Wednesday, June 27, 2007

GBA Swan Songs?

Maybe Sidious is right and maybe I just ignored the GBA in favor of my PSP or consoles, but last year Atlus released a bunch of extremely good games for the little handheld. A card based strategy RPG? Check. (Yggdra Union) A strategy RPG space opera with giant fighting anime robots? Check. (Super Robot Taisen 2) A quirky, fun, action RPG? Check. (Summon Night: Swordcraft Story 2) I mean come on!

I have had the good fortune to play Yggdra Union for about 10 hours now (having only picked it up about 3 days ago) and it is just a fantastic take on the strategy RPG genre, with an interesting story (so far) to boot. I also picked up Super Robot Taisen 2 and have ordered its predecessor as I have been informed it is basically necessary to understand the storyline, but, as always: Anime robots? Count me in.

At $20 a pop these are great values, and I would even go so far to say just outright better than some of the newer console releases. If you've still got a GBA sitting around or have moved on to the unholy, demon-forged DS, definitely take a look at these titles, they are well worth it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

From the "Dog Bites Man" Files

If there was any doubt that this generation of the console wars is going a bit differently then those of the past, check this out:
Nintendo briefly zipped past Sony in market capitalisation on Monday to become one of Japan's ten most valuable companies as it elbows the PlayStation maker out of its decade-long dominance of the game industry.
Now, lest all of the Playstation 3 haters jump on and declare victory for their motion-sensing miracle, it appears that the market decided that something just wasn't quite right with that picture.
Nintendo joined global household names such as Toyota, Honda and Canon on the top-ten list before its shares erased earlier gains and ended the day lower. (Emphasis Added)
Me: Obviously I still think its too early to declare a winner for this generation, but there is no doubt that Sony is reeling. I mean, for god's sake, the company makes TV's and computers in addition to their "toys" and yet is getting it handed to them by the home of the plumber and the green-clad elf. Still, lets hold on for a bit before we declare mighty Sony down for the count.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Oh, snap!

I was perusing Next-gen's preview of Haze, when I happened upon this quote:

And Yescombe sees it as a responsibility for the gaming industry to deal with more mature, and even realistic, subject matter: “It’s about what’s happening in the world today – it’s ludicrous, and how can you make something that doesn’t reflect that? Well, you could bury your head in the sand and make Halo 3, but the fact of the matter is there are more important things at stake.” As well as this bigger picture, your own mortality, obedience and control are explored, and to Yescombe it’s clear that the demands made by games are necessarily changing, “because while Halo is brilliant, you’re a teenager – the next gen is about becoming more mature: in Haze you become an adult.”

Damn! I mean...damn! In your face Bungie! Free Radical just served your ass!

What has Society come to?

The game Society looks like it could be a winner. Of course it won't be a winner for at least one more year, but I can accept that. Some of the screens really have an ambiance to them, the way Resident Evil 4 did, but without the creepy factor.

The news on the game is short, but after the weird turn the new SimCity is taking, going more arcardey on us, Society may be a truly welcome addition. Not that it is trying to be SimCity in any way, maybe more Civilization, but with that whole MMO thing added on. The idea of a game taking a full year to play sounds both impressive, daunting, and wholly addicting. I Nicorrette can come out with a patch for that, cause I'm still going to have bill to pay after this game comes out. (and hopefully a job to lose...)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Things Unexpected

Within the past 24 hours, three things have happened that I never expected. In reverse order of shock value:

3. Yes, some people will pimp out anything.
This morning, I saw a minivan with rims. Spinners, no less. I realize that lots of people take pride in a "pimped-out ride," but seriously. Should you really be pimping your wheels when your wheels are attached to a Caravan? I didn't get a look at the driver, but I can only imagine who would be driving a burgundy minivan with spinning rims.

2. More proof that fried food is delicious.
I like cheeseburgers. I like cheeseburgers with all manner of unique toppings, like fried onion straws or blue cheese crumbles. One thing I haven't seen offered on a burger is a fried egg. Or, I hadn't seen it until I took a closer look at the menu at Red Robin. As it turns out, they offer a bacon cheeseburger topped off with a fried egg. Well, that I had to try. As it turns out, it's quite tasty. Put one on the board for the Royal Red Robin Burger.

