April 19th, 2009
Technically, an iPod touch update, but the software is more or less the same.
My DS and PSP are basically defunct - I have little to no interest in Chinatown Wars, mainly because the entire GTA style leaves me cold. But I’ve been surprised at how entertaining a few random iPhone apps can be at keeping me amused for a few minutes here and there; particular notice should go to Oregon Trail, Galcon, iDracula, and Flight Control (I assume I’ll be paying for Zen Bound soon enough). The collective cost is under $15 for all of these games combined. I say this not to try to make some silly argument that handheld gaming is fundamentally changed somehow, but rather to wonder if a lot of creative energy previously focused on AAA Game Boy titles is being focused on the iPhone platform instead right now. (The microtransaction format also makes it much easier to spend $15 in bits and pieces, which is sort of the point.)
Posted in DS, Geoff, Mobile, PSP | 4 Comments »
February 3rd, 2009
I played almost no handheld games for most of last year, as it wasn’t a very good time to be a DS or PSP owner. Fortunately, the schedule this month looks pretty solid: Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Legacy of Ys, and Blue Dragon Plus are all coming out, with Loco Roco 2 on PSP. They may not all be winners, but at least there are still signs of life for the non-Japan based audience.
It’s ironic that the most successful gaming device, the DS, makes tons of money but gets so little recognition. That said, it may be simply a reflection of the fact that the titles coming out right now - of the Brain Age and cooking varieties - are simply dropping off gamers’ radars due to their subjects.
Posted in DS, Geoff, PSP | No Comments »
December 9th, 2008
I’m going to be in Steamboat Springs and Australia starting at the end of the week, so I’m getting all of the game of the year nonsense out of the way before I go. I’ve always found the idea of anointing one game “the best” of its peers to be subjectively absurd at best and downright flamebait at worst. So why am I doing it? It’s entertaining and I think it’s worthy of debate, if not resolution.
So herewith, my games of the year, for each console which I own.
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Posted in DS, Geoff, Impressions, Industry, Microsoft, Nintendo, PS3, PSP, Sony, Wii, Xbox 360 | 7 Comments »
April 15th, 2008
Yesterday I mentioned an admittedly incomplete list of games to play that I had left either incomplete or unplayed. The question, of course, is will I have the time to play them given the upcoming releases this year? I started wondering, like I did last year in the summer, what games I’m really looking forward to this year. So, aside from my household’s obvious purchases of Mario Kart: Wii and GTA IV coming up in a couple weeks, what are the games that excite me in the upcoming months? As I did last year, I’ve tried to divide these games up into “tiers”, although I’ve relabeled them some. All release dates come from IGN.com and the versions indicated are NOT necessarily all the platforms a game is releasing on, but simply the platforms I would likely consider buying the games for. In almost all cases, I picked the 360 over the PS3.
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Posted in Etc, Jeff, PC, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360 | 3 Comments »
March 6th, 2008
So I picked up Chains of Olympus yesterday, which has been my first chance to really play through the God of War franchise by myself. COO has been the subject of some handwringing in the industry, with Gamespot’s 8.5 review being called out as a sign of “bias” by Sony fanboys amid a ton of overheated opinions. Even GameLife’s Chris Kohler didn’t love the game. So who’s right?
I’m going to split the difference and say both of them. COO definitely “feels” like a God of War game; the controls are great, and really capture the original game’s combo strength and battle system. Although a slight grain to the image lets you know that you’re playing this on a portable system, the graphics are incredibly solid and at times even rival the PS2’s more recent iterations. It’s true that there aren’t as many amazing set pieces or boss battles as in prior versions; at the same time, though, I never felt like the game was dumbed down for the PSP.
So why my ambivalence? I think part of it is the price tag. COO is MSRP’d as a premium title, and will cost you $40 at most retail outlets. While production values are indeed high, you’re just not getting enough of an experience in an action title to compensate for the stiff entry price: something like FF Tactics is pretty scalable, and will give you a lot of gameplay for your dollar. But all signs indicate the COO is just (as Kohler puts it) “really, really short.” You’ll enjoy every minute of it, but you’ll probably finish the game wishing it was 50% longer. In the same vein, I’m not willing to penalize COO simply because it doesn’t do something “new,” as not every game needs to innovate to be good. But innovation in some way might have distracted me somewhat from the length.
