are pretty much a magical combination as the game looks pretty cool and also out this fall for Kinect.

Kinect Fun Labs sounds like a neat idea too for bringing more Kinect apps out to the market such as avatar creation, drawing, object manipulation, and more. Kudo announced that the thing is available now on Xbox Live and free for people to mess with.

As much I want to do call this Kinect Sports Resort, Kinect Sports Season 2 is here with new sports like football, baseball, and golf. As you'll see, Kinect actors are pretty bad especially during the football demo.

In no surprise, there's Dance Central 2, which will improve everything the first game didn't do well on. More modes, multiplayer dancing, and all songs from Dance Central 1 importable are just some of the things why the sequel is better. Its gonna be some good times at parties when this game is around this holiday season.

The bombshell that ended the conference is the announcement of Halo 4. Surprisingly, its the beginning of a whole new trilogy for Master Chief and Cortana as it is out next fall.

That's it for the Microsoft Press Conference at this year's E3 as I enjoyed what they are gonna offer for the next year. Conference-wise, it is on par with last year's, but it seems like they know what they're doing for all audiences. They have the casual Kinect games, more services supporting the console, Kinect support for the core titles, and a good enough first-party lineup despite being franchises you already know for years. Who would of thought that Microsoft announces Halo 4 after Bungie's departure from the franchise? They are still not willing to take any chances with new IPs for the core audience as they stick to what works giving them a lot of money. The Kinect may still be gimmicky for certain audiences, but it is successful whether people like it or not and it is here to stay for a while. Microsoft did good enough this morning as we'll see what Sony has in mind later today.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Let's Take A Journey...

Perhaps my only anticipated PSN game, Journey continues to blow my mind on how simply beautiful it looks and how original it can be. Count on Jenova Chen and thatgamecompany (They made Flow & Flower) to deliver an experience unlike no other. The sense of adventure, discovery, and unique cooperative play is present for this game. This is definitely high on my gaming radar when it comes out later this year.

My Beginning of 2012 is Gonna Get Tricky...

The glorious return of SSX is also at E3 next week and I'm already loving it so far. I have always loved the extreme sports game genre as SSX 3 is among my all-time favorites (On Tour was good, but it ain't SSX 3). After the reveal disaster that was Deadly Descents, EA finally listened to critics and let SSX be what it used to be about in the first place rather than try to be something else it can't be. We have waited a long time for this to come out, but even though it is releasing in January, I'm already stoked to play a new SSX again.

Uncharted 3 Going Big at E3 2011...

Naughty Dog is indeed going all out with Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception. Details of what is in the multiplayer beta got revealed earlier this week in terms of modes, maps, and customizable options. Then we got the co-op reveal last night on GameTrailers TV along with another clip above. This co-cop campaign is supposed to be separate from the main campaign, which is good along with some improvements like being more than just going to rooms killing enemies all the time from the last game. I just hope no random soldiers just come out and instantly choke you to death as seen in Uncharted 2's co-op. Plus, vertical shooting (sort of ripped off from Dark Void but better) seems awesome. I also love the fact there's more weapons this time around which shows how Naughty Dog wants the multiplayer to be a serious contender for your playtime against something such as Modern Warfare 3. The trailer below is for Hunters Mode, which to me is a variation of Plunder mode of taking a treasure to its target spot being its now more round-based with teams are assigned to offense and defense. Anyway, you'll likely see a crazy campaign demo at Sony's E3 press conference next week, so we're not done with the Uncharted 3 coverage yet.

Music Video for the Week (5/30-6/3/11)

Rihanna - "Man Down"

There's party album week later this month with the LMFAO & Pitbull albums, so expect a music roundup about those soon plus the Beyonce album too.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

We Have Another Contender for Game Trailer of 2011...

Even though the Tomb Raider reboot is not coming out till next fall, this debut trailer is among one of the better trailers I have seen in a while. It definitely shows a new Lara and a whole new perspective on her character as a whole. That iconic look is gone and now we get a Lara Croft that feels real actually going through struggle and survival as seen when is attempting to escape a sinking ship. Who knows if any gameplay demos will be shown at E3 next week for Tomb Raider, but so far, this reboot has a lot of potential to become something special.