1. Strategy on the 360? ZOMG!!!
I never thought I'd see this. Not in a million years. A system that seemed destined to be rife with shooters and racers actually has generated some more cerebral fare. My incredulity aside, there actually is an impressive strategy game available on the 360. And on XBLA of all places! Band of Bugs is a surprisingly good strategy title for only 10 bucks. I started the trial version last night, intending to try it out for 10 minutes or so. 45 minutes later, I was paying up for the full version. I haven't sampled the map editor yet, but Band of Bugs has strong prospects as a game that I can keep coming back to for a long time.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Re: AO....(Huh!)...What is it Good For?

There are a number of responses that went through my head in response to your points, and I think I've limited them to 3:

1. Unless you've played the game, and we haven't, we don't know what kind of game it is. Violence is not inherently cutting edge. It's from Rockstar so we'll assume its going to be at least a good game, but being on the "cutting edge" in this case, and in all other AO cases, would just mean that they allow severe sex and violence. While there is a certain amount of draw to that, its not that overwhelming. "Cutting egde" for video games is seen as something different, which explains why anyone has purchased a PS3 over a 360.

2. Publishing the game = lawsuits = negative perception by parents. There is a 100% chance that they would be sued, and not just by Jack Thompson. Parents buy many of the systems for their kids. This would be big press if the system were the only one publishing such a game and that would be how it was branded in parents' minds.

3. AO ratings have their place just as NC-17 has its place. No one wants to make an NC-17 movie because most theaters won't carry it. Some artists choose to go that way and that's their choice, but they have to distribute the movie so people can see it - it ends up in art houses and in DVD sales, which in this case are analogous to the PC. If you want to keep someone from breathing down your neck, you put it somewhere without someone to sue. And the super-violent movies that the game has been likened too (Hostel, Saw, etc) have sometimes had to be recut inorder to make it into theaters. That's why their "unrated" DVD versions are so important. They know they'd hit NC-17, so they make the commercial sacrifice.

So what does that mean? First of all, Rockstar should have seen it coming. And the solution isn't that appetizing - publish the full game on PC and then publish a watered down version on the Wii and the PS3. Sure, Gamespot says it would lose some of the story, but I doubt that it would take a full overhaul to get it under. Dark violence is okay, Manhunt proved that, but apparently there is a limit. Oh, and if they do that, they better make sure that the cut pieces are lying there on the disc like some Hot Coffee.

Playstation 3 to have (gasp) Games!?!

This from the powers that be at Sony:

Sony's game division posted an operating loss of 232 billion yen ($1.88 billion) in the past business year because of hefty start-up costs of the PS3, prompting investors to see the console business as Sony's biggest risk factor.

Nintendo Co. Ltd.'s Wii game console has been outselling the PS3 by three to one in Japan and more than two to one in the United States so far this year, according to game magazine publisher Enterbrain and research firm NPD.

A lack of attractive games has been widely cited as a reason for the PS3's relatively weak performance in addition to the fact that it is twice as expensive as the Wii.

More than 200 packaged software titles will likely be released for the PS3 in the year to March 2008, and more than 180 titles are expected to be launched over the Internet, Stringer said.
Not much to add here, save this: YEAH RIGHT.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

AO....(Huh!)...What is it Good For?

As many of you are no doubt aware, Rockstar's Manhunt 2 recently received an AO rating from the ESRB. If released, this would mark the first console game intentionally released at the AO level (GTA: San Andreas is technically the first, since the ESRB retroactively rated it with an AO when it discovered poorly rendered humping action in the game...oh the horror). Nevertheless, AO is a legitimate ranking. Pity that the console makers don't think so.

From Gamespot:
GameSpot has confirmed with Nintendo and Sony that one of those options, which would be to accept the ESRB's judgment and release the game with the AO rating, isn't an option at all. Both companies forbid licensed third-party publishers from releasing games rated AO for Adults Only on their various hardware platforms. Though Manhunt 2 isn't slated for any of Microsoft's systems, the company has also confirmed that it does not allow AO-rated titles on the Xbox or Xbox 360.
Now, I understand Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo want to protect their brand, I do. But save for Nintendo (which really is marketed at the kiddies almost exclusively), I would think that there is a branding advantage to be gained from being the only console with "cutting edge" fair.

