Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Iwata should look around a little.

With Nintendo's president biting back at Apple for all their oversaturation "tactics", it's more than a bit funny that they should tout the fact that they have more software on their console as a positive thing. Quality over quantity, the oblivious president parrots to an audience surely scratching their heads in confusion. He implies the innovations in social gaming are going to kill the industry if we aren't careful. He says Apple is mostly to blame with their implementation of the app store encouraging "garage" developers to produce cheaper content, and mobile games are dragging the quality bar down even further by lacking the value and personal satisfaction that a $40 game carries with its purchase.

You know. Like Nintendo's $40 games.

This sounds less like a concerned parent of the industry and more like the lamentations of one unable to keep up with it's baby's development.

The Wii may have more software from its competitors, but how much of that is quality Software? Anyone even keeping up with the industry a little, or even owning a Wii knows that the system has become a dumping ground for shovelware and garbage titles, and outside of some select third party offerings and Nintendo's own First Party lineup, there isn't anything on the console worth picking up. Is that really a better alternative?

So they're effectively the App store, just in a physical form. Just ask their "Seal of Quality", which went from being the beacon of light that saved the industry in the 80's to having it's meaning removed entirely. Hardly coincidence.

The seal speaks louder than words.

It's interesting seeing Nintendo react to competition for once, but this is just childish. While they were able to sit and casually laugh at Sony's bid for power over content in the portable gaming space, Apple's iOS and social platforms like Facebook are starting to cut into the big N's market share in a huge way. With cellphones getting more advanced by the day and digital distribution not having the same costly hangups as retail (including piracy), they are going to have to work harder than they ever have to maintain their position as number one.

Perhaps, moving forward, Nintendo should focus on avenues of profit that will benefit them, and make them seem less like a pigheaded company who's been profiting off the misinformed indifference of the casual consumer. If cellphones and mobile gaming platforms are making your premium priced offerings seem overpriced and stale, the solution is to make better games, and a consistent string of quality across titles. Not try and insist that such games shouldn't exist.

Even though I have no doubt that the 3DS will be successful, its version of Super Street Fighter 4 costs more than even its console incarnation at $39.99, boasting little over the original incarnation. Aside from that game which is admittedly well done, it's sharing the shelf with half-baked ports of Rayman, Madden, Pilotwings, Asphalt, and a who-asked-for-this new version of Nintendogs, all for $39.99 as well.

This is going to be a bit of an uphill battle for them, especially with so many options for the consumer as far as platform is concerned. While ports like this are fine in the beginning, I hope that they're ready to outdo their competitors in terms of content, or they're just going to end up with another Wii situation, where lazy developers will turn out gimmicky piece of software after software, charging the same high prices that will drive their audience into the arms of their competitors. It's easy to purchase the racing game Asphalt on an iPhone for $3, and lament the loss if it's terrible. It's a much bigger pill to swallow when the game is $40.

Hell, I bought the (234237th) port or Rayman 2 on my phone for $1 over a year ago. There's no way I'm buying it for the 3DS. 3D butterflies aren't worth that much, I'm sorry.

Like it or not, this is the exact kind of social gaming and open environment Nintendo helped initiate, culminating the minute they decided to involve the world by making their console's name a euphemism for it. So now we're playing Farmville, Angry Birds, and portable versions of games like Dead Space that are of such a quality that they could've existed on a DS or PSP for large sum. Instead, they're available for six dollars, confortably in a climate that allows them to be so.

No point in trying to turn back now.

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Down Under - DJ Hero 2 Indie Hip-Hop Mix Pack Review

Well…color me surprised. For the umpteenth time.

Weren’t we supposed to be done with DJ Hero content? Weren’t we? Talks of closures, liquidations, and rumor of the future of FSG notwithstanding, there is new DJ Hero content up, seemingly against al odds. This means two things: Either they produced a TON of music slated for release before the bad news dropped, or these are the products of a studio that can’t and won’t stop. While I sit comfortably in my fandom and bet on the latter, this week’s pack is a strange one indeed. Honestly and for the first time, I have no idea what to expect from this “Indie Hip Hop Mix Pack”, because…well, I’ve never heard of ANY of these people.

