Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Guitar Hero... Axed?

Yeah Activision have decided to can a bunch of their franchises.

And Guitar Hero has gone to gaming heaven.


On the upside: 
No more new plastic instruments every year. 
No playing the same game over and over with different tunes.
No more unrealistic multiplayer achievements (in GH at least).
Rockband is still out there for now.

On the downside:
We never saw Guitar Hero: Pink Floyd, or Guitar Hero: Led Zeppelin.

So there you have it...

Not much to miss about guitar hero, and this is coming from someone who has most iterations of it. Warriors of rock, saw great integration of all the previous games, bolstering set list. And will likely still be pulled out for the occasional house party.

In conclusion, Guitar hero... You had a good run, and if I didn't own 6 different versions of you, I would say you would be missed.

Love and Green, Red, Yellow, Blue, Orange,

Richie X.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Burnout 2

I bought Burnout 2 for £2 the other day. bargain of the century or what?

Burnout 2 is and was a fantastic game. I don't know anyone who ever played the first Burnout or whether or not it even exists. Burnout 2 hits the sweet spot especially as, being an older game and a family favourite it is steeped in nostalgia, but it is a good game within its own right. Later Burnouts lost the way. Burnout 3 transformed crashing into pure porn but slowed everything down with too many load screens and then Revenge and Dominator seemed to come out almost one after another.

There's still a heartbeat quickening thrill in juggling building up the boost bar and trying not to crash. Do you play like a pussy and just tentatively jut in and out of driving in the opposite lane? Or do you risk it all for a biscuit by driving down the middle of the opposing lane? Around a blind corner. Whilst drifting. Just the thrill of dodging the traffic as it goes about its business makes games like Stuntman Ignition feel like a sunday drive with the odd explosion here and there.

That's all. It ever so easy to just constantly be negative when writing about games. I just wanted to say something nice about a game that did well and one I enjoy to this day.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Digital Convergence and why it matters to gaming and Nintendo

For the last 10 years, the consumer electronics industry has been converging towards mobile.
At one point you would have all your digital devices, your digital camera, your camcorder, your MP3 Player, your Sat Nav, your PDA and your Mobile Phone all connected up to you PC which acted as a Digital hub for all that content and media. 
Not that long ago right? 
In fact I still have all of these devices, i just use them way less now or not at all. 
These of course have been largely replaced by the one device to rule them all, the smartphone.

I have used 4 smartphone platforms, Windows Mobile, Android, Blackberry and most recently iOS.
I've gotta say carrying around one device rather than seven is obviously convenient, but only recently have these devices matured to a level where it's also realistic.
When Apple CEO Steve Jobs was recently asked what the future of the PC was, he used an interesting automotive analogy. 

"When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks. But as people moved more towards urban centers, people started to get into cars. I think PCs are going to be like trucks. Less people will need them. And this is going to make some people uneasy."

He is basically saying that certain tasks will always be better on the P.C. and the P.C. will always be needed for them, but a lot of the other things people do on a them, they can do just fine on a mobile device.
This rings true for some of the devices above. 
I still have a DSLR camera and a camcorder because there are currently physical limitations to how much light a sensor and lens smaller than my finger nail can take in, but i use them way less and find most of my pics and videos come from my iPhone now, and the quality is just fine. If i needed a more professional or higher quality experience I'll go for the dedicated device.
My sat nav still gets hauled out on occasion, despite being the same software running on both devices, there is something to be said for a larger screen and dedicated purpose GPS chip.
But for the most part I use the Tom Tom app on my iPhone as it is convenient and does just fine.
So the next device which i omitted from the above list, is a portable gaming device.

I'm not going to argue that all mobile gaming needs to be is convenient and that Angry Birds or Cut the Rope is all the mobile gaming ambition we have,  Cunzy11 sums it up just fine here 

But what I do believe is that having a digital convergence mobile platform matters and at the very least keeps companies like Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft relevant in a market with massive growth year on year, a market that can potentially introduce non gamers to more serious gaming in turn leading them to the dedicated device.

So lets look at the 3 major console manufacturers and their Mobile Platform.