Manhunt 2 is really this generation's Mortal Kombat. If you were into video games at the time, you will remember that the release of Mortal Kombat sparked senate committee hearings, the formation of outraged parent groups, and the birth of the rating system itself. The whole "controversy" went so far as to cause Midway to release two separate versions of the material: One with all of the content of the arcade game on the Sega Genesis (which admittedly still required the use of a "blood code"), and one watered down to the point of being irrelevant on the SNES. Certainly the Genesis gained a great deal of street cred with the release of the real version.

And yet here we are. I could talk until I'm blue in the face about the fact that in order for the high end of the rating system to work we cannot eliminate the use of the highest rating, or that the most recent torture porn masterpiece from Eli Roth is likely more violent and disturbing then Manhunt 2 will be (Full Disclosure: Obviously I haven't played Rockstar's latest), but what do you all think? Is there market share to be gained by allowing AO games on one's system? Or are the console makers right to believe that adults need to be coddled as much as the kids do?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

And Blu-Ray takes the lead...

I've been accused of backing the Blu-Ray high definition video format over its brethren, the HD-DVD. This is not the case. The reason I have Blu-Ray discs is quite simply because I bought a new Playstation 2 that happens to play Blu-Rays (why the console has a number '3' on it I can't say...I certainly don't play any Playstation '3' games on the console).

That being said, I believe that the battle is one step closer to completion with this announcement from Blockbuster. The relevant portion:
In a move that could tip the scales in the format war, Blockbuster Inc. said Monday that it will begin offering only Blu-ray Disc titles among its high-definition rental selections at 1,700 company-owned stores.


Through June 10, Blu-ray held a 66% market share compared with HD DVD (34%), according to Nielsen VideoScan. The format held a 67% market share since the beginning of the year and 59% share since launches of both formats.
I think we may have a winner.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

You Know What...I DO Love Bees!

ilovebees is back baby... check out this article from gamespot.

The crux of the article:
Three-and-a-half months before Halo 2 lit up Xbox Live, ilovebees made its debut tagged onto the end of a Halo 2 trailer released in theaters. The viral marketing campaign and alternate-reality game piqued gamers' interests by sending them on a scavenger hunt for clues to unravel the mysterious quasi-real-world happenings that were steeped in Halo lore. Last week, again three-and-a-half months before the launch of its upcoming Halo game, Microsoft set in to motion its latest metagame, beginning this time with a mysterious message board "hacker."
As Avenger is well aware, I was one of the crazies plotting out pay phone call times during the original summer of (i)love(bees). I can't wait to do that again this year. Thank you Bungie!

Monday, June 18, 2007

Its the Story, Stupid!

So I was speaking with my brother over this Father's Day weekend when the topic of the greatness of Bioware came up (for those who are interested, this was brought about by my admission that I had ordered "Raw Danger" from ebgames due to the frequent mention of the plotline in this gamespot review). Specifically, he stated that Bioware had never made a bad game and that the plotline to KOTOR was one of the best in the last 10 years (seeing that plot-based games are only about 17 or 18 years old, he was this close to saying "all-time"). This evaluation was based in large part on the (light spoiler warning) Revan reveal, which he felt was handled perfectly.

As a gut reaction type point, I stated that MGS 3: Snake Eater had a better plotline than either KOTOR or KOTOR 2, in that it changed the way we looked at a venerated series. This is specifically the case with the introduction of the concept that (light spoiler warning) Big Boss may have been justified in creating Outer Heaven, and that it was Snake along who was unenlightened. He disagreed fairly vehemently with this notion, while admitting that the MGS3 storyline was still quite good.

