Games Watch: PS3 and XBox 360, 2009

As I’ve mentioned numerous times already, I don’t own either an XBox 360 or a Playstation 3. Regardless, there are games coming this year for both systems that I would like to play. As in the previous post, all screenshots come from 1UP.com.

Street Fighter IV

System: PS3, XBox 360, Arcade
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
ESRB Rating: T (ages 13 and up)
Release Date: 02/17/09

Street Fighter IV is actually almost upon us! Had it not been for the Street Fighter series, many of the other fighting game franchises like Mortal Kombat, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, and etc., probably wouldn’t be what they are today. Street Fighter II is still considered one of, if not the best fighting game ever made, and it was released in 1992!

Street Fighter IV is the series’ first try at 3D, but only in terms of character models and environments; it will retain 2D styled gameplay. Those who’ve never played a Street Fighter might consider the decision to retain the series’ classic gameplay and not venture into a true third dimension a poor decision, but this also means there won’t be any growing pains in transitioning to 3D. One of the great things about Street Fighter is that it has always been a pretty easy series to pick up, play, and enjoy, with plenty to master for the truly hardcore.

In terms of “new” gameplay elements, Capcom has added a focus meter that, when full, allows you to execute devastating special moves that will be unblockable. Also, there are plenty of screenshots that deviate from the traditional 2D look, so I think it is possible the camera may move to cinematic angles when special moves are unleashed.

To sum it up, Street Fighter IV is going to be a fun, challenging brawler that will be perfectly approachable to vets and newcomers alike. I only wish they had kept the super-stylized, Okami-like art direction that was shown in the first trailer.

inFamous

System: PS3
Developer: Sucker Punch
Publisher: Sony
ESRB Rating: Pending
Release Date: 05/01/2009

Developed by the same studio that brought us the awesome Sly Cooper series, inFamous is more of a gritty superhero title. You play as Cole, a parkour who is caught in a huge explosion, and is mysteriously the only one to survive. When he awakens he finds he is able to manipulate electricity which allows him to shoot lightning bolts from his fingertips a la Emperor Palpatine in Star Wars. Furthermore, he finds his home, the broodingly named Empire City, has plunged into anarchy and chaos since the explosion, and others possessing superhuman powers have emerged and begin to wreak havoc.

Empire City will be a completely open-ended environment taking cues from the Grand Theft Auto series’ pioneering “sandbox” gameplay, but will be more similar to the PS2 Spider-Man games in that you will encounter crimes being committed and it is up to the player to stop the crimes or allow them to happen. Thus you will gain a reputation among the city’s inhabitants as either a hero, or (if not a villain) at least a dirty hero. Finally, just because Cole now possesses super human abilities doesn’t mean he will be invincible, so a stealth element will probably also be included. Really, what Sucker Punch is doing with inFamous is drawing elements from very popular titles and improving them.

I’m pretty sure this game will be a win with Sucker Punch at the helm. It will definitely have gorgeous visuals and the gameplay sounds compelling. Plus, with a track record as good (though some may call it kiddy) as Sly Cooper, Sucker Punch has shown they’re dedicated to delivering highly polished, fun games. This game could be the reason I buy a PS3.

Batman: Arkham Asylum

System: PS3, XBox 360, PC
Developer: Rocksteady
Publisher: Eidos
ESRB Rating: Pending
Release Date: Not announced yet, but hopefully summer or fall of this year.

You might think “Why are you looking forward to a Batman game? All the others have been crap!” While it is true that Batman’s video game career has definitely been a lost cause so far, I can’t help but get excited for Arkham Asylum. I read somewhere that it is going to be the darkest iteration of Batman in any media format (movies, comic books, whatever). The screenshots look downright frightening, and even classic enemies like the Joker appear extremely vicious. However, the biggest difference between this and previous Batman games lies in the fact this game is being developed independently of any movie releases, so the developers won’t need to rush the product to the shelves to correspond to a movie release. It also allows them to be creative in their approach to the Caped Crusader and make him, and his enemies, match their own vision instead of relying on the vision of a movie director who they’ll probably never even talk to.

It sounds like the whole game will take place on the island that is the home of the titular Arkham Asylum where the inmates have staged a coup and it is up to none other than Batman to put a stop to the anarchy. Obviously this means you’ll get to use cool Bat-gadgets and Bat-fists to quell all of Gotham’s lunatics, but it also means utilizing stealth to accomplish objectives and dispatch enemies before they know what is coming. I read an interview where one of the staff described it more as “predatorial” than stealth, so naturally that has me excited.

Of course, I can’t help but worry a bit due to Batman’s video game track record. But hopefully this will prove to everyone Batman can still learn new tricks after seventy years.

Some other PS3 and XBox 360 games I’m watching: Resident Evil 5, Ghostbusters: The Video Game, Prototype, Star Ocean: The Last Hope, Velvet Assassin, Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X.

So what about the PSP or the PC? Well, simply put, I don’t have a gaming quality PC, nor do I want one. As for the PSP, there just haven’t been any games that have really piqued my interest outside of Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth, and, unless something really cool comes along, then I doubt I’ll ever have much interest in the system.