Or their music.

Though, with names like Peanut Butter Wolf and Camu Tao, I have an itching feeling that I can only expect greatness.


Hopefully. While I welcome this pack with arms stretched wide, at the same time, I hope being blindsided by Freestyle Games is a good thing..

DJ Hero 2 "Indie Hip-Hop Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 640 Microsoft Points, $7.99 PSN, 300 Wii points (per track)
Release: 3/15/2010

Songs reviewed on Expert difficulty.

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf - My World Premiere vs. Jaylib - The Red (Instrumental)"

Uh..right. While that isn’t the perfect way to start any review of a track, it’s the initial thought I had upon completing this mix for the first time. It’s a slow paced track that isn’t too challenging save for some scratches at the end, but My World Premiere’s old-school lyrics and cadence do sound fine over Jaylib’s beat for The Red, making the medley is serviceable if a bit unexciting. I was so put off by the track that I went and listened to the original tracks, and found that Charizma’s track had great lyrics but an okay beat. The Red on the other hand, had a beat was definitely better than whatever Jaylib was trying to spit. Combined like this, it’s actually the best of both worlds, but it isn’t enough to save the song. Sometimes it happens, every so often you’lll get a song that’s more fun to listen to than to play, but when the song and the track are middling, neither great, nor terrible, you just get something that exists. This song kind of just exists.

Rating: 2/5

The Perceptionists ft. Guru & Camu Tao - Party Hard vs. RJD2 – Ghostwriter

I was actually a bit at an advantage with this one, not realizing that I’ve heard “Ghostwriter” before..but with this epiphany came a shot of fear. I like RJD2’s droning beat on this one, but could I be in line for another slow paced, possibly dreary track? Thankfully, the Perceptionists answered with a loud NO! Party Hard’s lyrics are filled with attitude and braggadocio, and it does well to keep the sample filled Ghostwriter moving along at a brisk pace. When I say sample filled, I really mean it, and FSG knew what was up as well, matching this song with a track that’ll have you exercising the middle red button like there’s no tomorrow. Samples during scratches, samples during taps, held samples during scractches and…you get the idea. Finger dexterity. Hope you have a carpal tunnel pad installed in front of your turntable..

Rating: 4/5

Atmosphere - The Best Day (Remix by FSG)

I liked this. I really, really did. Call me crazy, because it isn’t the most exciting track out there, and listening to the preview, I’m sure many people will listen to this and wonder how it could translate into a fun DJ Hero track, but somehow, it just does. It works. Though I have no clue how the original sounds (though this sounds more like a beat juggle than a full on remix), what we have here is a song that’s hip hop through and through, telling a tale about a day gone wrong over a laid back beat. Scratches are at the forefront of this one, but everything added doesn’t detract from the lyrics one bit, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the few songs that can be sung without fear of having to compensate for stuttering samples at every turn. This was my favorite mix of the pack, though some may not agree with me. If you really like circa-90’s hip hop, you won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4/5

Aside from that turd (sorry Charizma, the original sounds better—don’t haunt me!) at the start of the pack, this was a pretty solid, if a little niche. Unfortunately, it may be a bit too niche for all but the deepest of Hip-Hop fans (who may not have this game), or even frequent DJ Hero players (who are looking for something more modern or electronic). So while being notoriously obscure is fine, perhaps a bit more care needs to be taken in selecting the next tracks. These are dark times for the developer. I’d hate for any of FSG’s new music to undersell since they’re likely trying to prove themselves, but this pack is something I can’t really recommend to anyone despite my enjoyment. While a love of music is paramount in enjoying this series, these songs have to ultimately be played, and they just aren’t that enjoyable in that respect. I’m pretty sure most other players will have the same hangup.

