Friday, July 31, 2009

September gets doused.

How could I forget to share this news? Prior to October's rush of wallet killers, Artificial Mind and Movement's this-is-the-game-we-want-to-make game drops smack dab in the middle of September - the 15th, to be precise, published by Bethesda.

I'm very glad it won't fall any later, or even I may have left off playing it in favor of some more anticipated fare. As it is, Wet will certainly serve to... Wet will... what's the word I'm looking for?

Ah, "stimulate".

Wet will certainly stimulate my appetite for gaming, prior to October's massive crush of awesome.

So NOW can we get a price cut?

During a conference call, Sony Corp's CEO and Executive Vice President Nobuyuki Oneda - when pressed for information - ballparked that they had reduced production costs of the PS3 by 70%. If the original ballparked cost of $800 per console was accurate, that means the PS3 now costs a mere $240.00 per unit to produce - definitely within striking distance of the $299 price point everybody and their dog are calling for.

What does this actually mean? Nothing. But if Sony truly expects to meet their predicted 13,000,000 PS3s sold for fiscal 2009, they'd better have one hell of an ace up their sleeve after the 30% sales drop they suffered during Q1.

An ace like, say, a price cut - which sure worked wonders for Microsoft last year.

I wonder why this doesn't happen more often.

My older brother often makes backalley deals for video games, with folks he contacts through a local gearhead forum. He scored the Special Edition of Resident Evil 5 for a flat $50, and straight-swapped his copy of CoD4: Modern Warfare for Little Big Planet.

Whenever I hear of these shadowy exchanges, I'm always stroked by a frigid tendril of fear for my brother's safety. He doesn't know these guys - what's to say he's not just setting himself up for a robbery? "Hey, partner-in-crime, I gotta' go - I'm stealing fifty bucks off a dude in twenty minutes."

"How do you know he's got fifty dollars?"

"'Cause he thinks I'm selling him a video game."


In the darkest parts of my mind, upon realizing he is to be made a victim, my stalwart brother fights back, only to be left bloodied and broken in a dark alley somewhere, while the clever and vicious thief makes off with my sibling's Hyundai hatchback. Perhaps I need more faith in people.

Or perhaps not, since that's pretty much precisely what some genius/idiotic criminal in Miami pulled last Friday.

The victim responded to a Craigslist ad, but I guess he didn't have the $250 the robber was asking for his nonexistent PS3 console. Criminal and victim settled on the too-good-to-be-true sum of $160, and the victim was directed to an address to make the exchange.

The actual crime wasn't nearly as grotesque and violent as what my imagination subjects my brother to. The criminal - who has a history of robberies - showed up with (what I can only hope was) an empty PS3 box, snatched the $160 and bolted. Nobody got hurt. Steven Glass was arrested four days later, which is - perhaps - why this doesn't happen more often.


More XBLA goodies coming to PSN?

A German ratings board has let slip the existence of a PS3 port of indie critical darling Braid. Hothead Games is listed as the publisher, which gives the news a touch more credibility - Hothead (developers of the Penny Arcade Adventures RPGs) also ported over Braid's Mac version, and have already worked on the PS3 with the PAA titles.

Castle Crashers, now Braid. If you also consider stuff like Vesperia and BioShock, there is growing evidence of a benevolent deity operating in shadow, pulling strings to ensure I'm able to play all the 360 exclusives I'm jealous of.

God of Ports - if you're listening - Gears 1 and 2, please. Yes, I know they're published by Microsoft, but you're a god - make it happen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Have I mentioned Atlus rocks?

Welly welly welly, what do we have here?

I get the impression there is a brightly lit lounge somewhere in the Atlus USA offices. The room is elegantly decorated with warm lights and skooshy chairs that, once a posterior has settled upon them, breathe subliminal whispers of comfort and pleasure.

In this room, a smiling band of mid-level executives nibble imported chocolates and sip artisan coffee, cheerily discussing how they can give more, and spread their own inestimable happiness to others.

"What about Demon's Souls?" one of them asks.
"What about it?" says another. "We're already throwing in the art book with all preorders - that's lovely. Hardcore gamers love concept art."
"I know," mutters the first - troubled. "But is that all we can add?" The mid-level executives exchange glances. They do good - that is their cause - but are they doing enough?
"Ah!" says the second mid-level executive. "Music! for another imported chocolate?"
"We'll give them the soundtrack! God, we're geniuses."
"That's why we get the chocolates."

So now, in addition to the forty-page art book for Demon's Souls, preorder customers also get a CD with seventy minutes of music, which is apparently the game's entire soundtrack.

Wicked cool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marvelous mixed messages.

Once, in the long-long-ago, on July 2nd, I reported that Marvelous - publisher of such niche titles as Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Little King's Story and No More Heroes - seemed to be considering porting many of its titles to the HD consoles.