With no dedicated portable gaming device, MS is entirely dependant on it's smartphone OS as a mobile gaming alternative.
Last year Microsoft did what many doubted they could do and made them selves relevant in the mobile space again by throwing out Windows Mobile and completely rewriting the OS from the ground up in the form of Windows Phone 7. The OS though still young and rough around the edges, has a lot to like, not least of which is the Xbox Live integration.
The phenomenon of achievements and Gamerscore and why they even matter can be debated by Richie! another time, however 'Thousanding' is addictive and with Windows Phone 7 comes twohundreding. 
In short you are signed in to XBL on your phone, can manage friends lists, view status, edit your av and more importantly play games and earn achievements. 
There is talk of cooperative play between mobile and console (hopefully more immersive than the Tingle Tuner was in Windwaker), potential seamless continuation of games (leave the console and continue playing on the phone in a different way) and shared XBLA purchases playable on both devices all under one harmonious ecosystem.
Lots of potential for sure, MS has a lot riding on it if it wants a piece of mobile (it does) however WP7 still has a lot to prove as a phone platform, as a developer platform and as a brand and with sales and market share down year on year (despite Windows Phone 7 launch) it certainly isn't certain to succeed. However MS isn't a company short of cash and like it or not, brands can be bought with enough advertising and product placement.
As a gaming platform it is very early days, the XBL integration is pretty amazing, however it now needs some pretty amazing games and experiences worthy of the Xbox name.

As much as it's easy to criticise the PSP, they have sold 62 Million of them worldwide (that's more PSP sales than SNES, NES, PS3 or 360) so it's not like they are lost in this market.
They have also just announced the next Playstation Portable due end of 2011 (in at least one market) codenamed NGP for now, which is a bit of a brute: 4x resolution of the current PSP, quadcore A9 Processor, dual analogue, reverse trackpad (which despite forcing you to make pedophile gestures, looks awesome) etc etc, spec wise it's a beast and whether the content will be there and the price will be right can be debated another day.

There is also the fabled Playstation Phone, the Xperia Play (announcing Feb 13th), which for many mobile gamers will be a match made in heaven, a fully functioning Sony Ericsson Android smartphone with slide out Playstation Controls to be used with existing Android games (not many) and the newly introduced and arguably more exciting than the NGP, Playstation Suite. 

Playstation Suite is a software framework for Android smartphones and tablets, essentially bringing a hardware neutral (Yup a Samsung Playstation Phone is happening) game store to Android, initially starting with PSone games.
This is huge for so many reasons.

It's huge for Google as it will finally give Android a gaming presence in the Smartphone war and a brand that customers already know. 
It's huge for Sony as it will leverage it's own Xperia Play (the Playstation Phone) as an instant mobile gaming platform digital convergence device.
It's huge for NGP as it means at launch, there will likely be a large catalogue of games on PS Suite in addition to dedicated games and a breadcrumb trail for users to the NGP should users love getting their portable playstation on and want a more dedicated system.
There are a lot of questions still to answered though, as, since most phones wont have dedicated controls, will games designed for PSSuite be compelling enough for 'hardcore users'
Will phones in 2012 be powerful enough for NGP games?
Will the games be subject to the same fragmentation issues that currently plague Android?
However one thing is for sure, Sony has it's ducks in a row, it has the home console, the dedicated mobile console and soon will have the Xperia Play convergence device to bridge the gap, all of which are living under the same Playstation Suite ecosystem, smart.

Ah the DS, 144 million devices sold second only to the PS2 and in just 2 short months the latest greatest 3DS will be with us convincing the non-believers that 3D is in fact the future (unless you flick the off switch)
Personally I'm not convinced about 3D in general, but I really like Nintendo for making it happen without the ridiculous 'deal breaker' glasses. It feels like an early adopter move, the kind of moves Sony used to make, the kind of moves Apple currently make. I do tend to see Nintendo's differentiating moves a bit gimmicky; I didn't like the 2 screens on the DS, i thought the Wii motion controlling was stupid and you could argue forcing 3D Ocarina of Time on someone with a free headache is the latest gimmick. That said, they do sell a lot of stuff on the back of these gimmicks, so what do i know? and hat's off to them for trying to bring a unique feature to market.
I'm sure they will sell a tonne of these device, however i'm sure they would have sold them regardless of the headache inducing 3D screen.
What concerns me though is that Nintendo doesn't have any convergence device or platform and no apparent plans to support one. 
Nintendo themselves have identified Apple as "the enemy of the future" and that "they can hurt us more than Microsoft"
So what is it about the iPhone/iPod touch that makes it an enemy that can potentially take a Nintendo customer away?
The games? Unlikely.
The gaming experience? No way
The social experience? God no (Game Center sucks)
So what is it? 
It's the fact people already have/need phones and if they can get one cool device from an iconic brand that does everything they need that fits in their pocket, they want it and they will start to use it more and more just like they do vs the camcorder and the digital camera.
The 3DS is not the answer to the iPhone, it's another truck, purpose built for doing one task well. So if the market tells them that people want digital convergence and they see Apple as their biggest threat, what are they doing about it??
Now as it stands, i think people need their trucks on the gaming landscape, but for a company that thrives on the casual gamer, this is surely a missed opportunity to show them what a great company they still are and entice them from Mobile to Portable to Home console.
So assuming Nintendo did want to get a piece of this emerging market and make a Gameboy Phone or DSPhone, they would need a software platform, so what are the options?