So Let's Talk About That Konami Pre- E3 Thing??

I think NeoGAF overhyped Konami's Pre-E3 presser too much since last year's was hilariously bad, yet so good. This year didn't top that, but damn Konami is on a whole different level with E3 press conferences in terms of trainwrecks. Oh did I mention their thing was PRE-RECORDED? Wow, you gotta love the game industry sometimes.

Other than some not so worthwhile stuff being shown such as a new Pro Evolution Soccer game, Konami does have a slew of games coming in the months ahead. While some games you thought they would be there, but not, the famed Japanese publisher decides to go nuts with HD collections, which is the highlight of this presser in a nutshell to most people. Other than Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 3D for the 3DS, Kojima Productions announced the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. This package contains MGS2, MGS3, and Peace Walker with graphical and audio improvements (Yup, no MGS1). The big thing KojiPro is also promoting is what they call "Transfarring." Transfarring basically is Kojima's idea to let players play these MGS games at any time from home and move their saved game to a NGP in order to continue on there, vice versa too (or the Vita - whatever Sony calls it by next week). Kojima also announced their multiplatform engine called The Fox Engine, which is pretty much excited if MGS Rising (a no show at E3) is still coming out. Other than the MGS HD Collection, Kojima Productions also announced the Zone of the Enders HD Collection for Playstation 3 and Xbox 360. As a fan of the second game, I like the fact it exists and hopefully people buy enough of these to perhaps give Konami interest to finally green light Zone of the Enders 3. All these HD collections are nice and all (Silent Hill is also getting a HD collection), but cmon, new games please!!

Besides Konami announcing an original game called Never Dead, which is just another cheesy third-person shooter, but you're playing as some undead dude and Megadeth is doing the soundtrack, this teaser showed up at the end of the pre-recorded presser which shows the infamous C for Contra. Supposedly, this is a Castlevania Lords of Shadow-like reboot for the franchise, so considering how good and underrated Lords of Shadow was, this new Contra game can be pretty good too.

Konami's E3 press conference is pretty much a trainwreck considering how overhyped it was and the fact it was pre-recorded, but it is not as hilariously bad as last year's, so that's something I guess. The main event is coming up in several days, so I'll leave it at that.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Retro Review of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

This is a review I wrote long ago for the XBOX Live Arcade version of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which was released back in March 2007.

In 1997, The Playstation was all about Sony bringing 3D graphics to the console market in a big way, then this little game known as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night stayed 2D and took the console to a different direction being one of the greatest games of all-time. It also took the legendary Castlevania series to a whole new direction as well with its level based gameplay, Super Metroid style exploration, and memorable music. This game was also released for the Saturn at Japan and never seen any other re-releases on compilations since its original release till now. Now that Symphony of the Night is on XBOX Live Arcade, fans of the original and also new players can experience this classic. It is the biggest game in terms of size to hit the service and also the best game out there to download for 10 bucks (800 Microsoft Points).

In Symphony of the Night, you play as Alucard, Lord Dracula's son and a non-follower of him siding with the humans. He realizes that someone is trying to resurrect him at his castle and it is up to him to prevent that from happening. Once you enter his castle, Death comes in and jacks all of Alucard's powerful items, which reminds you of the recent Metroid games if you never played this game yet, and Alucard has to explore the castle with nothing other than punches. While exploring the castle, he will eventually face many bosses and find new items and even transformations to help him navigate around it. Also similar to the 2D Metroid games, Symphony just throws you into this place with no purpose and allows you to go crazy without any help unless you the use the map as a guide to go around or even a FAQ especially for new players.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a game divided into two halves, the normal castle and an inverted version of it. The four endings goes along with these two halves as the worst two endings will not let you explore the inverted castle and the better two endings requires a run of the inverted castle. This system can easily divide the hardcore Castlevania fans and casual gamers if they are going for the best ending. Speaking of crowd division, the achievements for this game are good and will take some time even for the hardcore fans to accomplish. They range from exploring 200.6% of the whole game, having a bank of 100,000, and beating the game as Richter Belmont.