In an interview with Edge, Yasuhiro Wada - chief creative officer of Marvelous - is singing a slightly different tune. When asked about a recent blog post regarding PS3 development, the man had this to say:

"Because you need to make more elements with higher level of details, the time and resources spent in making those graphics is a huge increase in costs. It is several times the budget you would use on a normal title. Of course the situation will improve in the near future with more affordable middleware and such but from Marvelous’ perspective at this moment, it is hard to have a clear vision in terms of business. The money spent is so huge, you don’t know if you will be able to break even."
Which is... true. We don't see many titles these days reaching for the middle-of-the-road in terms of quality - you need to go for broke, the unfortunate side effect of which is that if you don't find success, you're broke. While this puts no definitive nails in the coffin of PS3/360 ports, it still shines the harsh light of truth on the risk of developing for the high-def consoles.

Wada-San seems like a pretty sharp cookie - when discussing innovation in the industry he said:

"Take the example of the 2D graphics which are at the core of Muramasa. I don’t think many companies are still interested in developing such title based on high quality 2D graphics. You would find all the game using 3D graphics. But there are qualities that are unique to 2D like the level of details, colors, etc… Also, should the market be exclusively about 3D graphics, then some who are very talented in 2D would not feel the need for them to get involved in the industry. This would indeed impact on the industry's creative ability overall. Of course the way to originality is a risky one, commercially. You need sells to keep making those original titles. As a business, the industry needs those series and strong IPs, in order to finance originality. But what I meant is that it is not healthy when the industry relies exclusively on series and IPs."
I think I like this guy. And I'm not sure I enjoy having such emotions for a representative of a huge corporation - but God help me, I like him.

Monday, July 27, 2009

PS3 firmware 2.80 - update: nothing important.

So there's this new firmware update for your PS3 - 2.80 - which you won't be prompted to download. You have to manually go to your system menu and look for a new update before it tells you it exists and you're able to download and install it.

PS3attitude points out that the new firmware allows more text per line in the new(ish) text chat feature - 64 characters instead of 32. But really, who uses the text chat? Not me - I'm still waiting for a 360-equivalent cross-game voice chat - so that addition isn't exactly blowing anyone's skirts up.

No, the real news is that 2.80 seems to have reduced the amount of memory the PS3 operating system requires. A major sticking point of the PS3 for developers has been the (ass-backwards) way Sony allows them to access memory - 256MB is for video memory and 256MB is for system memory as opposed to the (perfectly intelligent) 512MB total available on the Xbox 360.

This update doesn't change that - but because the OS now seems to use less memory, it allows the devs to use more - to the extent that (from the sounds of things) Naughty Dog is actually going back and re-optimizing Uncharted 2 to take advantage of the extra wiggle room. In a podcast over at TQcast, Uncharted 2 producer Sam Thompson said,

"...if you look at the game itself with the 2.80 engine update, you know we're adding more memory, so we get a lot more utilisation of the SPUs, so we increase our optimisation of the Cell processor as well."

It's entirely possible that he's not referring to the firmware update, but an update to their own in-house engine - but it would be a helluva coincidence if the "2.80 engine update" and "2.80 firmware update" weren't the same thing. There are no numbers available on how much memory the PS3's OS takes up right now - it was at 74MB back at firmware update 1.80.

For reference, the 360's OS requires a slender 32MB.

UPDATE: Turns out he was referring to his own engine, but instead of calling it '2.0', it was a slip of the tongue and he called it '2.80'. SCEE and Naughty Dog have both commented since - SCEE says:

"There's no secret in firmware 2.80. Naughty Dog were actually talking about their engine 2.0, but in the ComicCon rush they simply got confused and said 2.80 referring to the latest firmware."

While Naughty Dog's community manager Arne Myer put it thusly:

"He was actually referring to Naughty Dog Engine 2.0 updates we made. We had just been making sure at the event that all the PS3s brought in were on FW 2.80, since that is what that build needed to run on, so I have no doubt it was top of mind."
When SCEE was "pushed for information" regarding the PS3 OS's current memory footprint, they had no comment.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

She kills giants.


Look at that, I seem to be on a comic kick this week. I don't feel I have enough education on this particular book to go into detail, so just let me say it's pretty funny, fairly smart and genuinely moving. At times it seems like it's trying a bit hard to be so moving, but I'm willing to forgive that since I legitimately teared up on the final issue.

Hopefully next week I can get back to talking about video games.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Adequately adorable.

I'm not about to try to suggest that my latest discovery will ever go toe-to-toe with Dr. McNinja, Questionable Content or - heck - even Bear Nuts, but it taps in to what I have now come to accept is an inescapable affection for tiny vampires.

