2011 Gaming Regrets

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I bought two pieces of hardware that I wish I hadn’t. I bought a 3DS, day one, and I bought a PS Vita, day one. To this day, I’ve still only bought two games and I haven’t spent more than a few hours playing either. I also bought a PS Vita last month, and while Uncharted looks great, it’s still not fitting into my life like I thought it would. It’s not that they’re bad systems, but there’s a severe lack of great software, especially for the PS Vita. In addition, my greatly shortened commute time leaves me less time on the train to kill and when I come home, I have a new high definition TV that I’d rather be playing PS3 or 360 games with than huddled over a portable system. I will assure you though, my portable playtime has not decreased due to iOS games. They still suck…for the most part.

TGS 2011 in Review

This is a repost from Pixelsnatch


TGS is a monster. It’s open to the public and the mass of people (growing larger over the last few years) has made it impossible to move around without bumping into someone every ten seconds. I’m not even sure why everyone is going there. The Japanese game industry is going down the toilet, right? The show this year had over 200,000 people attend between the two days. I’m sure some of those (including me) were there on both public days, but that’s still a lot of people. The lines for the PS Vita were so congested that by the time I made it inside the building (11am, after waiting in line outside for two hours just to get in), the lines had been shut down and they weren’t letting anyone else even queue up for it. When it was still like this on the second morning, I decided to forget about getting to play with a Vita and focused on trying out games I could realistically get to play.

PS3


Assassin’s Creed Revelations

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Because Sony’s booth was such a nightmare, I only actually played one game with a PS3 controller. Sure, I played a lot of games that are multi-platform, but I wound up playing almost all of them at Microsoft’s not so crowded booth. (It’s easy to see which is the preferred platform amongst Japanese gamers.) That solitary PS3 game was Assassin’s Creed Revelations. I didn’t know what to expect for the ACR demo, since the video they were showing in line was just a CG trailer, but I was surprised the demo was multiplayer. They had us playing the basic assassination mode that existed in Brotherhood. No teams, just a free-for-all. Unlike the multiplayer in Brotherhood, there’s no little arrow guiding you to the location of your target. You get a picture of your target, and then it’s up to you to suss out which of the lookalikes is the real target. The area you had to work in was far smaller than in Brotherhood. There were a lot of invisible walls preventing you from getting too far from other players. I imagine, though I can’t be sure, that these barriers will be removed from the full game. Although, with areas as big as those in Brotherhood, not having that little arrow to guide you in the general direction of your target may lead to lower scoring matches and many more mis-assassinations.

Xbox 360


Mass Effect 3

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I don’t know if you know this, but I love me some Mass Effect. But I almost missed the game entirely. EA’s booth was hidden away behind Sega’s and I didn’t spot it until 15 minutes before the end of the first day. I caught a glimpse of the ME 3 signage and begged the staff to let me play it. They had already closed the line for the day, but after pleading with them, they gave me 5 minutes of play time. I went back the next morning and played the demo straight away. And then again for a third time in the afternoon. I really wanted to get as much time with the game as possible. Mass Effect 3 feels a lot like Mass Effect 2. If you wanna know how it feels to be in combat in Mass Effect 3, just imagine ME2, but now you can tap A while in cover to jump to another cover point. That’s pretty much the only change. The bigger and more important change is in the skill tree. The skill tree in ME1 was much deeper than the one in ME2 (if you can even call ME2’s skill tree a tree), but overall, it was more fun being in combat in ME2. For Mass Effect 3, Bioware added a branching skill tree where after the first three skills for your class, the upgrade path splits into two. One path is a more aggressive one and the second is more about finesse. It’s like the final upgrade in ME2 where you had two similar choices for an upgrade, but each had tradeoffs. Mass Effect 3 has these kind of tradeoffs, but they appear to be a little more stark. The demo was pretty limited. It’s the same demo that’s been trotted out for E3 and Gamescom. You fight off several waves of indoctrinated Cerberus soldiers, and at the end you take on a Cerberus mech. The battles weren’t difficult, but there was a 15 minute time limit imposed on you so not knowing where to go in the environment to flip all the right switches wasted a lot of time. Luckily, on the second full play-through, I managed to take down the mech. It got my Mass Effect appetite going again and led to lots of great Mass Effect conversation at the bar on Saturday night.