1. Android, it's free and it's spreading like a rash. However while Nintendo could make a locked down DRM DSPhone (it wouldn't have 2 screens but DSPhone rolls off the tongue better than GameboyPhone) it seems unlikely given Sony's strong connections to Android and the recent announcements.

2. iOS, put this in the fanboy dream category. The idea that Nintendo would license their back catalogue to play on iOS devices seems awesome and would give them a strong platform to leverage their other assets on. Unfortunately I think both companies are too stubborn (Apple in particular) to admitting they need either company. Although Apple could cross license iOS to run on future home consoles giving them the much needed answer to the growing Android army. Like I say it's a dream.

3. Build their own OS. Madness, there is no room for another mobile platform in the market with Apple, Microsoft, Google, Nokia, RIM and HP already pushing the limits on what is acceptable for consumer choice.

4. HP/Palm Web OS. Nintendo should have bought Palm, this would have given them arguably the best mobile OS around and a ready made entry in to this market. They didn't, though, HP did, but it's still a possible option and here's why.
It makes sense!
They need each other and are different enough that business politics and pride wont get in the way.
HP has a media event tomorrow (Feb 9th) and I would love to see Nintendo's Reggie jog on stage at some point and announce a cross licensing deal.
HP desperately need to win the public over and convince them that their OS is cool, unique and has more USP's than just an intuitive GUI. Having Nintendo games baked in to their App store would give them instant credibility with consumers, solve their gaming issue and would help convince developers Web OS is a platform worth their time. 
Nintendo could also choose to make their own DSPhone running Web OS with a Nintendo skin. Imagine a device with back catalogue of Nintendo games, a powerful advanced mobile OS, app store and full browsing experience that fits in your pocket (and makes calls)

You may believe that Nintendo's portable strategy is working (and you'd be right) you may believe that devices like Apple's iPhone don't give a true gaming experience for people that know the difference between 'Cut the Rope' and Zelda (you'd be right again) however you can't ignore the fact that consumers are buying these digital convergence devices like crazy. You also cant ignore the fact the top free and paid apps on these devices are predominantly 'games' and you certainly cant ignore the fact that both Microsoft and now Sony have embraced this and are poised to capitalise on it in 2011.
As Sony has demonstrated with the Xperia Play and NGP, there is room for the dedicated and convergence device to satisfy both casual and hardcore mobile gamers alike.
The real question is why wouldn't Nintendo want a piece of that market?



They're everywhere! Spoilers in my feed reader. Spoilers as my recommended reading. Spoilers everywhere. Soon you won't be able to open a web page without video game morons, fancying themselves as games journalists, alleviating you or the need to play a game because you've measured, weighed and decided a game is a 7/10 without pressing a button.

This was as imaginative as I could getThe Official Nintendo Magazine are doing their level best to spoil the shit out of Pokemon Black and White, despite the fact that all of that and more is already up on Serebii albeit it not stretched out into over 100 'articles'.

Marvel vs Capcom 3 has pretty much been spoiled too. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil it for you now but if you have seen it, just take a second to the think how cool it would have been to have come across that in game without knowing it was coming. It would have been awesome times. There's probably a fucking FAQ up already on how to spoil the spoil out of that spoilers spoiled spoils.