Games Watch: Wii and DS, 2009

Well, I’ve done it. I posted my very first review on this blog the other day. I wrote it on Sunday, and I aimed for about five hundred words. I hit that mark, but, looking at it now, I think I focused too heavily on the negative aspects without really giving the game enough credit where it deserved praise. I will try to do better on my future reviews.

Alright! I’m now playing Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia. I think Atlus released the sequel today, so I’m a bit behind. I’ll see how much I like the first one, and then if I like it I’ll hunt down the second.

Now I’d like to talk about some upcoming games I’m looking forward to for the Wii and DS. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Wii and DS are the only current-gen systems I own, so this post will be exclusively about upcoming games for those systems. There are plenty of Playstation 3 and XBox 360 games I’m interested in and following closely, but I will talk more about them in a future post. So here they are (All images are from 1up.com unless otherwise noted):

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon

System: Nintendo DS
Developer: Intelligent Systems
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E10+ (everyone ages 10 and up)
Release Date: 02/16/09

First up is Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon. I’ve been a big fan of the series since it first made the jump to the U.S. in late 2003 on the GameBoy Advance. Though we didn’t get a Fire Emblem game until this decade, the series has been around since 1990 or so in Japan. Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon is a remake of the very first game for the NES. It stars Marth, who until now is only known outside of Japan for being a playable character in Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. series, on a quest to free his homeland from the revived evil of the Shadow Dragon. Along the way he’ll gain numerous comrades and form an army to aid him on his adventure.

Okay, so what is known of the story sounds pretty generic, but I’m not lying when I say most of the Fire Emblem games (that have been released here anyway) follow a similar formula. The only one that tried something different was the Wii title Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, and it’s story was nightmarishly bad. However, story is not necessarily why you play a Fire Emblem game. It is a turn-based strategy series with a very deep and engaging battle system. It forces the player to have intimate knowledge of their individual units and those units’ capabilities in order to conquer each battle. You must also consider terrain, enemy units, approach, and unforeseen circumstances. If you screw up the game will let you know because if one of your units’ health runs out, they die. Of course, you’re allowed to restart the battle, so it isn’t completely unforgiving. Yet a good portion of the characters are imbued with so much personality through their fantastic character portraits (as seen in the screenshot), and through support conversations which give the player insight into the character’s motivations and emotions. It is hard to not get attached!

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon has already been released pretty much everywhere except North America, and I’m hearing it is quite good. The only concern I have is that I’ve heard in order to get to all of the side-quests you’ll have to let certain characters die. How uncool is that?

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride

System: Nintendo DS
Developer: Arte Piazza
Publisher: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: E10+ (everyone ages 10 and up)
Release Date: 02/17/09

Yes, even though I wasn’t terribly impressed by Dragon Quest IV, I am looking forward to Dragon Quest V as I am a fan of the series. Like its predecessor for the DS, Dragon Quest V is a remake of the Super Nintendo title of the same name. But unlike its predecessor, it has never before been released in North America. Regardless, it is extremely popular in Japan, and, from what I’ve seen around the internet, it is the most popular entry in the series.

That being said, I don’t know a whole lot about the game’s story. I know that you take the role of the hero as you do in every Dragon Quest game and guide him through an adventure that will take him through various stages of his life. He starts as a kid, but will eventually become an adult. I don’t know how complex the aging concept will be in the game, but I imagine it will be child to adult without anything in between. Which is just fine. In many ways it sounds like it is a spiritual predecessor to The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which is one of my favorite games.

The battle system will be traditional Dragon Quest meaning it will be the same simple and addictive gameplay that has made the series so fun to play for so long. And would you look at that color palette in the screenshot! The vibrancy of the Dragon Quest settings are truly phenomenal with today’s technology. My only hope is that Square Enix will include the party talk feature that they removed inthe Dragon Quest IV DS remake. Of course, the characters having actual dialogue would be nice too.

Muramasa: The Demon Blade

System: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Vanillaware
Publisher: XSEED
ESRB Rating: Not Yet Rated
Release Date: 07/15/09


Muramasa: The Demon Blade will be a 2D side-scrolling action title with RPG elements. It is set against a Japanese fantasy backdrop, and you can see just how gorgeous that backdrop is in this and many other screenshots. As a sidenote, if I’m not mistaken, I believe all of the sprites, and environments are completely hand drawn! I’ve yet to hear any details on story, but apparently you can play as either a male or female ninja. What’s not to like about that?

I’m looking forward to it because good side-scrolling action games are sadly few in number anymore. The last I played was Viewtiful Joe 2, and there won’t likely be another Viewtiful Joe game since the developer, Clover Studios, is ancient history. The developers of Muramasa: The Demon Blade also made Odin Sphere for the Playstation 2 (which I still haven’t played!), and I have high hopes that Muramasa: The Demon Blade will receive the good critical reception that Odin Sphere did.