Creator Gisele Lagace is an old hand at webcomics - Eerie Cuties is actually her fourth project, and since her stuff is generally rather epic in length, there seems to be no great risk of this one dying out very quickly. I've tried to get interested in her earlier work, but I don't care much for the easy writing or the overzealous sexuality that seems to creep into most of it. Overzealous sexuality in Eerie Cuties, on the other hand, is much more bearable when you consider that one character is a doll possessed by the spirit of a pedophile, and another is a succubus going through puberty.

But honestly, that's not what really grabbed me about this new work, what grabbed me is encapsulated in this half-panel:

I'm sorry, but that's just too adorable to hate. The addition of colour adds depth to Gisele's otherwise excellent art, and aside from a groaner of a joke involving a cat-man and a werewolf, I've been enjoying this new strip much more than Gisele's earlier work. Give it a peek.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

FEATURE - Why the PS3?

Sony's Playstation 3:
For people with poor math skills.

If you're one of the ten or fifteen people who read this blog on a regular basis (by the way, thank you for reading this blog on a regular basis - I really appreciate it!), it should be pretty clear that I play my games on a Playstation 3, and don't possess a Wii or Xbox 360. I have nothing against the consoles that I don't own, or the people who own them. Take my good buddy Mario, for example. He's got every console - and aside from a touch of jealousy, I certainly bear the guy no ill will.

Given time, I may pick up a Wii simply to experience Muramasa: The Demon Blade and probably Zelda, and when Microsoft drops the 360's price to $100-150, I'll be hard-pressed to convince myself that it's not worth the money. I'm not much interested in discussing hardware reliability or whether the free PSN is a better value than the pay-for-play Xbox Live. Let's ignore all that for the time being - this article isn't about why I didn't buy an Xbox, but why I did shell out about $550.00 for a backward-compatible Playstation 3, and why feel it was a very sound investment in my entertainment future.

Do you like movies? Do you like listening to music? Clearly, you don't mind browsing the internet. Let's talk a little about investments in entertainment.

Here is a DVD player.

Most folks have a small DVD library -the version here is as cheap as they come, and won't get you any fancy-schmantzy bells and whistles like upscaling. The PS3 does that, though.

Here is a cheap Blu-ray player.

Not many folks have a sizable library of Blu-ray movies (not many folks even have HDTVs), but after a trickle of interest in the format, sales have become rather robust over the past year. When it first appeared on the market, the PS3 was the cheapest Blu-ray player you could find. This is no longer the case, but let's just add it to the list of things the console can do. $340 worth of entertainment so far.

Here is a CD player.

To be honest, the only CDs I still have around are Jimi Hendrix: The BBC Sessions, Led Zeppelin 1 and 2, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and a few game soundtracks. But still, if you want to play a CD, the PS3 wants to let you - and if you don't want to bother with the disc in the future, you can copy every CD to the hard drive for easy access later. $390 - the thing has nearly paid for itself already.

Here is an MP3 player.

This one is a cheap, no-name portable player, but you get the idea: the PS3 can do this too. If - like many - you have a sizable collection of music on your PC that you wish you could listen to in the living room, the PS3 is a solution. Just copy your whole library onto a flash drive (or stream it straight to the console) and you're good to go.

$450 so far.

Here is a personal computer.

No, no, I'm not going that far. But after searching around Best Buy and, this is the cheapest bit of hardware I could find for the purpose of browsing the internet. It turns out smart phones are obscenely expensive, and that's before you factor in a contract with your service provider.

So if you like the idea of sitting on your couch and browsing the web, the PS3, again, wants to let you. I've actually become so fond of the PS3's browser, the only reason I turn on my PC these days is to write this blog.

Nobody's going to buy a personal computer (or smart phone) merely for the purpose of internet browsing, however - so this argument is hardly rock-solid. Let's count that $300 as $150 - which seems reasonable. $600.

All this talk of music, movies and internet is almost enough to make one forget - but the PS3 actually plays games too! And not just games - classic games.

Here is a Playstation.

I must confess, I skipped over the PS1 back in the day, but nostalgia forced me into purchasing a copy of Metal Gear Solid and cult-classic mid-quality survival horror title Galerians - so this is just another one of those little extra features I'm glad the PS3 can boast. Should we count the cost of a memory card? I think we should. $620.

Here is a Playstation 2. Sorry, I feel compelled to take this thing all the way.

The PS2 is still the best selling console ever made, and as a result it has an absolutely phenomenal library of software. I have a relatively modest collection of special-to-me PS2 titles - a little over fifty - and there's still a few more I need to find, so a major selling point for me was backward compatibility to the PS2.

But David, PS3s aren't backward-compatible any more. How the Hell can you cite that as a selling feature?

Oh, I can't, really. I mean, I could try to convince you that BC is eventually coming back, but the fact is if you purchase a new Playstation 3 it won't play all those lovely PS2 classics that seared themselves into our consciousness. Unless, of course, you're willing to pay a significant premium to an online retailer. But just for the sake of argument, let's include it as a range and throw in a single, cheap, used memory card. The Playstation 3 is now worth $620-$725.00 - and if you thought that was a stretch, I've got one more doozy to lay on you.

