Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Games of October 2012.

October 2012 is a grand caravan of supergames.  Almost every Tuesday this month sees at least one curious, confident or otherwise hype-inducing launch.  The Vita (finally) sees the first month flush with promising releases since its launch, and - in loving celebration of all that is good - cult favorite and critical darling Okami gets re-released in glorious high definition.

Praise be.  But let's kick it off with some zombies!

October 2nd - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day one. 

The gaming press has been distancing itself from the Resident Evil 6 hype train ever since review copies went out - I'm anticipating some critical backlash against the title - but the demo of Leon's campaign sold me more than a thousand preview articles ever could.  This feels like a Resident Evil that combines what Capcom have learned from modern gaming sensibilities (which, admittedly, ain't much) with the classic mechanics and tropes of its flagship franchise.

Could it end up being a disgusting melange of flavors which sees no harmony or joy in the execution?  Sure.

I'm hoping it'll just be a wacky, freaky ride of super-triple-A production values, monster-killin' and cheesy dialogue.  Really, if you go into any Resident Evil hoping for that, you'll come out just fine.

"We need a status report right away!"

"I just shot the president!"


October 2nd
New Little King's Story
Vita (PSN)
Hype-O-Meter : If this were any other month, I'd probably grab this.

The Vita needs more RPGs of all colors, and Wii sleeper hit Little King's Story hits all the right notes of exploration, strategy and adorability.  It's near-impossible to watch trailers for this game and not feel the gentle pull of its pastel canvas and the thought of a tiny army following you everywhere you go - but the fact is, it's dropping in October - and that pushes it to the back of the list.  Oh, Little King - why weren't you in August?

October 9th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

1995's UFO: Enemy Unkown - or X-COM - is the very definition of a cult classic. It is the game that all strategy RPGs are measured against.  When Valkyria Chronicles happened, for example, everyone was comparing its mechanics to X-COM's - the gold standard for the genre.

Enemy Unknown developer Firaxis has zero history with the franchise.  These are the folks who make the Sid Meier's games - a distinguished but not fantastic pedigree - but ignoring the (uniformly positive) articles exploring the game's preview build or its intricate systems of risk and reward, I'm entirely sold on Enemy Unknown for two reasons:

(1) It's a turn-based strategy RPG.  I love those, when they're not grindtastic.  I want to like it.

(2) Every dev diary these guys make just... sells me. When lead designer Jake Solomon talks, I don't get the sense that this is a man steeped in PR training, ensuring he's dynamic enough and dropping enough buzzwords.  This is a guy who loves the original X-COM. A man who understands not just the feeling that made the first game special, but the intention of the mechanics that allowed it.

If there's anyone we want to be re-making X-COM for the current gen, it's Jake Solomon.  I believe in him.

October 9th
Fable: The Journey
360 (Kinect)
Hype-O-Meter : Who wants to bet this won't suck?  Anyone!  Any takers?  I'm giving great odds! one?  Hm.

What can one say?  Peter Molyneux has stepped out from Lionhead Studios, and Microsoft have turned one of their only really strong IPs into a rail shooter that they assure us isn't a rail shooter.  For Kinect.

October 9th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Deus Ex. Thief: The Dark Project.  Some of the key developers behind Dishonored cut their teeth on titles that practically defined emergent gameplay, use of atmosphere and player freedom.  The game casts players as a "supernatural assassin," framed for the murder of his employer, and sets them loose on a series of missions to uncover the truth and get revenge - but that's where the direction ends.

Players are free to approach the game in the manner of their choosing - from an entirely stealth approach, that harms not a hair on any guard's head (or even your assassination target), to a player-controlled grip reaper, leaving a breadcrumb trail of bodies in their wake.  It all sounds very verbose and intellectual when you talk about it that way, but let me put my expectations simply;

Awesome atmosphere, awesome world, awesome fun.  It should be amazing - but given that Arkane Studios don't have a genuine hit under their belt, I wouldn't blame you for being cautious of this one.

October 16th
Ragnarok Odyssey
Hype-O-Meter : The Vita could use a good action RPG...

Relatively little is known to me about Ragnarok Odyssey beyond lovely-looking screenshots and lush trailers. It's a console spin-off of the MMO Ragnarok Online from South Korean developer Gravity - that's it, that's all I got.  I suspect Odyssey may prove to be the Vita's Summoner - the first eastern RPG to get any form of traction, to be later surpassed by triple-A titles in its genre.

