Monday, August 23, 2010


I was incredulous upon first viewing, as I usually am whenever I view a Sony trainwreck for the first time. It's so much like a "Wait....Really?" vibe that I'm surprised every bit of advertising that comes out of their department doesn't get approved at least 3 or 4 times before they start shooting.

Are you kidding? I suppose it'd be funny to anyone with their head in the sand like Sony apparently is about their own device, but last time I checked, critically (and from the perspective of yours truly), I think it's funny that the iPhone versions of games like Need for Speed Underground, Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars (which combines the graphics from the PSP version with the touch features of the DS rev), and Prince of Persia: Warrior Within are all better than PSP versions of the same name. I also find it of a particularly amusing pedigree that it also does FPS games and the like better, as its responsive touch-screen allows for all manner of faux dual-analog setups that work much better then they ever ought to.

Hell, even your sad attempt at a bite sized game store with "PSP minis" is a resounding failure, as most of the games on the service offer much too little for a little too much. Kind of sounds like the PSPgo, your failed stab at the success of Apple's App store without an inkling of what -exactly- has made the service usurp your position, accomplishing in two years what you have struggled to do for five.

Perhaps instead of attempting to make scathing "jabs" at Apple's device, you should be figuring out how in two years, they managed to trump you in the portable gaming market.

Then you can get back to figuring out how to make the platform relevant this week, needless revisions, failed experiments, and desperate rumors notwithstanding.

Also....PLEASE stop using the little kid from Role Models/Land of the Lost/Whateverthehell. He really isn't funny when he's not swearing a mile a minute. Every single bit of his routine feels forced not only because someone his age wouldn't bother, but also because the PSP is such a stopgap between failure and moneysink that the irony of their fun-poking ads only causes one to shake their head in disbelief. Sega took potshots at Nintendo back in the day and it was funny, and all in good fun. This is just obnoxious. He is just obnoxious.

Seriously. Screw off.

Whatever. I suppose ports would be a step in the right direction though. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join em, right? This seems to always be your policy. I wonder how much fun it'll be in a lower resolution, without the dual analog control scheme that made it such a hit on its original platform (not to mention its $4.99 price point). At least it'll get decent games on the platform at a rate faster than once every 6 months.

Really, if anything at this point, they need to consider the potential threat that the 3DS represents, as they will no longer have the raw power advantage to assert their "superiority" over the DS anymore. If the original DS model represented innovation at the cost of technology, then the 3DS, with its Gamecube esque processing power and glasses-free 3D technology represents a successful marriage of power and new frontier.

How they can continue to ignore something like that, and continue to out out these baseless ads is beyond me.

But then again, I'm used to something like this coming from Sony, the only company with their heads so far into the sand that it reaches their nether regions.

If that sounds amusing, it's only because it's true. They tried to write the Xbox off, and look at what happened. Keep doing the same with the iPhone.

I dare ya.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. the Arbitrary Objective!

So it's no secret by now, but I loved Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game. The game's retro sensibilities, combined with it's purposely pixelated sprite art look and 8-bit soundtrack won me over in a way that many games that attempt to be "retro" fail to. I mean it without a shred of hyperbole that I've literally been addicted to the game since its release, and while I can point out any aspect of its design in bullet points as the reason for this (great fighting engine, wealth of secrets, addictive leveling system), it wasn't just the graphics, or the gameplay that really brought out that old-school feel in me.

It was the return of the completely out-of-left-field institution that dominated most of my early gaming life:

The arbitrary objective.

We've all been there. You love a game to death, you play it to death. Somewhere inbetween purchase, mastering, and fondly archiving it for good, players go through this phase. A game gets completed, mastered, and because we don't want to let go of it just yet, we start making up new rules in our head. Racing games can be beaten without nitro. A fighting game can be beaten without special moves. These pointless, unnecessary, dare I say..arbitrary tweaks to a game's established formula can extend its relative value long past is shelf life, and it's exactly what happened to me here.

The funny thing was, I didn't even need to finish the game in question. It happened while I was playing through the game by myself as Scott, I realized that essentially, aside from some very unique attacks, everyone played the same, and because they had openly customizable stats, simply powering them all up to maximum would just make them homogeneous. The gears in my head began turning almost immediately. I knew I was going to play through the game with each character, but how could I indulge my hardcore sensibilities and still keep the game fresh 4, maybe even 5 playthroughs later? I thought of one of the game's many inspirations: Streets of Rage.

I remembered how each character, despite having the exact same moveset, had different attacks, and not only that, but they also had stats giving them all a distinct feel in addition to this. Axel was a power character with great moves, Blaze was the balanced type, Max was slow but powerful, and Skate was small and fast, if lacking in stamina. I wanted something like this for this game. After all, what better way to highlight each character's individuality (and give players something to call dibs on during multiplayer) than to give them completely differing strengths and weaknesses?