Binary Domain

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Binary Domain is the Yakuza team’s attempt at a third-person shooter. They tried doing a zombie shooter in OF THE END and it was awful. It had all the trappings of a zombie shooter from 2004 and felt way behind the times in 2011. Binary Domain eschews OF THE END’s control scheme for a standard two-stick shooter setup and controlling my character in the demo felt fine. A special addition to the control scheme is that pulling LB (on 360) will let you talk to your squad. Depending on which members you choose for your squad, you will be asked different questions. I chose a sniper and an engineer and was asked if I like to drink. Someone else I talked to picked the tank-looking member and got asked about if he liked sexy women (or something to that effect). When that guys asked me what I thought about Binary Domain I said, “It isn’t terrible,” and his response was “That’s the best thing you can say about that game.” It feels like a Japanese team trying to build a Western game after being told what Gears of War was like, but they didn’t actually play the game. The robots you’re shooting at feel just dropped in to the environment as opposed to being really in the environment. Japanese developers also usually shy away from blood and the amount you’d be required to spill in a 25 hour shooter would be more than they are willing to shed. If it’s not zombies or monsters, robots are your next best option.

Asura’s Wrath

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Everybody seems to think Asura’s Wrath is bat-shit insane. And they’d be right. It is a pretty nutzoid game; but in a very good way. It’s being developed for Capcom by CyberConnect2, the developers of the PS2 Naruto games. Those games reveled in their ability to go crazy and Asura’s Wrath is carrying on that tradition. There are two demos out there for Asura. The one I played involved fighting a giant Buddha while an airship behind him shot at me. After you defeat him in that stage, he grows so large that Earth can’t contain him any longer and he fights you from space by pointing at you to death. He sticks his index finger down on you from space and drills you into the dirt. Through a very satisfying QTE, you uppercut his fingertip so hard that it creates a crack that runs all the way back up to space and destroys his whole body. It sounds nuts and is nuts. I had a great time with it, and with boss battles like this, I hope the random running around and beating up henchmen is kept to a minimum so that I can enjoy more set-piece boss battles.

Dragon’s Dogma

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Dragon’s Dogma is another Capcom game. It’s a PS3/360 game but the line was so long at the Capcom booth, I wound up just playing it at Microsoft’s. From the trailer I saw at Capcom’s Premium Theater, the game’s story has a bit of a Game of Thrones vibe. I won’t spoil Game’s story like I did for Billy Berghammer. (Sorry, Billy!) The combat plays a bit like Monster Hunter. You are in a party of four, and you come across enemies in the field, but you’ll also come across bigger monsters. I played the strider demo which gave me dual blades and a bow. In my demo, my party was fighting off some orcs when a griffin came swooping in. I shot the griffin down with flaming arrows and then my party slashed it when it fell to the ground. I saw one of my party members jump on top of the great bird but I wasn’t able to figure out how to do that myself or if I even could. The Monster Hunter style gameplay would lend itself well to co-op.

3DS


Shinobi 3D

Shinobi 3D was the least interesting game I played/saw at TGS this year. It looks pretty but it’s a pretty bland side-scroller with swords, shurikens, and a grappling hook. Attacking requires you to stop moving, so combat is pretty jerky. If you stop short of an enemy you’re coming up on, and your sword slash is just out of range, expect to take damage. I doubt anyone but longtime Shinobi fans and Japanophiles itching for something Japanesey will get much enjoyment out of it.

Bravely Default

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Bravely Default: Flying Fairy is a weird one. While there was a trailer showing some gameplay, the game wasn’t playable at the show. Instead, they had an AR movie that you could watch through the use of an AR image on the floor and a 3DS. They gave me a card to take home and if you download the Bravely Default app from the 3DS e-Shop, you can watch the movie again at your leisure. I watched it once more at home because the show floor was so loud I could barely hear what was being said in the movie. The game looks an awful like Final Fantasy: 4 Warriors of Light. It’s a beautiful game, and I loved the music in the trailer. Unfortunately, there was no game to be played, so I’ll leave it at that.

Rocket Slime 3

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I had never played any of the Rocket Slime games, but after being urged by my friend on Saturday night, I made sure I played the game on Sunday. Rocket Slime 3 doesn’t look a lot better than a regular DS game, but it’s not ugly. It’s filled with Dragon Quest characters and music, so that goes a long way to up the appeal of its presentation. The mechanics of the game involve you holding and pulling the bodies of slimes so you can catapult them into items so they can pick those items up, or catapult themselves into canons and launch their bodies at enemy ships. While not making up the whole of the game, the demo I played had you in a ship battle. Both ships had life bars, and the goal was to shoot projectiles at each other until the other was at 0 and then fling yourself across so you could dismantle the weaponry of the other ship. I wasn’t all that good at the game since I had never played the series before, so I didn’t win the battle. I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had though. I had previously avoided Dragon Quest spin-offs like Dragon Quest Monsters because I saw the spin-offs as being lesser quality. While Rocket Slime is no true Dragon Quest adventure, I really liked it and want to play it when it’s released.