Still, a big, beautiful action-RPG on the Vita.  I can dig it.

October 16th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Full disclosure - I love Doom 3, and I seriously don't get what everyone was bitching about when Doom 3 got its critical backlash.  When it dropped in 2004, I played the holy crap out of that game and loved every minute of it.  Loved the voice work, loved the world-building, loved the incredible lighting engine - but most of all, I love that crucial, supple, razor-sharp feel that id software have utterly mastered.

No one makes FPSs that feel quite like the ones id makes - and ever since I purchased a PS3, I've been waiting this game.  The time has, finally, come.  It'd be nice if it were in a month less jam-packed with quality titles, but I don't care - I wished for it, and the wish came true, and I'm hardly one to look a gift wish in the mouth.

October 16th
Silent Hill : Book of Memories
Hype-O-Meter : I'll look to like, if looking liking move...

Originally slated for release in March - at which point it appeared for all the world to be an isometric shooter - Silent Hill: Book of Memories has enjoyed some very positive previews which reveal its true nature.  This is a dungeon-crawling Diablo-like RPG set in the Silent Hill universe.

Which sounds totally awesome.

Book of Memories should go on your Watch List.  With so many triple-A PS3 games dropping, I won't be able to look into it beyond a demo - but I'll be paying attention to what people are saying about this Silent Hill - for the first time in a long time.

October 23rd
Killzone Trilogy
Hype-O-Meter : That's some bang for your buck, right there.

Despite Sony's most earnest hopes, Killzone never gained the same traction Halo did - but that doesn't stop it from being a pretty badass trilogy of games.  Killzone was a beautifully atmospheric, weighty experience on the PS2, and its two PS3 follow-ups (particularly 3) were utterly gorgeous beasts - gauntlets thrown down to the rest of the industry, showing what was possible on Sony's platform.

If you've ever been curious about these games, getting all three in a single package for forty bucks ain't a bad use of funds.

October 30th - PS3, 360, PC - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

Ubisoft pretty much owned E3 2012 with their apocalyptic bombardment of Assassin's Creed III media, but I can't say I'm as sold as the media seems to be.  The leap in mechanical and design quality between Assassin's Creed and its sequel was huge - and word is, the AC3 core team is made up of the folks who made II.

There's cause for hope, here - and if the absolute deluge of media Ubisoft has released of the game is any indication, the company is pretty confident in its success.  Will it be that awesome?  I can't say - but I'll be picking it up day one, just like everyone else.

October 30th
LEGO Lord of the Rings
PS3, 360, PC, Vita, 3DS, Wii, DS
Hype-O-Meter : Pretty cute can get you pretty far.

Yet another LEGO game, this time leveraging Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I really should play one of these LEGO games one day - they sound right up my alley, in a Ratchet & Clank kind of way - but I can just never be bothered.  Maybe I'll grab it for Vita if that version's worth its salt.

October 30th
Assassin's Creed III: Liberation
Hype-O-Meter: There are too many fucking games to play!

I love that this exists, I want it and I can't wait to play this game, but I will wait.  Liberation looks hot - it looks like it holds all the gameplay we love about Assassin's Creed, this time you play as a lady, it's set in New Orleans - and that is all wicked-cool.  I've no doubt my Vita will be home to Liberation at some point, but c'mon... Okami HD is happening on the 30th, too.

October 30th - PS3 (PSN) - Hype-O-Meter : Day One.

...and Okami is a masterpiece.  One of the best games I've ever played, and one of my favorite games of all time.  This will be immediately purchased upon its release - but I'll probably have to wait until after the rainy season to really dive into it. A gorgeous, emotionally resonant 30-hour action-RPG doesn't get rattled off in an afternoon.

* * *

...and that's October.  You might want to pull out some bank statements, a calculator and a calendar - 'cause this month has a few games that would like a word.

I'm gonna' be busy.


Mario's Trip by 25th Pixel.

Game Diary - Stockholm syndrome.

I didn't expect to become so fond of Borderlands 2, to the point that I'm reminded of those awkward friendship-romances that both parties don't entirely acknowledge they're involved in.  It's like The Brunette Friend in every eighties teen comedy - the constant companion the hero isn't aware that he loves.

"What're you doing tonight?" Borderlands 2 asks.  "Wanna' hang out?"

Well, sure.