I relate this to you all because I am curious. I basically purchased a game (Raw Danger) due entirely to my belief in that game's story. I have no illusion that the gameplay of said game is likely terrible. Similarly, I have enjoyed a number of games in the past with "great" stories and negligible game play (Shadow of Destiny springs to mind). So I'm curious, what are your favorite stories in games (completely independent of how they play as games), and have you ever purchased a game for its story even though you knew that the gameplay likely wouldn't be enjoyable?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Delicious Incentives

Ah, the inevitable ending of a trip to GameStop: "would like to pre-order any upcoming titles today?" This is, of course, followed by the inevitable "no." You could set your watch by it. Why on earth would I pre-order a game in-store, when I could just have them deliver it to my door instead. Yes, on-line pre-orders are more expensive: shipping ain't free, and since they starting charging tax on online orders (this wasn't the case back in ought-two), on-line pre-orders have become less of a deal.

However, I'm a busy guy. I don't have a long enough lunch break to run out to the store mid-day, and I don't want to get caught in a log-jam of traffic headed to the store after work. Therefore, I'm willing to pay for the convenience of having the game waiting for me on my step when I get home.

Also, when you order in the store, what do you get? Nothing. What do you get when you order online? Awesome goodies. From the awesome Soul Calibur and Xenosaga art books on my coffee table to the sweet-ass Baten Kaitos wall scroll hanging in my bedroom, online offers are often sweetened with swag. Case in point: Eternal Sonata. Custom faceplates? Yes, please! This game just jumped from the Christmas List, to the "must pre-order list."

I just hope I get the faceplate with the guy with the top hat. I'm a big fan of tall head-wear. Big fan.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Re: The Wii is what they make of it

The Wii will get support purely because every developer wants to make money. If there are lots of Wii's there will be lots of games. Will there be lots of gamer/non-casual games? I think there will be because the Wii is being bought by traditional gamers. Even more so than the last gen, buyers will purchase either a PS3 or and 360, their second system is the Wii. It has more unique titles, if only because of the significant first-party support, but "exclusives" are becoming harder to find outside of first-party, almost invisible. The Wii is getting some third party exclusives though, on pace with the 360 overall in less the half as much time since its release (including first party I imagine). A real adventure game, special modes in top selling games, a "duh it will be popular" Naruto game, a mysterious game by the guy who did Killer7 (so you know it'll be innoovative), so I'm not too worried.

The issue I see, is that the companies scrambling to support the Wii won't be able to put out their truly good games for two more years. PS3 will start getting them in a year or so, and the 360 will start seeing more of them to go with Gears of War, Forza, and Halo 3 over the next year. The Wii needs the lead it is building because it may take longer to see great games than either of the other systems. Plus, Sega is whining about where it will be in a few years, even while it supports with a number of games.

And to address Zelda, I've spoken with far more people who have enjoyed the game than those that think it was bad, and none that would say "irreversibly damaged". Zelda has a bigger problem in that the Twighlight Princess and Majora's Mask were just the Ocarina of Time 2 and 3. They add a few things here and there, but for a game that's supposed to be on the leading edge, it doesn't seem to be trying hard enough.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Grim Grimoire

I'm super excited for this game, just check out the trailer!

Re: The Wii is what they make of it

Oh, don't get me wrong, I think the Wii is great and I think that third parties who make games specifically for it ("novelty games" per your description) will do extraordinarily well. After all, the system is huge in strange new places like cruise ships and retirement homes...places were video games have never truly been before. With the gigantic base that Nintendo has created, the system simply can't fail. And that's a good thing.

But what I was trying to get at, Incognito, is that "normal" games don't feel right on the Wii. The Zelda experience, to me at least, is irreversibly damaged by using the wand and the ninja weapon rather than a traditional controller. And the plain fact of the matter is that most third parties (including Seeds) will be creating "normal" games. Knowing this, I believe that it is a perfectly rational choice for such third parties to eschew the Wii experience completely, and thus leave the Wii to Nintendo and the so-called "novelty" games.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Re: The Wii is what they make of it

While I believe there is some truth to what you say, I worry that the power gap may prove to be to difficult for the Wii to overcome. I'm not trying to sound like a complete graphics whore, but there are certain expectations that come with the "next generation" that I just think the Wii will fall short of. I mean, at the end of the day the technology improvements may allow for improved AI or more units on screen, but the most noticeable effect is on the visuals and audio, the Wii is behind the curve, and it's just going to get worse.