These are the Wii and DS titles I’m looking forward to most this year, but there are others I’m interested in that I’ll just list: Suikoden Tierkreis, Valkyrie Profile: Covenant of the Plume, Dragon Quest VI and Dragon Quest IX (which might not hit North America until 2010), Madworld, and New Play Control: Metroid Prime.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen


Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen

System: Nintendo DS
Developers: Square-Enix, Arte Piazza
Publisher: Square-Enix
ESRB Rating: E10+ (Everyone age 10 and up)

One of Square Enix’s flagship series, the Dragon Quest brand is as instantly familiar to the Japanese as Quaker Oatmeal is to Americans. The series has never garnered as well of a reception outside of Japan, but the 2005 release of Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King for Sony’s Playstation 2 brought the series to the attention of the “not-Japanese” crowd with its high production values, simple yet addictive gameplay, and massive world for players to explore.

Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen is a remake of Dragon Warrior IV (as it was known in the U.S.) for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The remake follows the example of Dragon Quest VIII by offering a huge, lush world to explore, fantastic visuals and music, and the traditional Dragon Quest battle system. Unfortunately, even with the new polish, Dragon Quest IV fails to stand out thanks to the dated characters and plot which is sad considering the interesting narrative structure the game uses.

The game uses a chapter system to introduce the player to the characters who will eventually join you (the hero) in your quest to stop the return of the Lord of the Underworld. The chapters focus on one to three characters, and are meant to give them back stories and motivations. It is a pretty novel idea for a video game, but it is poorly executed in Dragon Quest IV. The reason for this is simple: the characters you’ll control during these chapters have minimal dialogue, if any. Thus the chapter system fails because the only insights you are given regarding your team are those given by nameless NPCs. A single, silent protagonist, which is a staple of the Dragon Quest series, is one thing, but an entire cast who never say anything is boring. Truly disappointing considering the charming designs the artwork of Akira Toriyama gives to the cast; they all look like they have so much personality when they in fact don’t. However, the most frustrating aspect of this problem is that Square-Enix removed the party talk function for the North American release. It would have given the supporting cast much needed characterization, but, for whatever reason, it was taken out of the final product.

The story can’t make up for the lackluster characters, and retains all of the poor pacing and lack of tension found in many early NES games. Coupled with poor characters, the story doesn’t even offer so much as curiosity. But in spite of all the negative comments I have about the game’s story, it is still a fun game to play. The battles, while simple, are enjoyable, and the music is an experience in itself. Some slowdown does occur when there are a large number of sprites onscreen, but the graphics are lush and the sprites and environments detailed.

Finally, with around 25-30 hours of playtime, Dragon Quest IV is much less daunting than the 80 hour behemoth that is Dragon Quest VIII, but it is also much less engaging. I can’t suggest it to newbies to the series, but vets and longtime fans will find it enjoyable.

Child’s Play Update

I thought I’d mention that Tycho of Penny Arcade posted a “somewhat” final tally on 2008’s Child’s Play Donations. Where Child’s Play was the subject of my first post on this blog, I figured it might be good to post the results. $1.4 million, and apparently people are still donating.

Who said gamers were apathetic?

Here is the link to Tycho’s article
.

As for me, I’m finished with Dragon Quest IV and will start writing my review tomorrow. I’ll probably post it on Monday.

Content Forthcoming

Alright, so I haven’t posted anything aside from my premier post about Child’s Play. There is one simple reason for this: I need material to post! The last new game I was able to play and enjoy was Mega Man 9 when it was released in September…I finished it in four hours the first time. Though I will probably return to older games and talk about them on this blog, I want to make new games the emphasis. Now this means I will have to explain what I mean by “new” games.

There is a slight problem to start off with. I had to forego a large number of games I wanted to play for the past three years because school was my priority. I’m an English major at Utah Valley University, and with all the reading, papers, classes, and etc., I haven’t had much time to spare on all the games I wanted to play. Of course, I did make exceptions for a few big name titles like Zelda and Okami, but I didn’t have the energy to pursue some of the cult titles like Odin Sphere, Disgaea, Ar Tonelico, and many others. Thus I missed out on a bunch of I’d been salivating over, and I’m going to go back to them even if they’re a few years old. I’m mostly finished with school now, so I have plenty of time to once again pursue my favorite hobby. However, I have to concede school will remain my priority until I finish in April.

The other limitation on “new” games is my hardware. I own a Playstation 2, which is still alive but slowly fading; a Wii, which I enjoy, but I have to unfortunately agree with the criticism that Nintendo is largely ignoring their traditional fanbase; and a Nintendo DS that I enjoy as long as the touchscreen is used correctly or not used at all. I would like to own either a Playstation 3, an XBox 360, or both, but, until I can spare the money for one, what I own is what I have to work with.

Phew…I’m glad to have all that out of the way. Now I can talk about where I currently stand on my gameplaying.

I’ve been plodding my way through Dragon Quest IV: Chapters of the Chosen since Christmas, and I’m nearly finished. I’ll have a review up soon after I’ve conquered the last boss. After DQIV will be Ar Tonelico: Melody of Elemia. As mentioned above, I didn’t have a chance to play it, and I wanted to check it out because it sounded intriguing. Perhaps playing it is irrelevant now that its sequel is nearly upon us, but oh well; I’m going to do things my way around here because I can. Following that will likely be Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon.

Hopefully I’ll have my DQIV review up in the next week.