Here is an Xbox 360.

If you want to play 2008's game of the year, Fallout 3, the 360 is more than capable - along with 2007's critical darling and commercial success, BioShock. A good 97% of current-gen HD titles are available on the console (estimated), its graphics far outstrip Nintendo's Wii, its games are much more mature, and it allows you to play online with friends or download movies directly to the console.

The point being, of course, if you want to play Fallout 3, BioShock and near all of the current-gen high-definition video games, if you want to play online with friends or download movies to the console, the Playstation 3 - again - wants to let you.


The Playstation 3 has other capabilities that I'm not aware of, never use, or wouldn't try to put a price on - like, for example, curing cancer - but let's stop before I step off the precipice of good sense and push the console's arguable value past a grand. All of the above reasons are, I feel, good reasons to choose to purchase a PS3.

The company line at Sony, which we hear repeatedly, is that they are trying to sell a "value-added" piece of hardware - one that's worth double what the competition is charging. Clearly, the PS3 is capable of doing a helluva lot of stuff - and all that stuff certainly didn't make my purchase decision more difficult - but the real reason to buy a current-gen system is to play current-gen games.

For me, the real reason to buy the Sony system are the current-gen games I could not have played on another console.

And to purchase the console when it first appeared would have, admittedly, been a six hundred dollar leap of faith. What were you going to play? Genji? I waited two years until I bought my PS3 - when the library was significantly more robust - and there are really only two reasons I was prepared to pay half a grand for it.

Reason 1: the devs

Sony's been around for a while, and in that time it has gotten quite cozy with some very, very talented development houses. Naughty Dog, Insomniac, Sucker Punch and now Guerilla Games are all world-class studios pumping out triple-A stuff exclusively for the PS3. This is a simplified example, but the only question I really had to ask myself about which current-gen system I would purchase was "which can I play the next Ratchet & Clank game on?"

If I had bypassed the PS2 last gen and instead gotten comfortable with Halo on the Xbox, it's entirely possible I would have an equally romantic attachment to Master Chief, but that's not how things worked out for me. I love Kratos, I love Ratchet and his robot, and now I can't wait to get my hands on Uncharted 2.

Speaking of Kratos, there's Sony's first-party studios. Sony Santa Monica have established themselves as a world-class developer, pushing the PS2 beyond its limits with God of War 2 - lord knows what they have in store for us with GoW3. Sony's Japan Studio doesn't often put out products with such high gloss, but they make up for that with high-concept fare like my beloved Siren series. And of course, let's not forget Team ICO.

Reason 2: the philosophy

ICO is a great example. It didn't sell particularly well when it first came out, but it also did things with a video game that no one else even seemed to attempt. It was the first legitimate mainstream example of games-as-art, and despite tepid sales Sony kept right on supporting the vision and supporting the development of Shadow of the Colossus.

As games become more expensive to create, the formula will become closer and closer to Hollywood's: the millions of dollars invested will only be invested where there is the least amount of risk. More Halo, more Gran Turismo, more Call of Duty - because those games are practically guaranteed to recoup the investment and go on to turn a reasonable profit.

High-minded stuff like Ico, Flower and The Path will be harder and harder to come by. God I'd love to see The Path on PSN (which will never happen). Anyway - the market for such titles is smaller, and so titles that are both big-budget and high-concept (see: Heavy Rain) become increasingly rare.

The main reason I have any degree of brand loyalty to Sony, particularly with all the crap they've pulled, is - what appears to be - a corporate philosophy of supporting titles that push the boundaries of what a game can be, not just the boundaries of technology.

My point is this:

That's a helluva deal.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In the NEWS - July 23

Beyond Good & Evil 2's fate is uncertain

There's an interview over at with Ubisoft's Laurent Detoc. It's not a particularly uninteresting read - for example, he thinks the industry is headed towards stereoscopic 3D (just another gimmick, if you ask me) - but he drops a minor bombshell on the article's second page, when Beyond Good & Evil 2 comes up:

"...people know we're working on a new one. Whether or not it comes out remains to be seen..."
If you listen, you can hear the babbling of the brook that just formed. That brook will soon overflow into a raging river, fed by the collected tears of a thousand-score sobbing fanchildren. I'm not saying BG&E2 would be the second coming, but the original was certainly a lively, creative, touching breath of fresh air.

Atlus demands I purchase a DS

Well, turns out the new Shin Megami Tensei title is on the DS. At first it seemed a little unclear if this was a new spinoff series (Devil Survivor, Persona) , but a look at the art style reveals it to be classic SMT. Of course, Devil Summoner uses a very similar style, but it's possible that this is a new entry in the core series.

Which is a big deal.