Don't take that to mean that I think the Wii will "fail" in any way, Nintendo first-party development alone can ensure that won't happen, but I think it will be a party game machine as opposed to the next evolution of gaming. The Wii-mote has yet to prove it can handle anything better than a conventional controller, and it has shown itself to be substantially worse in some cases. Still, I enjoy having friends over to play a bunch of Wii Sports or Wario Ware. I just imagine the experiences I truly remember from this generation will come from the 360 and PS3, but I'd happily be proven wrong.

The Wii is what they make of it

I'm in a hurry so I'll have to make this brief. You say the the Wii will only excel at first-party and novelty games, but why? There is no reason that third-party developers can't bring exciting, original content to the system. I think that the idea that Nintendo systems are only good for kids games and WarioWare is ridiculous. The Wii can be whatever developers want it to be. Well, whatever they want it to be that isn't censored by Nintendo (frankly, I'm shocked that they gave the thumbs-up to Manhunt 2, but that's another post entirely).

It would be a monumental shame if the Wii controls weren't able to reach their true potential because no one like Seeds decided to make something great with them.

Avenger's Hyper Update

Sorry I've been so quiet as of late. The logistics of quickly leaving my job and relocating to Texas have proved to be pretty time consuming, so I haven't been making a lot of time to post to the blog. As such I decided, I should try to compress any and all updates into a set of highlights so here it goes:
  1. I start game design school on July 9th! Yippee!
  2. I finished Command & Conquer 3 - Nod's ending = lame, Scrin campaign = sweet
  3. Odin Sphere is still awesome, I'm on the third book now. Reusing bosses is somewhat lame, but doesn't really taint the experience too much.
  4. Where is Mass Effect? I desire it now...
  5. Grim Grimoire looks sweet - A 2D RTS, with a cool story and beautiful art design? Count me in.
  6. I too feel the Wii is going to be the novelty of the next generation - nice to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there
  7. Dungeon Maker for the PSP looks interesting.
Ok, I think that's basically the gist of it. I'll try to post more often in the future. Later!

Re: Illogical Choices


I'm not sure that the decision by Clover (as I'm going to refer to them both now and in the future) is that illogical. While Okami would almost certainly be a great candidate for the Wii treatment (if only because the celestial brush would work great with the Wii remote), I'm still not sold on how a "traditional video game" (which Okami almost certainly is if the brush is not considered) feels using the Wii and that ninja instrument. I couldn't help but feel, for instance, that Twilight Princess would have been more fun to play with a standard GameCube controller than it was with the Wii setup. Disclaimer: I only played the Wii version so anyone with GameCube experience on this matter can feel free to chime in.

If I had to choose, I'd rather that Clover have the extra processing power offered by the PS3 and 360 than the magic wand novelty of the Wii. But then again, maybe I'm souring on the Wii a little bit. Its slowly becoming my view that the Wii will only excel at novelty products and 1st party Nintendo games. Not too terribly different from the GameCube when you think about it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Illogical Choices

First, I heart Atelier Iris 3. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone else, but I have a huge soft spot for Gust, as you may have discerned from my Arrrrrrrr Tonelico ravings. I just wanted to state that there actually was an RPG other than Odin Sphere released last month.

Moving on, the actual topic I wanted to address was the fact that Seeds, also known as what re-formed after Capcom eradicated Clover, has stated that they are working on new titles... for the PS3 and Xbox 360.

Are you serious? The guys behind Okami and Viewtiful Joe are not making games for the Wii?! Does that seem ludicrous to anyone else? Every time I turn on my Wii, I think: "man, Okami would be so awesome on the Wii." I'm dead serious. When I return serve in Wii Tennis, I'm really wishing that I was drawing a magical wind to stun my foes.

Nintendo, you need to step up to the plate here. Once upon a time, Viewtiful Joe debuted on your system. Go back and tap that very same designer to make some absolutely mind-blowing games for the Wii. You owe it to all of us who are still waiting for something else to play other than mini-games and Super Paper Mario.

Odin Sphere Love

Well, I know I've been away for a while, but I had no idea that this blog had been so co-opted by love for Odin Sphere. Since this is my first video game related post since that game's release I figured I'd chime in on the phenomenon.