In general, I would compare COHO to Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters. R&C was a scaled-down version of a popular franchise, and it was excellent. It gave you the R&C feel in a bite-sized package. So does Chains of Olympus. But it doesn’t necessarily feel like a great value, because of the pricing and the basic structure of action games, and that’s going to turn people off.
Posted in Geoff, Impressions, PSP | 1 Comment »
March 3rd, 2008
I have no problem with someone disliking a game, but Tycho’s Patapon-hatred seems a little irrational (bonus points if you get the title reference). I have often had a visceral dislike of certain popular games, and as his post suggests, there’s a strong desire to rationalize that hatred with specific criticisms. Unfortunately, his don’t make a lot of sense on their face, so it might be safer just to say that he doesn’t much care for the game and leave it at that.
After the jump, I’ll critique the critique.
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Posted in Geoff, PSP | 1 Comment »
February 19th, 2008
While I just complained about the method in which I was forced to download it, the recently released Patapon demo is really fantastic.
A lot of people were hyping up the game quite a bit beforehand, but I had heard very little about it and had no idea why. Now I understand.
It’s hard to really pin down what kind of game it is. If I had to give an overall description of it, I’d say it’s a combination of a rhythm game, Simon, the tank battles from Rocket Slime, an RPG, and a bit of a strategy game. Yeah, that sounds confusing as hell, but I’ll try to explain as best I can.
The goal in the game is typically to move your Patapons from the left side of a level to the right. You essentially play the game by hitting a specific sequence of buttons in rhythm to create a sort of drum beat. Each button is associated with a different sound, and the sequence you press will determine what action your army of Patapons will take. For instance, the title of this post is the sequence for marching your Patapons forward. In the demo, you get another sequence for attack and another for defend. I assume in the full game there will be even more.
So the game essentially has you tying together strings of these sequences in order to advance through the stages. Enemies and obstructions will pop up, so you’ll need to advance carefully and then attack as necessary. Stringing together several sequences in a row will give you a combo bonus, and if you get more than 10 in a row, you’ll enter “Fever” mode, and all of your actions will be more effective. If I had a complaint about the game, it’d be that once you get “Fever” mode it becomes a lot harder to focus and keep up with the sequences, but I suppose that’s part of the point. If that were all the game was, it’d probably be fairly shallow and fun, but it so happens that there are a few extra layers to it (which I assume will only get a bit more complicated in the full game).
In the game, you have the ability to create 3 different subsections of your army. In the demo, it essentially boils down to the front range melee attackers, the mid-range spears, and the long range archers. The resources that you acquire during the game will let you build up the different pieces of your army to how you see fit, and for each level you can choose how you want to customize and arrange your army. Not only that, but you also pick up equipment that you can equip your patapons with, similar to an RPG.
It all comes packaged in an incredibly charming package with colorful graphics and adorable sound effects. After completing the demo (which, I should add wasn’t horribly challenging, but I still died a couple times), I immediately logged onto Amazon.com to order it. The best part? It’s only $20. Even if it’s relatively short, this is a no-brainer.
We should only be so lucky to have this kind of creativity available for $60, let alone $20.
Posted in Impressions, Jeff, PSP | No Comments »
February 19th, 2008
When I heard that a Patapon demo was available last Thursday, I immediately started looking for it. I booted up my PSP, opened up the web browser and selected the “PSP” bookmark that was preloaded onto the PSP. It brings you to the “Official PSP Website”, from which you can select “PSP Games & Demos” and select from a variety of downloads that you can bring directly onto your PSP. It’s actually quite simple to do, as it’s just a matter of clicking the demo you want and it automatically downloads to your memory stick, ready for you to play. However, the demo was not, and still is not, available from here. In fact, there’s not even an indication that a demo for Patapon was released. It instead highlights demos for Loco Roco and World Tour Soccer ‘06.