If the translators at NeoGAF can be trusted, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey is a first-person RPG (see: classic SMT), in which a dimensional rift has formed around Antarctica. Those entering the rift must don some pretty silly protective gear before they embark on what I can only presume will be an unusual odyssey.

One million levels
(1000 good ones)

Say what you will about Little Big Planet's quality, but its quantity is now officially without peer - it has one million levels.

LBP is a bit of an acquired taste. I'm very happy to have it on my shelf - the women in my life love playing it, and I enjoy myself with the user-created levels until a third party shows up to crush me under the iron boot of latency. My brother, in particular, is absolutely mental about the game. Every week or so he calls me up to play his latest level and tell me about the creations he's discovered.

Of course, the problem with LBP is the problem with any collection of user-created content (like say, the internet) - 99.999% of it is useless crap.

PSN + Castle Crashers = :)

Yep, Castle Crashers is coming to PSN - and it occurs to me that I should care more than I do. I'm all about art style with flair, I adore classic gaming tropes - it's an old-school 2D beat-em-up with RPG elements - and I place the importance of animation on a pedestal that one cannot reach without a sound ladder. Even so, it will likely take a very boring week or two to make me shell out some cash to play 2008's darling of Xbox Live Arcade. Shadow Complex on the other hand, would be a day-one.

That said, it's nice to see another one of those Titles That Look Interesting But I Can Live Without migrate from the 360 to the PS3. I almost fear the advent of a demo that would convince me that solid art direction, classic gameplay and fluid animation are really all I want in life.

Rumor: Vesperia localization likely

This once-360-exclusive, on the other hand, I don't need much convincing for. Like BioShock before it, I've always wanted to get my hands on Tales of Vesperia. Japan will be enjoying its PS3 port very shortly - they're already enjoying the demo, which seems to have a great deal of English translation hidden away in the demo code.

It's entirely possible that this is just a step towards getting an Asian market release ready, but why jump to that conclusion when the other conclusion is so much more appealing?

Month fatally crushed under the weight of game releases

In what is clearly a foul conspiracy to glue me to my PS3 for thirty straight days, Borderlands has officially declared its release date - the 20th of October.

But wait, there's more! You may recall in the last 'In The News' post, I brought attention to French website when they got their mitts on some insider Sony documentation which - as it turns out - accurately pinpointed the release of Uncharted 2 to within a few days of its official street date.

Well, they're back at it, this time with an even longer list. The important part is Insomniac's fourth major outing on the current gen: Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time - which apparently is hitting stores on October 28th. If this bit of info is as solid as their last bit, it brings the grand total of Spectacular October's Appealing Appearances to eight - more than any mortal man can bear.

I'm not concerned about the amount of money it will take to play such a quantity of quality, but where the hell am I going to find the time?

I have the best problems.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

October hits my wallet's weak point for massive damage.

Critical strike to the bank account.

I generally like to plan out my gaming purchases months in advance. One of the benefits of being a ravenous, gamer-media-mastication machine is that release dates don't often take me by surprise, but with today's announcement for Uncharted 2, shit just got real.

September features the releases of the sure-to-be-awesome Muramasa: The Demon Blade on the Wii, and I feel more than a little tempted to check out IO Interactive's New Game That's Still Not Hitman 5, Little Ninjas. October, on the other hand, is a perfect little storm of western RPGs, niche titles, ambitious creativity and guaranteed million-sellers. Last year was no slouch with Dead Space, Fallout 3, the PS3 port of Bioshock and the stumbling launch of LittleBigPlanet all landing prior to Halloween, but this year boasts an equally drool-worthy quantity of quality.

Let's get chronological.

October 6th

Alpha Protocol - eventual rental.

The crew at Obsidian Games is perhaps best-known for Knights of the Old Republic II, but perhaps more impressive is that this is the studio behind Fallout 1 and 2. If you also consider that this is the crew Bethesda has entrusted the upcoming Fallout: Vegas to, Obsidian has a great deal of gamer cred indeed.

In terms of graphics, in terms of art design, I can't say I've seen anything to thoroughly knock my socks off with Alpha Protocol, but the NPC interactions and open-ended mission structure look excellent. I will definitely play this game, but unfortunately there will simply be no room on my calendar, because it drops the same day as...

Demon's Souls - preorder purchase.

If you don't know about Demon's Souls yet, do some digging. The truncated version is that Demon's Souls is the spiritual sequel to the King's Field series. The game is essentially an action-RPG dungeon crawler, with absolutely brutal difficulty, minimal story and (what appears to be) visceral combat.

It's made by From Software, so consider it the Japanese take on a western-style RPG. It's also localized by Atlus, so at the very least you can be assured it will be a polarizing, niche title that some gamers exalt while others loathe. Personally, I expect it to be outstanding.

October 13th

Brütal Legend - guaranteed purchase.