I'd just met Double Dragon Neon, but recently I can't give it the time of day.  Sorry, The Walking Dead - I feel no great need to dig deeper into you, right now.  I'll wait until Kayla's in the mood to finish Chapter 3.

I'm just gonna' hang out with Borderlands 2.

"You're falling for Borderlands," they warn.

What?  Pfft.  No.

No I'm not!

"You've been playing it every night for the past week and a half."

It's not that often.

"Admit it - you're in love with Borderlands!"

As if!  The graphics are pretty-but-meh, the quest system is bunk, the balance is still janky and...

"Look, there's someone I'd like to introduce you to.  Chance, this is LittleBigPlanet Vita..."

And so I download the demo and spend four minutes with it and don't even consider unlocking the full game.

I can't stop playing an FPS-RPG with pretty-but-meh graphics, a bunk quest system and janky balance.



It's... it's not like I love it or anything.

An email conversation with my little brother and my girlfriend.

A hoodie arrived today from Threadless.

I think its purchase began with kicking myself over and over for never getting that awesome USG Ishimura hoodie with the health indicator on the back when Dead Space first launched.  That still stings - I still want that hoodie - and so, somewhere, a switch in my brain was flipped.  The switch that, until recently, ensured that I never purchased clothing off the interweb.

One night, whilst browsing said internet, I stumbled across the above image and wondered if it existed in hoodie form.  Then wondered if they had it in my size.

I'm not usually a hoodie guy, for the record.  I'm a collared shirts and jackets type of fellow, but with winter coming, a hoodie is always good to have.  So I fired off an email to My Guy Who Gets Stuff Off The Internet, Matt.

Me : Matt, buy this hoodie and tell me how much it costs.

Matt : Just gonna throw this out there..... Are you sure?

Me : Hang on, I'll ask Kayla.

Kayla, what do you think of a hoodie with this design on the back? For like, a dude.

Kayla : It's...meh. I think if it was black I would like it but I'm just not into this one. I personally don't like white or creme but the design is awesome.

Kayla : If you like it, go for it!

Me : Matt, buy it.

I do like the design.  To be honest, I love that design.  I wish it were my family crest - but it is, yes, a pink-and-purple design on a white hoodie.  But y'know what?  That's cool.  It'll go with my pink iPod.

A real man can pull off pink. Plus, it's a nice, soft, lighter material that shouldn't give me much trouble with overheating when utilized as a layer in the coming harsh Canadian winter.  Score.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is the next thing from Starbreeze.

Starbreeze Studios - the folks who made the current gen's first sleeper hit The Darkness (which was way clever) and the critically acclaimed Riddick games (which I never really "got") - were also the crew behind this past February's exercise to bring back the Syndicate property as a first-person shooter.

Yeah, remember that?  That dropped this year - and we all promptly stopped caring about it around four days after its release.  I'm willing to bet sales weren't quite what the studio hoped, 'cause this is their next title...

That being said - for me, at least - Starbeeeze's greatest strength has always been its emotional intelligence.  Brothers looks to be precisely the type of game that will try to leverage that.

Press release!
A man, clinging to life. His two sons, desperate to cure their ailing father, are left with but one option. They must set out upon a journey to find and bring back the "Water of Life" as they come to rely on one another to survive. One must be strong where the other is weak, brave where the other is fearful, they must be... Brothers. 
505 Games in partnership with Starbreeze Studios and filmmaker Josef Fares will release Brothers - A Tale of Two Sons - previously known as P13 - for Xbox Live Arcade for the Xbox 360 video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation Network for the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system and for Steam in spring 2013.
Never heard of 505 Games?  They specialize in publishing seriously shitty or very weird games.  When I heard Artificial Mind & Movement (Wet) hooked up with them, I almost choked on my own tongue - and then we got... Naughty Bear.

On the bright side, they also published the weird/awesome games Bujingai and Samurai Western - so they can't be all bad.

Oh, Starbreeze.  I hope this isn't the beginning of your end.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The PS3 has a lot of trilogies, is getting more trilogies.

Lately it's been pretty clear that Sony is trying to remind the world that it's got a lot of kickass properties.  Uncharted, God of War, Journey, Killzone, Sly, Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter have all been re-released in bundles, as if to shout from the rooftops that their platform is home to a lot more exclusive awesome than the competition.