So where was the Patapon demo? On the Playstation Store for PC, of course. In fact, the Playstation Store for PC has a completely different catalog of demos than the “PSP” bookmark that’s on the PSP itself. Right now on the Playstation Store you can download demos for Patapon, MLB ‘08, Harvey Birdman, Puzzle Guzzle, Socom: Tactical Strike, and Syphon Filter: Logan’s Shadow. None of these are available for download directly to your PSP from the “PSP” bookmark in the web browser.
So how do you get your PSP demos from your PC onto your PSP? Well, first you need a PC, obviously. Then you need to make sure you have the proper USB cable. I’m not sure if any mini-USB to standard USB cable will work, but I have one from my PS3 and one from my Logitech Harmony remote that seem to do the trick. I suppose if you don’t have one of those, you’ll have to find one for yourself. Finally, you need to install some software from the PC store and create an account. Once you have all that, you just set your PSP to “USB” mode and click on the demos you want to download, and the software will handle the installation for you. That’s a lot more of a hassle than the simple PSP interface, and if you try to browse to the store via the PSP, it will tell you that you can only access it from a PC.
So it begs the question, why are these two systems for downloading demos completely different? I can understand the appeal of having a store accessible on the PC, but why not make the “store” on the PSP the same? Shouldn’t I be able to download these directly from the PSP as well? Why should it be such a hassle just to get the newest demos onto my PSP?
Posted in Commentary, Jeff, PSP | 1 Comment »
February 1st, 2008
Next Gen has an interesting article on the future of RPGs, and more specifically the alleged obsolesence of translated pen-and-paper RPGs in favor of MMOs and visceral action-ized versions. The piece doesn’t mention this, but I suspect that there are probably two key audiences for computer RPGs: first, PnP players who enjoy being able to see their game worlds translated into an interactive environment, and second, players who just like exploring a fantasy world and developing an ever more powerful character.
The use of pen and paper statistics is partly an artifact of the first group, who comprised a significant portion of the second for a great deal of the life of PC/console gaming. If you really enjoy Dungeons and Dragons, I’d guess that you’ll really enjoy a computer version of it - and you need the stats and micromanagement to connect you to that D&D world. But that’s not the whole story: another part of the use of micromanagement is that it lets you very effectively compare your progress against a baseline.
At its core, much of the appeal of an RPG is that it lets you see how your character is evolving, gaining new abilities, and dispatching stronger foes. A “sword that cuts an enemy in two” is all well and good, but how do you know if that sword is better than the “spear that impales enemies”? If you can’t easily determine which is superior, you have no idea if you’re actually making progress within the context of the game. In a similar vein, those menus that Ed Del Castillo reviles so much provide a far simpler means of feedback than attempting to communicate things like inventory space visually.
This isn’t to say that menus should be used exclusively, or that they’re even preferable in many situations. But technology hasn’t yet reached a point where we can dispense with them.
Posted in DS, Geoff, PC, PS3, PSP, Wii, Xbox 360 | No Comments »
January 7th, 2008
I recently purchased a copy of Castlevania: The Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP, which proudly proclaims on the back of the case that Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night are “Together…At Last!”
Sounds great, right? I had read drooling accounts online of people obsessed with the never-released stateside Rondo of Blood, and combining it with Symphony of the Night, a game often regarded as one of the best of all time, seems like a no-brainer purchase. So what’s the problem?
Basically, the games advertised on the case are not immediately accessible. The Rondo of Blood 3d remake is the only game available when you first boot up. The case mentions that you can “unlock” the original Rondo of Blood, which would sort of make some amount of sense, I supposed, as some kind of unlockable for finishing the remastered game. But the case makes absolutely no mention of Symphony of the Night needing to be unlocked. It rather dully mentions that the two games are available and “Together… at last”, and even includes a few screenshots.
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Posted in Jeff, PSP, WTF | 14 Comments »
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