I was a little standoffish with Schafer's latest opus, particularly when I got wind that Jack Black was involved. A few funny, well-animated trailers reminded me that hey, it's still a Tim Schafer game - which means it will put most games to shame, creatively- and a recent video walkthrough has convinced me that I'll have a blast with it.

I refuse to simply rent what will, no doubt, be considered a classic in a few years - but there will be so much on my Gamer Plate I don't know when I'll be able to play it, and I don't purchase games merely as a collector. So why not hold off for a month or six, and buy it when it's thirty bucks?

Because I hate that shit, and Double Fine deserves my money. If not for this unproven adventure, then for the copy of Psychonauts I foully purchased from a pawn shop.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves - preorder purchase.

I'm sure I don't have to tell you anything about Uncharted. If I do, and you're a PS3 owner, let me merely suggest you flee from your computer to the nearest video game distribution outlet, find yourself a copy of Drake's Fortune and dig on that.

'Cause this will be one of the best games of the year.

Way of the Samurai 3 - preorder purchase.

The hardest part about October 13th will be deciding which to play first - who am I kidding, I'll be playing Uncharted first - but I've waited far too long for WotS 3 to get a localization, so this won't be in its plastic wrap for long.

Sub-par technology and graphics? Check. Mostly-authentic swordplay? Check. Excellent art direction and gorgeous period music? Check check. The ultimate open-ended storyline? Can't wait.

October 20th

Dragon Age: Origins - eventual rental.

I'll admit, I'm not exactly a tome of knowledge when it comes to Dragon Age, but I do know that it features lots of blood, and it's BioWare's first foray onto the Playstation 3. Admittedly, BioWare has been the lone thorn in my Sony Side over the years. Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect look great, but I can't say I'm ravenous to play them. Jade Empire, on the other hand? That one stings.

These guys are as respected as an RPG developer can get in the western world - even if I'm not intimately familiar with their work, Dragon Age deserves a nice long look.

So let's do some math. If my Canadian pricing is accurate, that's $70 for Demon's Souls, Brütal Legend and Uncharted 2, $60 for Way of the Samurai 3 and ten bucks each for the RPG rentals. Calculator, calculator... with 12% sales tax, that's three hundred and twenty-four dollars and eighty cents. That's rent.

Which is why I plan these things two months in advance. Ugh, I don't even want to think about November and December.

...which will be awesome.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Persona 5 for PS3?

On the one hand, I wish I could read kanji. On the other hand, it'd make stuff like this seem much less alien and romantic.

Right on the heels of my trying to convince you that Atlus is awesome, (NSFW) Sankaku Complex reports that, in a pachinko industry publication...

"“a consumer announcement of PS3 exclusive Persona 5 is scheduled.”

The mention is slipped in with the industry announcement surrounding a Megami Tensei themed pachinko machine, so it seems unlikely to be an outright fabrication, though of course it could be genuinely mistaken, and it will almost certainly turn out to be “mistaken” and quietly excised."

If you're a North American gamer with a only the 360, secure in the knowledge that the 360 outsells the PS3 three-to-one in the largest gaming market in the world, this may seem like a ridiculous idea on Atlus's part. Why not go for the larger market? Well, they are.

The Shin Megami Tensei series is pretty darn big in Japan, where the PS3 enjoys a very sizable lead over Microsoft's hardware. In North America, even though the series has garnered a great deal of respect in the last few years it's still something of a niche - and they don't call the North American fans Atlus Faithful without reason.

I know more than a few gamers who will (if this unofficial, unsubstantiated rumor turns out to be true) now be forced to purchase a PS3. They have no other choice.

P.S. I'm honestly not trying to knock the 360 here. Play games, not consoles.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

MOVIE - Forbidden Siren.

I swear, I don't limit my movie intake to foreign horror flicks - but I doubt anyone who reads this blog is interested to hear that although The Tale of Desperaux looked very promising, Disney's Bolt is actually a much more enjoyable show.

Anyway - Forbidden Siren is a move based on a game. It isn't an adaptation of Siren, but Siren 2 (which was only localized for PAL countries), and just so we're clear it has practically nothing in common with Siren: Blood Curse.

And, for the most part? It's a... decent show. It's okay. No, scratch that - it's not very good. It's just not a horribly wasted ninety minutes either. It certainly had me turning on the lights at around the halfway mark, and its relatively low budget is helped by decent camera work and a strong performance by Yui Ichikawa.

A little digging reveals her to be your classic Japanese Idol - she's a commodity, and she does a bit of everything. Mostly movies, but she also has an album out, a bunch of singles and pictures of her in not-quite-clothing are disturbingly easy to stumble across - which makes it all the more impressive that she pretty much carries the movie on her own.

The first half is, to be honest, pretty darn good. It definitely had me on edge - but the problem is, aside from one crazy-awesome scene where she's trapped in a house with a rampaging dead man, once the movie kicks into high gear and starts trying to be really scary it ends up looking like something your friends shot for film class.