I've been meaning to say that for a long time, but no matter how I phrase it, it still sounds snarky to suggest that a similar exercise by Microsoft would result in the Gears trilogy, the Halo trilogy, the Forza collection and the Fable trilogy - and that's pretty much it.  (I'd love to see disc releases of PSN/XBLA titles, wouldn't you?  Like, Shadow Complex, Mark of the Ninja, Limbo and Bastion all on one disc for thirty bucks)

Well, Ubisoft and Electronic Arts clearly feel like the PS3 doesn't have enough trilogy bundles - so we're getting an exclusive Ezio saga!

Coming November 13th (two weeks after ACIII drops) for just $40.

Second, if you've ever felt burned that you can enjoy Mass Effect 2 and 3 on your PS3, but never got to play the original, Electronic Arts has good news for you.

The Mass Effect Trilogy will drop on November 6th for Xbox 360 and PC, with the PS3 version due "at a later date" - which I hope doesn't mean "if we can do a halfway decent job of porting it - which we're not sure of."

Now, my fellow PS3 players, you may be asking yourself "should I play Mass Effect? Is it as cool and slick as 2 and 3?"

The answer, I'm afraid, is no.  Mass Effect is a much denser experience than its sequels, with many more rough spots and sharp edges in need of a good smoothing.  Its combat is... well, terrible, compared to ME2 and particularly 3, and is - more than anything - really representative of how far the series managed to come with its sequel.

"What if I just really care about the story?"

Well then, by all means, snap it up.  But I'll warn you - when I finished ME3 and was tempted to play through the original on my 360, I lasted about four hours before the game's inelegance bored me to near-death. It took a trip to the ER and 15CCs of adrenaline, but Dr. Feelgood patched me right up.

"Chance," he told me, "you need to be playing games with a better balance of story and action.  And goddamn, the shooting in ME1 just sucks balls."

Resident Evil 6 TGS trailer.

You may have noticed, lately, that a few media outlets have been letting it slip that they're less than impressed with the review copies they've received of RE6.  Nothing blatant, nothing matter-of-factly stated that violates their embargo agreement - but leading up to its release, sites are distancing themselves from the RE6 hype machine, as if to soften the blow of negative reviews to come - but I don't care.

I totally dug the demo - yes, it had archaic components, but that's part of what I... I guess what I want from Resident Evil.  The feel of it - the thickness of design that requires you to grab key cards and mix herbs into little piles of healing feels comfortable, and almost necessary within that framework.

I don't care what any of these people "who have actually played the game" say - I'm still hyped for RE6 - and there's only five days to go!

Far Cry 3 Vaas and Buck trailer.

The more I see of this game... I can't remember Ubisoft game that I was this hyped for.  More than Assassin's Creed 3?  Easily.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dead Space 3 Eudora gameplay.

Seventeen minutes of Dead Space 3!

...which I seriously don't have time to watch right now.  But that doesn't mean I should deny you the opportunity.

[update] Okay, I just watched the first two minutes and I can watch no more.  Thar be action and event spoilers!  But it looks sweet - exactly the quality of presentation I expect after Dead Space 2.  2013 can't come soon enough. [/update]

Monday, September 24, 2012

So last night, I tossed in Sucker Punch.

It was late and I just wanted to kick back with some TV or a movie - but I didn't have time for a movie.  When I saw Sucker Punch in theaters, I condemned it as abhorrent - save for a few moments of cool action.  I told Blue that day that Sucker Punch would have been enjoyable if they'd just cut everything except those sequences, and merely shown twenty minutes straight of Baby Doll beating the shit out of supernatural monsters.

I grabbed it on Bluray when I saw it for five bucks - because hey, five bucks - and I still thought those sequences alone would be worth seeing again, some day.

I don't think I was right about that.

Last night I skipped everything except the fantastical action sequences, and it was still... well, shitty.  Almost every shot, almost every bit of combat, felt badly-choreographed and shot with even worse camera angles.  I discovered I was constantly thinking "that needed a different cut" or "this needed a different angle."

There is, certainly, something to be said for a platinum-blonde in fetish gear beating the crap out of towering samurai golems - but, in this movie's case, there really isn't much to say.  Occasionally - rarely - there will be a great shot, a great moment of slow-mo staging, but the whole enterprise ended up coming across as amateurish and cheap, despite its hefty CGI budget.

Oh well. Way to go, hopeful nature - you just cost me five dollars.

Mark of the Ninja is coming to Steam!

You know there's nothing going on when my two posts for the day are about releases on Steam.  On the other hand, Mark of the Ninja is coming to Steam and that is absolutely friggin' awesome.