Okay, sure so I think I speak for everyone in the Great Gaming Community that we no longer have the days where it was virtually impossible to know what was coming out, when, what was good and what was bad. The best way of actually buying a video game was to go along to a horrible little computer hardware shop, where, if you were lucky you'd have a selection of 4 maybe 5 games for many more pounds than we currently part with for games. Otherwise you'd just get copied games given to you by friends of friends. Some were New Zealand Story or Team Yankee, some were Fun School 3 or Mr Wobbly Leg vs the space invaders. I'm glad that's gone but I think it's gone too far now. You can get people excited without spoiling every single aspect of the game. It's a skill.

In other news, I've criminally not listened to the latest episode of the excellent A LIfe Well Wasted. The first five minutes or so of reader submitted ideas perfectly highlights how unbelievably unimaginative the GGG are. Sure the comments have been edited together but there's not a single new idea in there. Most of them are tired tired tropes. Someone actually suggests a fire, ice and sky level. Are you fucking kidding me? A bit of me literally dies when I see worn thin ideas again and again in the stead of something different but it seems some of the shit eaters relish yet another ice level, or level set in a warehouse, or a piss poor morality system. Thanks guys. You're killing gaming. ALWW is still worth listening to, though.

The Best Thing About Dead Space

Dead Space 2 is out and seems to making some waves. We're glad for it. It's one of those franchises that you can get behind and wish it success. The games are excellent and the Universe that Visceral Games has created is the usual sci-fi schlock but it's all very polished.

However, the best thing about Dead Space is that when you shoot the necromorphs the sound they make are almost the exact same noise I make when I stand up or have to bend down. I can't get this association out of my head but I think it makes the games slightly better for it.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Here Comes a New Challenger? Poison?

A few pics have been leaked from Mike Haggar's Final Fight Stage.
And low and behold it looks like Poison! For those of you who don't know poison was a character in Final Fight. Originally one of the enemies, some people thought that beating up women might cause offence. So in a stroke of genius from management, it was stated that she wasn't actually a girl, but a transsexual, cuz ,you know it's OK to hit a transsexual over a girl, (presumably because they are lying to us or something?) -.-

Anyways, Poison... gained much of a cult following, and to this day remains an alluring mystery...
Would she still get it?
Final Fight Revenge: limited edition Box art
More importantly Will she make it as a DLC character?

In previous iterations of games she has has a repertoire of kicks, And a rather interesting move where she blows a kiss and when/if it connects the opponent is subjected to images of Poison in rather provocative poses leaving the opponent stunned:

And a nice polygony victory Pole dance:

Fingers crossed (and legs crossed with members tucked behind) that she makes a larger appearance in Marvel vs Capcom 3
Confused love and hugs,

Richie X

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Check out this crazy shit

This is craziness from Little King's Story. Not just "whacky, I'm so random, everyone calls me mad" crazy but properly walking down the street talking to yourself and shouting at passers-by crazy.Just watch the first one minute and twenty of this here vid, which is relatively spoiler free although this is one of the bosses you fight. Be bewarn.ed.

I mean it just doesn't make one bit of sense does it? Can somebody better educated than us give us some idae what's going on, or this, SHOCK. HORROR. Original stuff? TV tropes has got nothing. Remember when TV tropes used to be fun? They've ruined it now. Is a fat girl really a trope? Back to the game it's just brilliant. I'm finding that Little King's Story is a game that just keeps on giving. Just as I was expanding my city, expecting the game to start wrapping up and the ending to be on the horizon it seems that the game is only realy just beginning. I'll be honest I really wasn't expecting the headless cows. Or the UFO.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Shocking images from inside terrorists' lair

On first inspection it looks just like a normal Midgar bar complete with a jukebox, TV and a seedy bar. However, the pinball machine hides the room in which the bomb attacks on mako reactors was planned by the terrorist cell AVALANCHE.

A big TV for following the news. A white-board for planning where bombs should go and a umm pirate flag? A punching bag? Not much in the way of terrorist paraphernalia laying around. These guys were pro and it's a bloody good job they helped to stop that big meteor from destroying Midgar otherwise we'd be really really angry at them.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

The thatguys puzzle

Well Folks

Since Neogaf (via Kotaku) did some of these puzzles...

 Each box represents a game title old and new.

Click on the file to download the bigger version,

Answers in the comments!

Answers will follow in the next few days in the comments section.

Love and shameless idea stealing,

Richie X.