To make matters worse, they try to pull a Sixth Sense toward the end which falls completely flat, abandoning the plot of the source material in pursuit of a twist that has almost no payoff and directly conflicts with earlier events. Bleugh.

If you are (like me), a ravenous Siren fan it's surely worth a viewing. If not? It's not.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Wow.

Aside from rending my clothes and clawing out my hair in desperation at the knowledge that, in all likelihood, this game will never appear on PSN, I don't have much to say about Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet that isn't said better by this trailer. Watch the trailer.

How does it play? Who cares? It looks incredible. The animation is just... watch the trailer.

Y? Because it's awesome.

Hooray for me! I now have a copy of Y: The Last Man to call my very own. At seventy dollars plus tax, the price is a little obscene, but if my treatment of Watchmen is any indication I'll read Y a few dozen times in the next few weeks, until its world and my own are indistinguishable.

Very pleased with this.

IGN lets PS3 slim slip.

This is not what they actually look like.

In yet another security leak for Sony, IGN's Game Scoop! Podcast, Episode 127 lets Sony's slim cat out of the bag (again), with the words:

"'Cause we have one. For real."

Which is immediately followed by the words, "oops, I wasn't supposed to say that," and "yeah, we can edit that out." If you're curious to hear the whole thing, hit the link above to download the podcast and head to 44:50. The fatal slip occurs at 45:36. Of course, it could just be a joke on their part - but nobody laughed. So it might be a lame joke.

Honestly Sony - I know none of these leaks are your direct responsibility - but what's it gonna' take for you to put a little mystery back into the games business? Once it was all shadowy rooms and secret meetings - and it was a helluva lot more romantic!

Cigarettes are a foul, seductive bitch-goddess.

Strange story. When I was a wee child (six or so), my older brother and I were walking to the bus stop on our way to school. On that particular day, a car whizzed by and an occupant flicked their still-burning cigarette out the window. It landed in front of us on the sidewalk.

My brother, being an alpha type of male and ready to prove his courage, picked it up and did his best to monkey our father's smoking behavior. He coughed and coughed and coughed, and turned an odd shade of gray-green. We went on to school.

That afternoon, some adult found me and told me not to worry, but my older brother would not be on the bus home that day. He was ill as all hell, and my parents had taken him home.

When I got home and looked in on him, my brother was the same creepy gray-green color, lying in his bed.

Clearly, these cigarette things were some kind of noxious poison applicator. But strangely enough, I remember thinking... No, that's unclear. I remember knowing that when I grew up I would be a smoker. I had no idea what, precisely, that meant - but I knew I would be that person when I was something that approximated a man.

I do too, Sam.

I held off smoking 'till I was eighteen. I had tried it, sure - but I waited until I was legally intelligent enough to buy a pack before I bought a pack. Legal intelligence does not denote actual intelligence.

About a decade later, I'm desperate to be rid of this awful monkey on my back. It serves no purpose. It grants me no gains.

The first time you smoke a cigarette (or the first time after a long absence), it hits you like a linebacker. You may sweat a little. Your nerves jangle and vibrate like a freight train. It tastes foul as the devil's butt crack, and it's thrilling.

But once you're addicted (which takes all of a day), it's got nothing to do with whatever effect that first cigarette may have had on you. It is, one-hundred-per-cent, about self-medication.

Put simply, you are not you unless you are smoking or have very recently smoked a cigarette. You're tense, ill-tempered - angry at everything for no reason - and no matter what situation you may be in you only have one objective: to get outside, and have a smoke. Cigarettes are definitely a drug, but their only purpose is to treat the withdrawl one suffers when they haven't had a cigarette. It's fucking demonic.

Sexy, ain't it? Shrinks say cigarettes are phallic symbols.

"So quit," is the response (flippantly offered by those who've never smoked). Most ex-smokers will tell you they are still smokers. They just haven't had one in a very long time - but the desire is still there.

Well... I'm trying. I'm trying my ass off, but I seem to be running in circles of suffering. Last fall I managed to quit for a good three months prior to Christmas - and the Holiday Stress whispered to me; "Just buy one pack. You don't even have to smoke more than one. Just buy a pack, have the cigarette you so desperately need right now, and then put the pack away in a drawer somewhere. In a few weeks or months when you need another one, the pack will be there, with twenty-four untouched cigarettes. Heck, at that pace, a pack could last a year and a half."

Seven months and several hundreds of dollars worth of nicotine later, I'm locked in a death-roll with smoking. I'm desperate to be rid of it. I manage to give it up for a day or three or seven, but it whispers to me again. It rationalizes itself. It makes it sound so reasonable to go buy another pack, for that one cigarette I need, but that's never how it works out. And the cycle repeats. Ten or fifteen times at least, lately. It's very unfair to my family.

I'm desperate to be rid of it. I could afford a car (or two) with the amount I've spent on cigarettes over the years. Thousands of dollars, to manage a desperate need that would require no management if I'd just never started in the first place.