Mark of the Ninja - the single best game of the summer and the sweetest love letter to the stealth genre in years - will be free of Microsoft's yoke and available on Steam on October 16th.  This is wonderful news for a few reasons.

One : Klei have quickly become one of my favorite developers, the thought of them selling more copies of their games - and subsequently, making more games - is only a very good thing.

Two : The fact that Microsoft isn't involved in the PC release (the game won't be saddled with Games for Windows Live) gives greater hope for Mark eventually landing on the PS3 or (!!!) Vita.

Three : Mark of the Ninja is the modern heir to Tenchu's crown, the best stealth game in years, and it needs to be played by as many people as possible.

* * *

Lately, at work, I've had folks ask me what I'm playing lately (Borderlands) and what I'd recommend.  If, when I ask, they inform me they're working with a 360, MotN is the first thing I must suggest - and three of them have come back to thank me profusely for the recommendation.

Then, one of them asked me if I'd heard of a game called Limbo and if it was any good and I'm like, dude.

There's an XCOM: Enemy Unknown demo!

...if you've got a Steam account and a PC capable of running it.  If you do, rest assured that somewhere out there, a blogger is raising his fist and shaking it at you in a fit of self-loathing and jealousy.

You can grab the demo here. 

Naturo Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 trailer.

So... pretty..!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Borderlands? Borderlands.

Zero news today - still deeply involved in Borderlands 2 - still fighting the urge to hop on some forums and beg for someone to do up co-op with me.

So yeah.  That's what I'm up to.  What're you playing? Seriously - put it in the comments.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sly 4 drops February 5th in NA.

March in EU.  After getting my hands on that demo, I can't say I have high expectations for the title - but hey, cross-buy!  If I buy the PS3 version, I get a downloadable copy of the Vita version free!

At that price, I can't afford not to play it.

Great, now I care about Remember Me.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Game Diary.

So have we all checked out the Resident Evil 6 demo?  Pretty impressive, yeah?

After a summer of fun, lower-production-values titles like Lollipop Chainsaw, Spec Ops: The Line and Sleeping Dogs, it's seriously refreshing to find myself snuggling into a significantly triple-A experience.  And this isn't just a demo - it's three demos - or at least sure seems to be.

I played through Leon's demo twice and haven't touched the other two - puzzling over the byzantine inventory system and thrilling to the way muzzle flare illuminates the faces and grasping hands of zombies in a darkened hallway.  It's kinda' weird how many headshots a zed takes to drop - but that doesn't matter - it's gorgeous.

This is clearly Capcom at its most serious.  Resident Evil is their flagship, they intend for 6 to be the biggest thing the company has dropped on the world since Street Fighter IV, and it really shows. This demo has significantly hyped me for October 2nd.

Why haven't I tried the other two demos?  Because I can't stop playing Borderlands 2.

That's unexpected, to be sure.  I hoped I would enjoy Borderlands 2, but I feared it would suffer the same fate as its predecessor.  Specifically, I anticipated the "balance" between the randomly-generated guns at my disposal and the "normal difficulty" quests would be as completely out of whack as they were in the first game - a headache-inducing affair that I abandoned after a dozen hours or so.

Borderlands 2 does not, significantly, make the same missteps.  I'm a level 14 Gunzerker (which is a very fun class), and while some missions have been very challenging, I've never found myself frustrated.  Finally, now, I get what everyone else was talking about with Borderlands.  There is something very empowering about holding a submachinegun with an eighty-round clip that incinerates enemies in one hand and an epic-quality revolver from hell in the other, pissing fire and huge thumping bullets into my enemies.

I still worry, though.  I worry the experience I had with the original will rear its ugly head - and let's face it, Gabe's not wrong - the game's quest structures are stupid, and you're pausing every thirty seconds to compare one gun to another within the confines of a very inelegant system.  It's a far cry from all those 9s and 10s I've been seeing.

That said, I can't stop playing and I do understand what all the reviewers were talking about with the original game. With guns falling from the sky, there is a near-constant hopefulness that the next gun will be the gun.  The gun that just clicks into your playstyle, and allows you to feel that delicious sense of power the game occasionally permits.

I haven't had a real gun upgrade in about five levels now, though - and I'm starting to worry if it will return to the pattern of its predecessor - of expecting me to return to an ammo vendor ten times in order to complete a dungeon, because Borderlands 2 hasn't seen fit to provide me with weapons capable of really threatening same-level opponents.