Overall: 6.5

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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Closer to Home

Homefront releases in stores today, and the ambitious FPS has received much attention for its scenario, which details what would have happened if Korea were never divided during WW2, and went on to become a superpower so dominant that it would eventually invade the US. Considering the state of the world (and Korea) at present, it’s a very interesting premise and question, one developer Kaos studios saw fit to answer with this ambitious release. But how possible is this alternate reality? THQ and Kaos have gone on record, citing exhaustive research, historical advisors, and even enslited the writer of Apocalypse Now to speak volumes of its plausibility. But could it really happen, given the right conditions?

Here, we have two arguments on the matter. Colin Moriarty of IGN believes it’s more plausible than one would think, suspending his disbelief and making a point that Homefront’s situation is very likely, given the unpredictability of history and the notion that with the proper timing, it isn’t that much of a stretch...

While on the other end:

Destructoid’s Brad Rice has a different stance. Having checked the game’s “timeline” of events, he cites various facts about the economical and military strength of the US, its allies, as well as Korea to make his point, declaring it outright impossible.

It’s two interesting, opposing views on a concept that is in fact, most debatable. While the notion that the US could be compromised the way the game suggests is arguably sound, the reality of what makes the country a superpower seriously makes one question if such a breach can even be attempted. Especially considering all the hands currently being held by the US in its partners and the strength of its military, among other issues.

Reviews of Homefront have been mixed thus far, but regardless of the game’s quality, its nice to see that with each passing day, we continue to provoke thought and debate in ways we wouldn’t have imagined since our little bleeps and bloops began.


IGN - ”Is Homefront Possible?”

Destructoid - ”In Which I Break Down Why Homefront’s Plot is Impossible”

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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dance Zero.

Go Kotick!

After the success of games like Just Dance, which placed dancing back on the map after years of DDR struggling to maintain relevance, and Dance Central, which took it to another technical level, it's no surprise that in their wake, a slew of other dancing titles have been released, trying to get a piece of the new best thing. Interchangeable, and of questionable quality, they're all out to get our dollars now via the medium of booty shaking.

Know what that means? Of course you do!

Rumor has it, Activision is working on their own competitor in the dancing space, predictably titled Dance Hero. Now before anyone gets inflamed with rage, know that shortly after purchasing the Guitar Hero brand, Activision went patent crazy, trademarking every possible permutation of Hero they could think of, running amok with expected Guitar, Drum, Rock titles affixed to the brand for prospective games , to more ridiculous sounding ones like Guitar Villain.Dance Hero was among the crazier of those patents, and three years ago, it sounded a lot more ridiculous than it does now.

...Yeah. Don't compete too hard with the crickets.

My question is: Didn't they learn from the last time they tried to go up against an innovator with their ingenuous, exploitative ways? I can't see this going anywhere good. Dance games in general are a questionable medium, so concerned with accessibility that none actually gauge performance accurately aside from Dance Central. Even monolith vet DDR doesn't capture the actual act of dancing in the way DC does. So WHAT exactly is Activision going to bring to the table aside from something blatantly bandwagon riding and devoid of effort like Michael Jackson: The Experience?

The more information I recieve for a rumor, the more I flinch, but apparently these are the songs allegedly in the works so far:

"2012" by Jay Sean (feat Nicki Minaj)
"Out Of Space" by The Prodigy.
"The Way I Are" by Timbaland (feat Keri Hilson and D.O.E.)
"Take Over Control" by Afrojack (feat Evan Simon)

Kotaku, you'd better be lying to me. I can't see any good coming of this.

Source: Kotaku

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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Oscillating challenge - Pendulum Mix Pack Review

"We don’t do this just to fulfil a corporate aspiration – we want to make credible music games."

I fondly remember that quote, as it’s from Jaime Jackson, creative director at FreeStyle Games. Against all odds, DJ Hero released right at the point where the music genre was peaking in its oversaturation, and many, myself included doubted the game, on one level its credibility as a legit musical experience, and another as a competent game. Fast forward to now, two games and over 200 original mixes later, and not only was the game a huge success, but it brought fans of several genres together in a way that even Guitar Hero couldn’t manage. I know it introduced me to more than a few artists I never would’ve experienced otherwise, and this is a fine example. I think—no, I KNOW part of the fun of making a rhythm game must be the opportunity to collaborate with all kinds of artists in order to keep things fresh for the audience. In that respect, I think the quote above was fulfilled. Their efforts have never spoken of any corporate nudging, and more of artists doing just that, making genuine art.