I'm going to quit. I need the money, and I hate flushing so much of it into this bloody addiction.

Please. Please, for yourself, for anyone you love or may come to love in the future, don't ever start smoking.

Friday, July 17, 2009

inFamous 2 in the works?

Who the heck is this guy?

Well, given that the rest of the images at the same location seem to be concept art for inFamous, including set pieces like The Warrens' hospital and the prison, it's probably just Cole - before they realized their engine seems incapable of rendering decent-looking hair.

Prior to getting on the inFamous bandwagon, I secretly harbored a dark, selfish hope that inFamous would be something of a failure which wouldn't warrant a sequel, and Sucker Punch would get back to the business of letting me dash around stylized cartoon cities as an anthropomorphic raccoon. Alas (and hooray), that is not what happened. inFamous did pretty damn well! Though not as well as multiplatform competitor Prototype. NPD numbers are, of course, subject to media spin.

Either way, inFamous did well for an original IP in a season not particularly known for moving huge numbers, and if one is to read between the lines of Sucker Punch's newly-updated company page, they could be led to believe that a sequel is on the horizon - Sucker Punch is pulling a Naughty Dog, and sidestepping a current-gen update to their beloved PS2 franchise.

The most solid bit of evidence for inFamous 2 is a qualification under the Lead Character Artist listing, which states the applicant "should be aware of current urban style and street fashion." Such a provision wouldn't be particularly necessary for the whimsical worlds and designs of a new Sly title, but would fit right in for the entirely urban inFamous.

Also interesting is the listing for a Network Programmer position. I can't say I really missed having a multiplayer component in inFamous, but if it works out as well as Uncharted 2's attempt, who am I to judge?

Bayonetta! Noooo! (Oh, it's not all that bad.)

It'll be awesome, I promise.

Here I was, all set to do a little write-up on how packed-to-the-gills October will be. Brutal Legend, Demon's Souls, Way of the Samurai 3, Alpha Protocol, Borderlands and - perhaps most important of all - Platinum Games' Bayonetta, when word drops that even though it's got a 2009 release date, complete with preorder bonuses in the Land of the Rising Sun (Oct 29), in North America Bayonetta is joining the ever-growing list of games pushed back to 2010.

Much has been made of the Great Fall Exodus, where many highly-anticipated titles have sidestepped the holiday crush to place themselves in an airy, early-2010 release window. Take-Two in particular are embracing the trend, with Red Dead Redemption, Max Payne 2, Mafia II and - most surprising of all - BioShock 2 all abandoning their 2009 releases for 2010 dates.

Sony has hopped on the bandwagon as well, pushing the artsy, niche title Heavy Rain into next year, along with the high-concept 256-player shooter MAG. This still leaves guaranteed-platinum seller Uncharted 2 and fan-favorite Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, but with Microsoft sticking to their guns to release (guaranteed multi-platinum sellers) Halo: ODST and Left 4 Dead 2, 2009 won't quite be the fabled Year of the Playstation we've been hearing about since 2006.

Anyways - back to Bayonetta.

It's always time for sexy cosplay.

What exactly is Bayonetta, and why am I so excited about it? Well... I found a great write-up once, lemmie track it down... Ah, here it is:

"Ready for some name-dropping? Good. Shinji Mikami was the director for legendary games like Resident Evil and Resident Evil 4 before he moved on to Clover Studio and made God Hand, one of the best brawlers ever. Hideki Kamiya directed Resident Evil 2, the original Devil May Cry and Viewtiful Joe before he moved on to Clover and made Ōkami. I hope you see the running theme here - these guys make classic games. Incredible games. And when they started up their own independent studio (Platinum Games), they continued making stuff no one else would attempt - like the ultraviolent Mad World on the family-friendly Wii.

This fall they bring their gonzo brilliance to the high-def consoles with Bayonetta. That's it - that's my whole schpiel. They only make incredible stuff - they're like the Team ICO of action games."

So I'm of two minds on this delay. On the one hand, although Bayonetta fills a niche that won't be occupied, it seems, in 2009, it's also an original IP - which have a history of getting steamrolled in the Winter Gaming Free-for-All. I want Bayonetta to succeed because I want Platinum Games to succeed and continue producing incredible titles - so I'm okay with a business decision that could help it out in any way, shape or form.

On the other hand, gamers also spend billions over the holidays - exponentially more than is spent throughout the rest of the year - and by the time Bayonetta works its way around to the Holidays 2010 cash-in, it could be in BioShock's shoes, trying to get a slice of that sweet money pie at a severely reduced price.

Back on the first hand, October 2009 is already packed enough with games I likely won't be able to afford - one less isn't exactly reason to tear up.

On the other hand (again), I loathe the idea of having to wait another six or eight months to get my hands on what is sure to be the next step in the evolution of action games.