It's not there yet, however.  It's still fun.  The driving sensation remains one of joyous discovery, of exploration and zany characters and awesome-looking guns that might-just-might be the awesome-looking gun I'm looking for.

And now I'm going to go play it more.  G'night!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance TGS trailer.

Don't let the five minute length throw you off - this is chock-full of new footage and a ton of gameplay.  Watching this, does anyone else think to themselves, 'hm - Vanquish 2.'?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Another newer, slimmer PS3 model is on its way.

Announced last night, the new form factor is 25% smaller and 20% lighter than a current PS3.  There's three versions.

  • An SKU with 12GB of internal flash storage (a'la the 360's popular 4GB version) will be available only in Japan and PAL countries.  Strange they wouldn't want to push it in NA, where the recession's hit pretty hard and folks are no doubt looking for a low-entry-barrier option. 
  • An SKU with a 250GB HDD drops September 25th in NA, bundled with Uncharted 3 and a thirty dollar voucher for... Dust 514 DLC?  Um... okay.  $270.00.
  • An SKU with a 500GB HDD will be available in NA on October 30th.  No price announced. 

Yaiba is now Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z.

Director M. Night Shyamalan is not associated
in any way, shape or form with Yaiba.
What a twist!

It turns out the player character was started out as one of the millions of nameless ninja who've been brutally bisected by Ninja Gaiden hero Ryu Hyabusa in his travels - but this one came back with awesome cyborg attachments, and he's out for revenge!

I'm not really sure where the zombies work into it, or what shadowy corporation put our killed-by-the-hero-hero on the slab for cybernetic repair, but I'm still digging a cell-shaded zombie-slaughtering art style - and looking forward to some serious gameplay footage.

In the mean time, let us try not to look too harshly on our Cybo-ja - after all, going up against Hyabusa is less an act of hubris than one of spiritual beliefs.

Penny Arcade (2004)

Muramasa. On the Vita.

Sony had a press conference in Japan tonight.  New slimmer PS3, Plus on Vita, a few game announcements... but only one item of true note.

Vanillaware's Muramasa: The Demon Blade is coming to the Vita.  As in, the only Wii game I truly love - or perhaps, better put, the only Wii game I give any variety of shits about.  The sort of love that drives a man to turn a game's screenshot into the header for his blog.

As in the absolute masters of 2D presentation...

As in a huge open-ish-world action RPG...

As in incredible, incredible music that... I can't find a link to.  Just trust me. [update] Found it!  I'mma' embed this.

Yeahhh. [/update]

As in Vanillaware.  More Vanillaware.  On the Vita.

I'll be playing this game on the Vita.  That is just delicious.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A cornucopia of geeky delights!

Kayla and I had laid out four days worth of plans for our one-hundredth-of-a-centennial anniversary - a day trip, a film, a few special restaurants and a reservation at a holy-crap-expensive restaurant with holy-crap-delicious food - and we were both minding our pennies as it approached, to the point that we were both relieved to agree that we wouldn't be buying each other gifts.

Her friends were appalled at the notion, but mine found the idea as reasonable as we did.  Unfortunately, an outbreak of virulent disease did some damage to the full roster of planned activities, and come yesterday I was sitting on more cash than I'd expected - so I proposed we go out shopping together, and buy each other gifts.

We trolled the perfume counter at The Bay... do you have The Bay in the States?  I'm not sure that you do.  It's like, the oldest department store in Canada, born of the Hudson's Bay Company that had a stranglehold on the best trade routes into Canada around the birth of the nation.  It's our Bloomingdale's or Macy's.  We sniffed about twenty different scents (did you know Chanel No. 5 kinda' smells like crap?), and settled on something called Valentina Assuloto from the Valentino fashion house.

It's a somewhat musky scent, with a lot of warmth and richness to it.  Kayla said it was the first bottle of "real" perfume she's ever had, and I was suitably pleased to be buying such a traditional gift for a lady.  It's like chocolates or flowers or standing outside her window in a trench coat, holding up a boom box - some things are just archetypes, and feel wholesome for it.

For my sake, we went to EB Games.  I'm not sure when the Ratchet & Clank collection went on sale, but I just had to own it, so I bought myself a (sealed) copy, and asked if Kayla wanted to buy me a copy of Borderlands 2.