It took a bit of time, but I got it. Thinking of each character's personality/ability in the comic, I went about balancing them all out, albeit in RPG-grinding fashion:

Scott became an all-rounder, given his reputation as a fighter (and his uncanny ability to adapt), Ramona, being the "American Ninja", became the fastest character, yet relatively low on strength and high on defense. Kim, resident drummer (and situational damsel-in-distress) became above average on technique, strength, and speed(drummer qualities!), but has absolutely no defense, and Stephen, aka "the talent", became a tank, sporting relative strength, but maxed technique (talent, natch) and defense (he did date Julie, after all) at the cost of speed.

If the stats seem kind of high, it's because I balanced them all to be used on either medium, or hard difficulty..and for the most part, it worked out wonderfully. Scott is as powerful all around as he should be, Ramona's speed goes well with the range offered by her weapons, Kim's strengths go well towards a solid offense that masks what she lacks in defense, and Stephen is the strangest feeling one, having the lowest speed but a wealth of special techniques at his disposal.

The funny thing is, none of the hours I spent doing this felt wasted at all. I just finished the game with Scott yesterday, and now I can't wait to go through it again with Ramona. She's much faster, with much lower attack so her juggles are a lot more fun to indulge. I singlehandedly introduced character balance and an extra layer of strategy to this game, and while I didn't have to, the experience for me (and the people I've played with) was that much richer because of it.

Labor of love as it was, It brought me back quite a bit. I remember my tenure in Sonic 3& Knuckles, having separate files for having completed with or without all emeralds. I'm still proud of completing Super Mario Bros without touching a single fireflower (never touching a mushroom was beyond me). This sentiment extended past "old" games as well. In high school, action games like Ninja Gaiden weren't spared, as a friend and I finished the entire game on "very hard" without upgrading ANYTHING, and my girlfriend, notorious for her Need for Speed exploits, did everything short of finishing Most Wanted by driving backwards before she was satisfied. The arbitrary objective knows no genre, and no limits, being clearly defined by a gamer's ability, and imagination.

Hell, I've even become fond of what I named "stock mixing" in DJ Hero, playing a song through for 5 stars with no (extra) multipliers or modifiers.

If any of this sounds crazy, it's because is, but it's something we gamers are well acquainted with. Microsoft may have capitalized on this old art by giving it a mainstream name in the form of "achievements", but at the end of the day, they have no real value, and it's the pride that we put into them that defines their value. Putting a score on it doesn't really change the fact that we've been assigning arbitrary objectives to ourselves since the beginning, and it'll continue as long as we have the drive to push the limits developers have assigned us.

Now if you'lll excuse me, I'm off to practice M.Bison in SSF4 by beating arcade mode on hard using only his normals.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010


Akin to the legend of the Gulf War Game Boy, things like this just constantly reaffirm my stance that products from Nintendo are designed to withstand nuclear fallout. I mean, there are several written accounts of the little handheld that could surviving everything from avalanches, to rollercoasters, to well...WARS, and if this is any indication, we will NEVER be done recounting crazy tales of Nintendo's voodoo craftsmanship.

...Or ability to appeal to EVERYONE.

The story's almost too good to be true. Some knucklehead boy at the San Francisco Zoo accidentally drops his DSI XL into a Gorilla habitat. Noticing almost instantly, a massive honking gorilla approaches it, and instead of flattening it out of sheer animal madness, actually picks it up and inspects it. He then proceeds to open the thing and flip it around, presumably looking for the power button, but after several attempts, ends up looking just plain confused.

But it gets better! A smaller one approaches, and tries to show the big one how it's done...and fails as well after attempts culminating with trying to "see" through it. Presumably frustrated that he cannot get his DK on, big dude snatches it back, tries to flatten it, then finally EAT it before being lured over by a trainer, who traded him the DSi for something more edible.

I don't know what's more amazing. That the gorilla actually tried to play it, or that aside from some drool and scuffs, the DS was fully operational when it was returned.

How sneaky of you, Nintendo. Your announcement that this thing was for "old people" and "people with bad eyesight" was just a smoke screen. It's clear to me now who the intended audience was. Giant screen, giant stylus, it all makes sense now! Target audience get!


Who would've thought?

Source: You Got Donkey Kong On This Thing?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Wait, don't you know what today is?

The hint begins (and ends) with this trailer. Like the comic, this game just gets better and better the more I see of it..

...and were it not for the absolutely BOOTY release schedule on the PSN, (where the date of release doesn't correlate with midnight, instead "sometime" in the afternoon of said day) yours truly would be playing it right now, basking in all of it's old-school, Final River City Double Dragon Ransom Fight in Time : 1989** glory.


No really. I don't know what vegan voodoo Todd Ingram is on to have a TETSUO FUCKING ARM ATTACK, but I want to find out. NOW.

(**Bonus points go to those who pick out the references on a first try!)

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