08/08/2008

The Decision To Decide

by Matthew Hawkins

Was going to file the following yesterday, but that was before a consultation gig, along with various other, slightly more pressing projects (i.e. stuff that helps to pay the rent) took center stage. That and I just have a TON of games on my plate, including Soul Calibur 4, Braid, The World Ends With You, Reset Generation, and Burnout Paradise (EA decided to send me a copy, since there’s a major update that just came out, plus I just think they want me to re-consider my stance on the title).

Also, I wanted to make sure I definitely had a post on 8/8/8, and here we are…

So I got up super early Wednesday morning for my appointment with Nintendo; they were in town to show off their E3 line-up to us East Cost folks, and I ended up spending most of my time on Wii Music. For those who missed out on the initial wave of hoopla a few weeks ago, it works something like this: instead of relying on specialized controllers to deliver the same experience provided by games like Guitar Hero or Rock Band, you use only the Wiimote and nunchuck. And not only can you play the guitar and drums, but also a piano, flute, violin, even bagpipes… sixty instruments in all! Which is certainly appreciated; as much as I’m totally excited over Rock Band 2, and how I want to get it for the Xbox 360 since all those downloadable songs are simply too much to resist (sorry Wii version, but you know, no hard drive equals to not as much fun), I already have the entire Wii set-up, including 2 guitars, drums, plus mic, along with two Guitar Hero axes for the PS2 (truth be told, I waiting to see which version’s instruments, Rock Band 2 or Guitar Hero 4, will allow the other game to work on it).

Anyhow, it’s Wii Music’s philosophy, that being the act of “making” music in a game should be less about hitting keys at the right time, and more about improvised button pressing and motions to “get into the groove” that I, like so many, was not entirely sold on. Well gameplay-wise, it works far better than one could ever expect. Each song that’s presented is separated into various parts, such as harmony and rhythm, and you play whatever part with an instrument that corresponds with it. How you hold the controller(s) is dependent on the instrument, naturally. For a guitar (or banjo, or sitar, or the like) you extend the nunchuck like it?s the neck, and move the Wiimote like you’re using it to strum. Percussion instruments has the Wiimote and nunchuck becoming drumsticks as one would expect, and for stuff that’s keyboard based, both controllers once again become extensions of the human hands. The most interesting control scheme was for wind instruments; to play a saxophone for example, you hold the Wiimore up to your mouth, with the infrared part actually facing you, and you manipulate the buttons at the bottom to change notes, along with tilt it up and down, kinda like in real life! Obviously, everything is dumped down, but there’s far more improvisation involved than in Guitar Hero, where if you hit the “wrong” key, nothing happens.

And I was pleasantly surprised how, as you simply mess around with whatever instrument during a song, you eventually find a groove and are able to play along correctly (but there’s still the chance to indulge in some freestyle action). So everything works well enough, but the thing about games like Guitar Hero is that the fun comes mostly from trying to keep up with the music accurately, to test one’s self if they can pull of the right combination of chords to perform whatever song. Without that difficulty to keep one motivated, I really can’t see Wii Music being much of a “game” per say…. but then again, it’s not supposed to be, much like Wii Fit. Yet even that has clearly defined goals to achieve. It was neat alright, but hardly a successor or threat to Guitar Hero or Rock Band. This is about as “casual” as Nintendo has come for the Wii.

Anyway, also got the chance to check out the new Animal Crossing game, and as a fan of the series, I approve. As noted, it looks exactly like the GameCube version, but with the background scrolling of the DS version. The emphasis is on online interaction, with going to friend’s towns seemingly a LOT easier than the method that was used in the GameCube (which I could never wrap my head around), yet there is still no persistent online lobby, with a bunch of people hanging out, a la Habbo Hotel, which sucks. Nintendo was pretty tight lipped with the details, so I wasn’t able to find out if you can play old NES games in the game’s world like before (I would imagine that this time you could play SNES or whatever other VC titles that you already have… though it would certainly be neat if there’s some hidden, unlockable ones), hence why there’s not much more to say!

Then later in the evening was some bloggers party thrown by Bandai Namco. Decided to bring Dave and Joe along for the fun, and while they didn’t have Galaga Legions as I had hoped, there was at least We Cheer on-hand, a cheerleading simulation for the Wii that I checked out a while ago and promptly went ga-ga for (perhaps more so than I should have). But instead of passing along screenshots…

Here we have both Joe and Dave giving it their first spin…. And here’s Joe and I…. Finally, here’s Dave going at it solo with dual Wiimotes. In the end, they too kinda dug it as well!

Both dudes also gave Afro Samurai, based on the anime starring Sam Jackson, a spin. And it actually remind me of Wii Music to a certain extent, at least when Dave asked if the structure is similar to games like Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, and God of War; there’s no HUD to keep track of stuff like kills and points, and given that most action games are embraced by the hardcore (like Dave) because they like to keep an eye on progress and improve upon combos, it just seems rather odd and unfortunate. There’s also no additional weapons aside from the default katana that you start with, but at least you can unlock new techniques as the game progresses. Plus it does look awesome, with a pencil sketch motif, and extremely gruesome. Not as bloody as Mad World, but rather gory; as you slice people in half, you can see the insides, like a side of beef that’s been cut by the butcher. Though the lack of a HUD, to give it a more “cinematic” feel, but as I’ve noted many times in the past, I’m pretty sick of games wanting to suck up to movies and almost be ashamed to have video game iconery on the screen.