"That's not out until midnight," the tiny lady behind the counter said.  "But if you preorder it now, you can pick it up at twelve tonight!"

Hmph.  You'd think I'd be more up on these things - but I guess all the reviews lately gave me the impression it was available.  I turned to Kayla.

"Wanna' come back at midnight?"

Kayla is sick as a dog, for the record - to the point that she was considering just staying in bed yesterday (!).

"Yeah," she smiled, and pulled out her debit card.

When we got home, Kayla confessed she'd never seen a Ratchet & Clank game.  I tried to describe it with the usual terms - "platformer, third-person-shooter, semi-open levels" and "insane weapons that level up," but the best thing to do was just throw in Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction and show her how colorful, bouncy and funny these games are.  Then I read the back of the R&C Collection box and discovered it granted me early access to the Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time demo!


As it turns out, the "early access demo" for Sly Cooper: Thieves in time is... how to put it... pretty... shitty.  Yeah.  Pretty shitty.

The demo takes place on platforms high up in a large, open chamber, linked together by targets you must utilize by hitting with rope arrows, after switching into a dashing archer ensemble. The rest of it is just platforming along in classic Sly style - X is still jump and O is still "twirl to land on a tiny foothold" - but it doesn't end up feeling like Sly did.

That's very weird - and very unfortunate - to me. Developer Sanzaru Games are the folks who made the Sly Collection - up-porting Sly 1, 2 and 3 to the PS3 and keeping every iota of the gameplay intact.  There's no reason Thieves in Time shouldn't be a perfect modern interpretation of Sly, in their hands - but it doesn't feel that way.

The art direction - while beautiful and detailed - doesn't recall the striking use of shadow and color that Sucker Punch did back on the PS2.  The platforming - while easy to control - doesn't feel as tight or fast as it did, and Sly himself doesn't have the same sprightly, cartoony animation.

Is it possible that Sly 4 plays and controls exactly like he did back on the PS2, and I'm just not comfortable with the sluggish feel of last-gen gaming?  Possibly, sure - in the mean time, all I can say is that this feels like a very good-looking game by folks who really don't get what was special about Sly.

But.  But, it's only a three-minute sequence of gameplay.  But it's only one look at one level.  And the dialogue was pretty damn funny.  One outta' three ain't bad.  I'll still pick up Thieves in Time when it drops next year - but now it has the benefit of my lowered expectations, and that can turn out real well sometimes.

I tossed Borderlands 2 in today and the only gold star I'm willing to provide is that its presentation and narrative pacing is - so far - a big step up from the original's.  Perhaps it was thanks to this one having the sort-of-cell-shaded art style from day one, but everything pops to a much larger degree than it did in 2009.  Having an awesome track from The Heavy playing during your credits sequence earns you an instant thumbs-up, but it couldn't be as impactful as Ain't No Rest For The Wicked was three years ago.

That's not being fair, perhaps.  Really, everything feels tighter and more refined, here - and I find myself eyeing up my friends list at the thought of co-op - but I'm still troubled by the natural imbalance of its systems, and the ebb and flow of a player's sense of power.

I'm not sure if this'll get a review, but I'm glad I have it.  It'll require some more time, I expect.

Finally, a few months ago we were sitting around a fire at Richard's, laying the groundwork of what would become a group outing to the premier of Prometheus, when I began loudly lamenting the fact that Indiana Jones was unavailable for purchase on Bluray.

Julie (Richard's paramour) whipped out her smart phone and pulled it up on Amazon, telling me I would have to wait until September to own it.

And now, I do.  That much more of my childhood - re-obtained.  So - Ratchet & Clank, Sly, Borderlands, Indiana Jones and oh my God the demo for Resident Evil 6 drops today!

Do you know how far away RE6 is?  It's precisely two weeks away!


Dead Island: Riptide first trailer.

It's not The Sublime Tragedie of la Petite Zombie, but it still strums your heartstrings and - for a fan of the first game - really hypes one for the sequel.  All week in Best Buys and GameStops I've been seeing that limited-edition preorder-only steelbook case... this is one of those games I really can't wait for.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Personal note.

Today is my one-year anniversary with Kayla.  It's a long story - one I've been meaning to put down - but it's hard to tell a story without an ending, so I haven't.

Needless to say, there are celebrations and festivities on the docket, and I'll be back tomorrow.  G'night!

Hitman Absolution - tools of the trade trailer.

Borderlands 2 launch trailer.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I was just reminded

that I love this image.  You've seen Johnny Wander, yeah?