For new players, Symphony of the Night is basically the old-school gameplay of the Castlevania series fused with a Super Metroid like exploration system. Alucard will use many weapons, magic, and different transformations to defeat his enemies. The magic system is only beneficial to Alucard turning into mist, a wolf, and a bat rather than the spells itself. There is also a sidekick like system called the familiars, where they follow Alucard around helping him in certain situations, which range from a bat, a faerie, demon, a sword, and a ghost. If you beat the game as Alucard, you can play the game as Richter with a Castlevania signature whip and limited abilities.

The graphics for this game are faithful to the original Playstation version and there is nothing that makes the graphics go crazy like in the Saturn version. There are options for updated graphics as well, but it does not do too much to differentiate from the original graphics. The game is also limited to a boxed window with an awesome wallpaper surrounding the screen, but it can be stretched to full screen if that is your preference.

Symphony has also possibly the greatest music in any 2D game with many orchestral scores being played in the many stages. Each stage has its own song which sets the tone for what each room will contain. Some music gets recycled in the inverted castle, but it does not matter. The voice acting in this game is awesome in a sarcastic way with horrible dialogue, but it is more funny than bad. This game does give you perhaps the most important question ever, what is a man?

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was awesome in 1997 and still awesome today. Being released on XBOX Live Arcade gives fans of the series to experience greatness again while it also gives new players a chance to get into this 20 year old series. Specifically for new players, Symphony is a good start to see what Castlevania is all about other than Belmonts and Dracula. You will notice why the recent Castlevania games on the handhelds are heavily influenced by this entry. For 10 bucks, Symphony of the Night is truly a bargain and something that should not be missed on XBOX Live Arcade.

Today in the World of Games for 6/1/11

We start today off with a new trailer for Saints' Row: The Third, which comes out on a crowded November. This CG clip is continuing another cliche from movie trailers of having Kanye West's "Power" as the song, but it fits for a game like this. Don't get me wrong, I still love "Power," but don't you think it is getting overplayed in trailers for products? Anyway, it doesn't show what to expect gameplay-wise, but if you played the first two games, you pretty much have a good understanding of what to do. I have always appreciated this franchise for continuing the fun and crazy aspects of the Grand Theft Auto formula as Rockstar continues to take their iconic franchise on a more serious direction. Plus, I gottta admit, tornado DDT-ing someone to a table is pretty sick. Expect more Saints' Row: The Third during E3 next week.

Even though The Ocarina of Time 3D is out next month, Nintendo is not done with the Zelda franchise this year. Other than Skyward Sword making another appearance at E3 next week (who knows when it comes out now), Current Zelda mastermind Eiji Aonuma has said another Zelda game will be announced at E3 to celebrate the original's 25th anniversary. Nintendo is facing a dilemma with this franchise as of late if they want to make do a repeat of Twlight Princess by releasing two versions of Skyward Sword (Wii/Cafe, whatever their next console is called), or even tease another new Zelda game only for Cafe. The problem with that is they still have Skyward Sword coming out, so that's not likely gonna happen. To celebrate their 25th Anniversary however, they have to do something better than that Mario anniversary package last year with Super Mario All-Stars. Then again, that is what they're likely gonna do repackaging some old Zelda game. They could re-release the Gamecube Legend of Zelda Collection on a Wii disc (Zelda 1, 2, OOT, & Majora's Mask), but all those games are out on Virtual Console. The crazy scenario Nintendo could think of is announcing an old-school 2D Zelda game in the vein of New Super Mario Bros., which would be cool, but there's still Skyward Sword (Well NSMB Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2 did come out months apart, so that could be the case for Zelda too if they're willing to delay SS again to next year). Despite all of those possibilities, who knows what Nintendo is gonna do with the Zelda franchise, but we'll see next week I guess.

I should be getting this issue of Game Informer soon featuring Darksiders 2. I didn't really pay attention to the first game despite being a good mature-rated Zelda game. This is another game that will get some coverage at E3 next week.

That's it for now...