Oh, and they both gave some Naruto fighting game for the PS3 a whirl, which I couldn’t be bothered with since I’m not exactly a fan of the source material, but they both said it was surprisingly fun. Dave also checked out some game that’s basically Nintendogs but with pandas that I will most certainly have to pick up for Katie when it comes out! Plus there was some Sony party that same day, but I wasn’t invited to it, cuz as one fellow game writer noted, I’m just not cool enough! lulz

Back to Naruto and animu in general…. Otakon is this weekend, and I will alas not be there yet again. I was actually trying to find a business related excuse to go there, which would also help to justify the cost of the trip, but alas, either no was interested in sending me or already have folks covering the show. Bummer. Though at the last minute, Hilary did mention that there was a nice spot on the floor of the hotel room that she and 17 other people are sharing that could be all mine, but I again have so much on my plate that I had to pass.

Instead, Joe and June are coming over tonight to get a taste of Rock Band, plus we might indulge in some Friday night cable access action, and tomorrow I might I might be heading over to Jason’s to watch a UFC PPV. Plus, there’s much work to be done and games to be played!
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Since I have a little bit of time to kill, how about I pass along some recent video games-related news and links that (I think) everyone should check out?

- So the latest issue of EGM is all about Japan, featuring interviews with various creative types, including one with ex-Team Nijna head Tomonobu Itagaki in which one finds out that he’s into model trains! But the centerpiece is easily the one with my favorite old school maverick Japanese game designer, Kenji Eno, and the entire interview, plus stuff too hot for print, can be read here!

- Apparently, the notion of a Wii version of Jet Set Radio is now one step closer to reality!

- It’s just been revealed that Fatal Frame 4 for the Wii will feature various Nintendo themed costumes, such as a Lugi…

… and Zero Suit Samus…

… I all of a sudden became very interested in this game! BTW, those images are from Ruliweb, the biggest online resource for games in Korea, and while “borrowing” those pics, I came across some wacky website for an online game, or something. See! Japanese people aren’t the only crazy ones on that side of the ocean. Us Koreans can be just as insane.

- BTW, I also just learned that Fatal Frame 4 is being developed by Grasshopper, and one of their earliest games, Flower, Sun, and Rain is coming out in Europe, and hopefully America not too long afterwards.

Oh, and here’s the Japanese trailer for those who missed it the first time around. Hey, isn’t it funny how I’m such a Grasshopper/Suda 51 fanboys, yet I still HATE Killer 7?

- So there’s another version of Echochrome on the way, and it’s going to be in 2D?

- For those who on an Xbox 360, but REALLY wish they could use a Dual Shock

- Haven’t had a chance to pass this along till now: Ultimate Shooting Collection is coming out for the Wii soon courtesy of UFO Interactive, featuring a trio of Milestone shmups, including Karous, which includes some “Wii” specific control enhancements (and that I was gonna import, so this is certainly welcome news). As for the other two games, you have Radilgy (which was supposed to come out for the GameCube but was cancelled) and Chaos Field (which should have been cancelled, but wasn’t).

- We all know that Japanese box art is almost better than American ones. But why? And are there any exceptions to the rule? Here’s a pretty terrific piece on GamesRadar that cues up some familiar examples, as well as some surprising ones.

- And as everyone also knows, aside from virtual tits in armor (btw, expect my Soul Calibur 4 review soon, though initial impressions can be found here), what else do I love? Cute girls, cloned, of course! Hence why news about a possible fourth Resident Evil movie warms my heart so. While I’d much rather have a clone army of Emma Watsons or Ellen Pages, beggars can’t be choosers (and I don’t mind Mila so much either).

- I’m not the biggest fan of Halo, nor Fable, but this is just too awesome…

- Real quickly, back to Soul Calibur 4, Kotaku also recently passed along a translated version of the manga that Bandai Namco produced that explains all the new additions and changes to the formula…

… the whole thing can be viewed here and here.

- Another game I’m positively in love with at the moment is Braid, and here’s a great behind the scenes look at the wonderful art.

- Sticking with Gamasutra for just a sec, a quick Mega Man 9 update: it’s going to feature slow-down, just like the good old days! Though it can be turned off.

- Time to head on over to Insert Credit for some highlights, mostly some primo YouTube vids, including…

… Wanna see someone beat Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance for the GBA in less than 24 seconds? And yeah, I have no idea what’s going on here.

… As a Gunstar Heroes diehard, for whatever reason, I never bothered to check out the Game Gear version. Well, after seeing this linked video, I now need to track down a cart and a Game Gear!

… I once recall being excited over a game called Dee Dee Planet for the Dreamcast, but it never came out. Well, at last we finally have footage of the game in motion. For more info on the game, simply check out this news-post.