Metal Gear Solid Snake Eater 3D

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I waited a lot for this game. I waited in the sense that I’ve been wanting to play it since the 3DS’s launch. I waited for Konami to open the lines after closing them due to congestion. And then after getting in line, I waited another two hours. Snake Eater 3D is exactly what I expected it to be: MGS 3 in 3D. It looks almost as good as the PS2 original. All the Subsistence upgrades are there. It’s got the new camo system where you can take pictures of stuff and then turn the color into camo for Naked Snake. But after that, there’s not much more. And the game is severely handicapped by its controls. It suffers from the same problems that all games with 3D cameras have on PSP and 3DS: camera management is a pain in the ass. The shoulder buttons let you interact with the world, item management and item use have been shifted to the touch screen, and the A, B, X and Y face buttons are controlling the camera. It’s not a good system. I’ve never liked the idea in any other game, and I don’t like it here. It’s not that it doesn’t work, cause it does. It’s functional. You can play the game with this control setup. It’s just that it’s not as good as it once was. And with MGS3 coming out in HD this fall, I can’t see why you’d really want to play the gimped version on 3DS.

PSP


Kurohyo 2

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I love the Yakuza series. Er, I loved the series. The first Kurohyo game and OF THE END put me off of the series in the past year. Kurohyo’s problems were great. The main character changed, and wasn’t nearly as likable. Instead of being a well-meaning somewhat older gangster, Kurohyo’s main character is a snot-nosed punk. (There Kurohyo TV show just made him look even worse.) The biggest problem with Kurohyo is who it’s made for. This game isn’t made for grown-up gamers. It’s made for junior high and high school boys. Tatsuya, the main character, looks like he stepped out of a bad rendition of The Outsiders and he’s mad at the world. They took out the boozing and really open nature of the PS2 and PS3 Yakuza games and made the game much more linear. The world doesn’t flow as well as before. The PSP can’t handle Kamuro-cho. There’s constant loading as you run around, the graphics are dark and muddy, and all the cutscenes have been turned into manga-style interludes. The cutscene change was probably for the best, seeing as trying to do a real Yakuza-caliber cutscene would be nearly impossible on the PSP, or would at the very least eat up a ton of the UMD’s storage capacity. Since the first PSP Yakuza wasn’t released outside of Japan, you probably haven’t played it, or even heard of its existence. I never got into the game and I don’t think I’m going to be picking up the new one either. It’s more of the same and I didn’t enjoy the first one. I do find it interesting though that for the second Kurohyo game, the title has changed so that Kurohyo now comes first instead of Yakuza. Also, no new Yakuza game was shown this year. Team Ryu Ga Gotoku, the dev team behind the Yakuza series is putting all its effort into Binary Domain. While I don’t know if Binary Domain will be that great when it does come out, I’m glad that the Yakuza series is getting a little bit of a rest. One every year was going to kill the franchise.

Interesting Links: August 16, 2011

I have been using Tweetbot’s mute feature to mute MacStories’ Chris Herbert from time to time and it works great.

I gotta wonder how many people will pay for the convenience of installing entirely off of a USB drive versus the convenience of procuring the OS in an hour over the Internet

I’m glad to see the 3DS get a shot in the arm sales-wise, but until the system gets a better software lineup, all the price cuts in the world aren’t going to help it.

Interesting Links: July 28, 2011

A primer for converting Markdown files into Microsoft Office-readable files.

I’d rather not see hashtags take off on G+.

The hashtag was invented by Chris Messina only three years ago. So far, its power has been limited to Twitter. But I see an opportunity to expand its use and its empowerment the more it is supported on other platforms. When Google+ finally gets search and when it releases its API, it would be wonderful to see it enable users to easily enter tags and cluster conversations around them. There’s an opportunity to use tag data to learn more about the topicality of conversations and content all around the net, on Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, blogs, Flickr, YouTube, maybe Facebook. There’s our chance to limit the power of these silos.

I’m right there with you guys.

This is why console games are easier and more widely played compared to PC games.

Well, that’s pretty nice of Nintendo.