First, I think that much of the adoration for this game stems from the depths of the drought we are currently in. In the last month, Odin Sphere is just about the only game worth getting, and in the next two months it is entirely possible that Odin Sphere will remain just about the only game worth getting. This has a tangible effect on how we perceive its greatness. Basically we are like so many thirsty men in the desert of a video game summer, grateful for any small oasis that we come across.

Second, I can't speak for everyone here, but I wasn't expecting much from Odin Sphere, and what I got was a great deal better than I had hoped. When expectations are exceeded to the extent that they are in this case, the whole game takes on a better shine. Its easier to ignore the various faults (the slowdown, the similarity of the bosses, etc.)

Third, the game is just good. Maybe not worth ten posts in the last two weeks, but still...

Those are just my thoughts, and since this topic has been covered to death on this blog, it will be my final one on the subject. (I have to make time to actually play more of the game after all).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I'm Back!!!

Hey all. I just wanted to take this time to apologize for my announced extended hiatus from The Den. As many of you here know, I was working with my beautiful fiancee to plan the perfect wedding and honeymoon.

Well, outside of some typical logistical issues (has a wedding ever started on time?) we are happy to say that "We Did It!" As a result I plan to be much more active on this blog in the future.

For everyone's reference I plan to play Forza 2, Tomb Raider Anniversary, and Odin Sphere for the next little while. Its good to be back.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Knights of the Old Republic

Here's the info:

If you'll excuse me, I must go weep for joy.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Holy shit. Part of me believed that I would never make this post. But finally, after almost a month and at least a dozen attempts, I got through Kiss Me All Night Long on Expert in DDR Universe. This song has been my "white whale" for a long time now, and the way I feel right now... I can barely type I'm so tired. This is definitely one of my top five game-related euphorias, right up there with beating Chrono Trigger. Maybe I'll post more about this later, but right now I need to go take a shower.


Why are games different prices on different systems?

This question was posed, and I shall answer, though belatedly.

Games prices are based on demand, not on how much they cost to make. Buying is a purely psychological exercise. When comparing 360 prices to PC prices, you have to consider why you're buying a particular game. Most people, when faced with the choice, purchase the console version of their desired game (with possible exception being when purchasing an MMO). There is more demand for the console version, so the price is higher. Also, there are costs for the developer for each game sold to Microsoft on Xbox systems, but I don't think that plays a big role (see the $50 start price for last gen games).

Add that 360 games are traditionally more expensive than PC games, and it makes sense. There shouldn't be any sticker shock because you can't compare the two to each other, you can only compare them to similar games on that system. People want to be able to play with their controller on their giant TV with their powerful new console. People who wanted to play on the PC will play on the PC at $50 but will consider anything more price-gouging. If you want the console version, odds are ten more dollars won't really matter to you. All your other games were $60, why shouldn't this one be too?

The console market and the PC market are not direct competitors because they are not direct substitutes. Different people play each, and even now where most gamers play both, they are looking for different experiences from each. They're mind tells them that a particular game is supposed to be played on a particular type of system. So the companies can price a little different and suffer nothing. It's not someone is going to refrain from buying the game because one is more expensive than the other, though it might, just might, cause you to buy the PC version if you're right on the edge.

Time to break the chain

I would be willing to bet that I was one of many who started playing the glorious game known as StarCraft again recently. I love that there are 3 wholly different races and at least 3 strategies that are viable for each, even in high level, complete psychopath, I can point and click so precise that I differentiate pixels in milliseconds, world-class games. Command and Conquer: Red Alert was my first RTS love. I loved the Russian accents and blowing up buildings. Command and Conquer never reached that level again, though it does put out quality games.

StarCraft 2 must be amazing and will no doubt mildly disappoint many. But after watching the videos, I have concluded that there is going to be waaaaay more firepower in this one. Protoss defense in this one will be sick I tell you, sick. And since the game must be balanced, Terran and Zerg will most definitely have some amped up attacks. We haven't seen as much of their righteous abilities and units yet, or at least in my analysis, but that doesn't mean I'm any less excited.

Now all I need if for LucasArts to annouce Kotor 3 and an Xbox 360 to play Pro Evo and then Mass Effect when it comes out and I can be happy.