- BTW, the i am 8-bit 08 show opens next week…

That Jim Mahfood piece is, not surprisingly, hawt. I think like lots of folks, I’ve kinda grown tired of the show, simply because its the same folks doing the same thing. But I believe the organizers know this, and from what I’ve seen thus far, there appears to be some new artists doing some new things. Could be really something.

Unfortunately I don’t a photographer on deck to capture the scene, but at this point, its become so big that you can bet that Kotaku and IGN or someone similar will be there to provide coverage. Though if you’re going, are handy with the camera, and feel like sharing what you snap, drop me a line! You will be paid, of course.

Anyhow, since I’m already combing the internet for stuff, may as well head back on over to my neck of the woods for a brief stop…

- Via the Tatsunoko vs. Capcom thread comes word that we might not get the game here for legal reasons, but it could be used as the basis of Marvel vs Capcom 3? And according to Dave in the Street Fighter 4 thread, Chinatown Fair getting Tekken 6 before SF4, which is pretty fucking lame to say the least.

- Meanwhile, over at the MGS4 thread, just like Joe sez…

“Someone is going to masturbate to those.”

- Seriously, why do people keep saying that the PC is dead?

- Time to re-visit the video game clothing thread for some Space Invaders threads…

- And the agony and the ecstasy that is Sega discussion keeps on trucking, now filled with various YouTube vids of Virtua Racing and Daytona USA, plus a chiptunes remix of a Sega Touring Car music track. And I’ve literally said it a hundred times by now, but I still don’t understand why no one hasn’t ripped off Panzer Dragoon RPG’s brilliant battle system?

- Speaking of video game related vids…

… Here’s the trailer for Thunder Force 6 for the PS2. It actually looks really good!

… So is the Robo song from Chrono Trigger inspired by…. Rick Astleyy?!

… For those who missed it, here’s the second trailer for Captain Rainbow. God please let this game come out here. Though I have a feeling this will be just another Doshin the Giant and Giftpia.

… Know what else is going on this weekend? EVO2k, that yearly event in which a bunch of sweaty street fighter dorks gather in Las Vegas to yell and scream and even feel like real athletes! Here’s the trailer for EVO 2008, along with the greatest EVO moment ever from 2004. Still sends chills down my spine.

… I actually got this one from the IC forums: the last level in Omega Boost, which I only checked out because someone said it was very “Rez-like.” Though the real winner is the AWESOME hair metal music.

… And courtesy of Dave, via the shumps forum, a review of Gunbird 2. I absolutely have to meet the guy behind it.

… Finally, I actually posted this one already at the Soul Cancer thread, but since its (relatively) SFW and game related, I may as well pass it along here. Once again, hooray for Japan!

- Moving away from games… the Everything Else portion of the message board is chock-full of depressing news and talk, centered on fucked up cops doing fucked up things, the plague that is Wal-Mart, how Bono’s efforts to raise money for AIDS is, along with being annoying, is just not working, and an energy drink that’s in poor taste even by my standards. But at least the cat thread keeps getting more pics of cats! With more to come on my end.

- I normally find subversive children’s books to be done to death, but I must admit, these are pretty damn funny.

- Why super fans are generally stupid as hell and often get what they deserve.

- Slonie passed this one along: it’s 1975 and this man is about to show you the future

- So, are hipsters truly the end of western civilization?

- Via the flat out shitty web comics thread comes words of wisdom from…. Yahtzee? And the food thread, with an awesome drunken chicken recipe, how the KFC in Iraq sounds more like Korean food than American, and a hot dog to rule them all.

- Once again, I’m quite proud of the awesome random pictures portion of my message board…

- Also popular is the random videos thread, of course…

I love how animu dorks/furries manage to take the most simplest of things and make it something uncomfortable.

Tourettes camp.

NICE PEACE!!! Again: “This makes me wanna go to war.”

… Praise the Lord… the dirt bikes!

A true story of success.

… Seriously, the ten best minutes of your life.

… And unfortunately, the best video I had seen in years, featuring a bunch of guidoes from the Jersey Shore in their natural element, keeps getting pulled. :(

- Moving onto the NYC portion of the board… a lot of people was upset by that one cop that shoved the cyclist. Not me though.

- Hey, did anyone ever figure out what that dead monster that was discovered in Long Island was all about? Unfortunately around that same time, that really fat cat, Princess/Prince Chunky, was soaking up all the media attention, leaving the monster in the dust.

- Johnny’s Pizza and Papa John’s Pizza… FIGHT!!!

- Via the thread“man there are some great shows in 2008″ thread… shit, I TOTALLY forgot that the follow-up to 77BoaDrum, 88BoaDrum is going on right now! Fuck. Oh well, at least there’s still the documentary for last year’s event, courtesy of Vice.

Though I sure as fuck am NOT missing out on Killing Joke in October! I should probably get my tickets tomorrow.

- And via the subway characters thread, comes Mike with…

holy shit.

this morning.

f train.

a large woman.

just plain out farting.

the whole damn ride.

seven stops.

of farting.

- Finally, via the Secret Chamber… Hello Miss Thai Ladyboy 2006!

- More headlines that make you smile, and now headlines that make you go “what”?

- And the Soul Cancer thread just got a LOT crazier…

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