Usually, their mixes are all original mashups, but every so often, they’ll single out an artist and do a few spirited remixes, putting their own mark, and sometimes even besting the originals. Now they’ve teamed up with Australian band Pendulum for their latest, and very likely last mix pack. Did they end this party with a bang, or was their unexpected last pack a dud that ends the series with a dull thud?

DJ Hero 2 “Pendulum Mix Pack" (Downloadable Content)
For: Xbox 360, PS3, Wii (Songs sold as individual tracks)
Publisher: Activision/Freestyle Games
Price: 640 Microsoft Points, $7.99 PSN, 300 Wii points (per track)
Release: 1/18/2011

Reviewed on Expert difficulty; Individual songs on a 1-5 point scale, overall is by 10 and not an average.

Pendulum - Salt In The Wounds

Crossfade spikes are actually my weak point, and this song has a TON of them, right out of the gate. Crossfading is one of my favorite parts of the DJH experience, as moving about between tracks with precision and rhythm is an intuitive feeling that’s second to none. That having been said, this is most definitely a crossfade track akin to 5th Symphony or Groundhog, where quick switches are balanced with on-switch taps and scratches to great effect!Sat in the Wounds was already a great piece of electronica, swift, yet dirty in the spots where it needs to slow down. Little has changed in FSG’s interpretation, as it’s still a very high energy song that sounds surprisingly like it plays. While it has a great deal more effects than its original version, the augmentations only serve to “Hero-ify” the track and turn it into a tricky challenge at best, and a more than suitable remix at worst. Quite nice.

Rating: 5/5

Pendulum - Set Me On Fire

This song was one of my favorites from the album—and with good reason, it reminded me of an old-school videogame, something that wouldn’t sound out of place aside a mid or final boss character. Its chiptune-like nature aside, the intensity it would lack as a rhythm-game song has been augmented heavily with a difficulty spike the likes of which I’ve never seen. The song starts off innocently enough sounding a bit too much like the original, then around the midway point, it goes absolutely mad and descends into a mélange of crossfades, scratches of unknown density, taps during holds, taps during scratches during holds—it’s madness. What all these elements do to the song is once again commendable, as the added scratches and voice samples to the track sound quite welcome, but be warned. You won’t walk away from this song with the same feeling you had as when it started. I know it threw me for a loop.

Rating: 5/5

Pendulum - Watercolour

Subdued compared to the other electronic, dubstep flavored offerings, this sounds more like a traditional electronic rock song, complete with “cry for help” lyrics. This isn’t a negative though. Being able to relax after the first two seems like a blessing…until you realize that it has the SAME difficulty spikes as the last track. It’s jarring, and a nice wakeup call to perhaps polish my skills a bit. Several segues into playing the drum or bassline are a nice touch as well, and really gives the feeling that you’re controlling the song, and simply not just playing along with the track. Again though, it’s really not for the easily frustrated. Why do they keep making me scratch and tap and spike at the same time? Blindsided twice in the same mix pack. Who would’ve thought..

Rating: 4/5

Being a bit late to the party doesn’t mean it’s over. With these tracks, FSG has solidified their position as some of the best developers ever to grace the rhythm action scene. It’s a shame that their last pack couldn’t be another fantastic addition to their library of original mixes, but this is nothing to sneeze at, because their remixes were of a similar quality, and is embraced all the same. This Pendulum pack is something great, a proof-of-concept in retrospect, and I do hope that at some point, we’ll have the opportunity to hear them out once more. It’s a shame to see their light burn out at the perceivable height of their popularity (Have you seen the DJ Hero 2 Facebook?), but all hope isn’t completely lost. The fate of the studio hasn’t been decided yet, and talks are underway as to how things are going to turn for them. Perhaps even though my dream of a Deadmau5 pack has been dashed, the ability to rock on with FSG in future endeavors will be eagerly anticipated, turntable controller or no.

Overall: 8.5

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