About Bayonetta 2...

Sometimes, at a family dinner, I'll be asked how I like this bit of food or that piece of dessert.  Now, it's nice when one is honestly able to answer that it's delicious - but that's not always the case - and in such unfortunate cases, when asked about the quality of a dry cake or questionable lasagna, I have a stock phrase prepared for deployment: 

"It's a lot better than the lasagna I wasn't eating ten minutes ago."

Bayonetta 2 is that lasagna. 

So people are flipping out over Bayonetta 2 being a Wii U exclusive, published by Nintendo.  These people are silly.

We need to appreciate, here - any game from Platinum is a gift to gamers, everywhere - and it's not like these things apparate out of thin air.  Sega were kind enough to foot the bills for MadWorld, Infinite Space, Bayonetta, Vanquish and Anarchy Reigns, Konami asked them to help out on Metal Gear Rising and Nintendo had already announced a relationship with the developer when they told us they were publishing Hideki Kamiya's latest thing, now known as The Wonderful 101.

Now, as it turns out, they're also footing the bill - and have secured publishing rights - for the sequel to the best brawler on the current gen.  Silly, silly people have a problem with this.  As a knee-jerk reaction, that's... sort-of understandable.  I myself referred to the news that Nintendo is publishing Bayonetta 2 as "rather crazy," but that doesn't make it a bad thing, or even something that's not good.

It's just weird.

It's something of a statement, by Nintendo.  They want to position the Wii U as a respectable, capable gaming machine for everyone - and that includes the niche, "hardcore" folks who care about Bayonetta.  Of the platform's handful of promising third-party exclusives (The Wonderful 101, Zombie U and Rayman: Legends), only Bayonetta has instant, nails-in traction with the "core" crowd.  Yes, we all loved Rayman: Origins - but Bayonetta is a separate beast entirely.

Bayonetta belongs in the discussion of titles that moved their respective genres forward.  It sits among luminaries like Half-Life, DOOM, Devil May Cry, Resident Evil 4 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.  It's one of those games.

And (for now, at least), you can only get it on Nintendo's platform.  I get the why of this.  I get why Platinum was willing to do it, and I get why Nintendo's willing to foot the bill - but I worry the outcome won't be what they hope.

Everyone wants to be Halo, but it was a rare event.  It launched with the original Xbox, offering something profoundly different from your run-of-the-mill console gaming experiences, and the rest is history.  It's nice to hope that Platinum, similarly, could be so rewarded for placing one of the jewels from their crown on the ground floor of what could be the next PS2, the next Xbox and, heck, the next Wii.  But c'mon.

You also run the danger of being the next Heavenly Sword - a gorgeous, ambitious brawler that was almost ignored at the dawn of the PS3's life cycle - there simply weren't enough PS3s in people's hands to support a hit, at that stage in the game.

For all of Nintendo's clever positioning, the WiiU will never be the next Xbox 360 - it can't.  The next Xbox 360 will (probably) launch late next year in competition with the next PlayStation (probably) - and when that happens, they'll be right back in the same boat - with a popular but under-powered piece of hardware, when compared to what Sony and Microsoft will be putting forward.

There's no way around it.  Come Holiday 2014, Nintendo will once again have the least-powerful console on the market, and the "core" folks will build their libraries around Sony or Microsoft platforms. which point Bayonetta 2 will probably get a port.  At least, if Nintendo's history of high-profile third-party exclusives is anything to go on.

So yes, Bayonetta 2 exclusive to the Wii U may seem crazy - but the reasoning is simple.  Nintendo want to show the hardcore crowd that they can play with the big dogs (at least 'till next year), and Platinum simply want to get Bayonetta 2 made - and so should we.

It probably won't pan out that well.  A few - let's say a hundred thousand - hardcore folks will buy the Wii U and they will get this game for it, but it's not a title that will give the platform any kind of a bump - and indeed, is the type of title which is only destined to be appreciated by people who, for example, read or write blogs about video games.

But let us not condemn this as a pointless exercise.  It may end up disappointing for Platinum and it may not glean the sales Nintendo hopes, but the crucial core of the thing remains : we're getting Bayonetta 2.

And Bayonetta 2 on the Wii U - a sequel to the best brawler of our time - is a profound improvement over the version of Bayonetta 2 that wasn't set to be published, until Nintendo stepped in.

Yeah, pretty much.