Did I ever lead on that I'm actually permanently jacked in to the Intronetspace. Since the birth of hypertext itself I've just been sort of hanging back, assimilating information, streaming my consciousness into all your desktop machines without your knowledge. I'm poised, like Skynet, for one massive strike in which I finally cease to be jacked in, and ultimately become ... jacked off. I'll let loose my horde of virus sperm across the desktops of millions. Proof, you ask?
Be ready. The end is nigh.
... or ... Thank John for noticing the ridiculous AOL hijinks, and expect me to post something worthy soon. I apologize for my intermittent posting attitude, these are the weighty days of an approaching midterm, coupled with the unbridled anticipation of GDC, and here I am, left flopping like a fish out of water.
Sometime last night, apparently when the blizzard was peaking, my power went out. Nothing amazing, but in this particular case, this was something I had been fearing. I was under the impression that my Wii only saved the game states of VC games as long as it remained in standby mode. So, about 10 seconds into the darkness, I thought aloud, "FUCK!" I had made it to the second level in Kid Icarus, the fourth or fifth in Super Castlevania IV, more than halfway through Kirby's Adventure, and through a nice chunk of Super Mario World. I was playing through each fairly often, particularly because I wanted to start doing some critiques of these retro titles on this very blog. The only reason I actually haven't started yet, is because I couldn't think of a damned name for the collection of retro features. Retronauts is taken, and Kohler stole "Virtual Consolation Prize" so I'm left with what? Yeah ... I'm silly. Anyways, my worries were unfounded, because all of my save states are still intact. So either I was wrong, or I've been blessed with the favor of the Nintendo god.
That of course wasn't the girth of this post, as I try not to blather on without something that is worth sharing. Luckily, The History of America is to my rescue. From Studio MK12, responsible for the effects in Stranger Than Fiction, is a movie about America. From their website: "It's about how America got born, with the cowboys and the astronauts and the whatnot." Terribly exciting stuff? Nah. Not really. Despite the short description, the idea of astronauts and cowboys together is enough to raise my eyebrow. Not to mention, the fact that MK12 could be shooting for a very deep, ideological explanation about the definition of America. What makes us Americans? Well, I know that doesn't get everyone going like it does me, so this production picture should suffice.
Freaking hatchet attack from the flying astronaut! And he's hatcheting cowboys!
Few words describe how awesome this could be. It's got an interesting rotoscoping animation technique, similar to A Scanner Darkly, and the movie is apparently already in post production. Check out the two trailers.
The second trailer is the better of the two, but definitely watch both.
If Kojima were to marry Igarashi, and somehow mystically spawn a bastard lovechild: That would be Lunar Knights. My review is up on Modojo, and for the second time (I promise I won't be doing this again; I'm brewing new, authentic posts I swear!) I'm going to borrow it for some worthwhile reading. Note how difficult it seems for me to hold back from writing: "I have an absolute hard-on for this game."
My experience with Boktai lasted a sum total of ten minutes. Within that time I realized that I would have to try to enjoy the game in blistering sunlight, and in doing so, I'd have to somehow find a magical way to actually see what the hell was on the screen. Even backlighting can only go so far. I gave up, and I was sad for doing so, because from everything I had heard, Boktai was a genuinely good action title from Hideo Kojima, albeit one with some occasional flaws.
The occasional flaws are most likely what Konami wanted to avoid when they decided that Boktai-redux on the DS would instead be named Lunar Knights, and would cover a re-envisioning of the franchise, from the ground up. Gone were the casket dragging sessions, and the mostly lauded sunlight sensor; two things that I was happy to have never actually had to struggle through. Also, the majority of the game's original puzzle elements were removed for what is essentially a straightforward action title. With these elements dropped from the gameplay in Lunar Knights, other creative aspects rose to replace them, and the impressive bit is, they all work beautifully.
The sunlight sensor is replaced by the top screen's persistent view of the sky and climate. The world of Lunar Knights is on a constant cycle of day/night, and this affects not only which character, Aaron or Lucian, can recharge their energy through their own natural inclination to light or dark, but also the entire view of the game world changes as well. Climate in Lunar Knights is just as important as the day/night cycle, and managing climates through the unique ParaSol technology allows for gamers to manipulate the weather, and ultimately unlock the occasional new location. Even particular items are tied to certain climates or weather conditions. The end result of the setup is one that leaves so many options for the player, it's truly impressive.
Gamers that want to charge through the game without even exploring the climate are mostly able to do so, but they'll be doing it at a loss of the hidden weapons and bonuses that are all available. The game never becomes dishearteningly difficult, although the occasional group of enemies can be a test. Where fighting with a pack of random enemies might prove to be threatening, bosses rarely feel the same way. The bosses in Lunar Knights are fun, and creative character designs for that matter, but the almost overpowered TRC gauge makes for quick work of almost any foe. The gauge builds from damaging enemies, and taking damage, and can unleash an impressive attack from the six elemental terrenials that players acquire throughout the game. The majority of the attacks are stylus-based, but Aaron and Lucian each have a unique attack for their respective light and dark elements. The characters transform into hulking versions of themselves, which are more powerful than they almost need to be. Players looking for a challenge should try to play the game without these, while players looking for a breeze should keep one on standby for all boss encounters. In the end, it's a good option for players on each side of the spectrum.
The influence of Hideo Kojima is obvious in more than one of the games aspects, and the sneaking element is still present in Lunar Knights, although it is toned down somewhat. Sneaking is almost never necessary, but it is an extra element to gameplay, and really, who's against that? Blowing into the microphone allows players to catch the attention of patrolling enemies with a whistle, and send them off on a wild goose chase while players venture on without harm. While this feels very, very Kojima, it seems that the real influence of Kojima is in Lunar Knights' production value. The visuals aren't necessarily top-notch for the DS, but they are very stylized and charming. The animated cutscenes, on the other hand, are the best I've seen on the system, and the inclusion of an impressive amount of voice acting is really a treat. I had expected this game to have polish, but I was truly surprised at how much it actually delivered. Almost any fault that Lunar Knights has can be easily forgotten by how consistently the game delivers on production value alone.
Players should be aware that this game makes use of the critically difficult to enjoy isometric perspective. The same viewpoint made Scurge:Hive more of a chore than an enjoyment, but Lunar Knights, by adding a lock-on feature to gunshots and other attacks, and increasing the attack range of a sword swipe to what seems like a full 120 or so degrees in any direction, basically alleviates any worries that the isometric view causes. This is really promising, and other developers should look to this game to see how games in this perspective should be handled.
Other unique gameplay elements, like the shooting sequences when purifying enemy vampires, add even more layers of depth to Lunar Knights. The shooting sequences, in particular, are seriously enjoyable and creative, even if the conclusion of each seems to grow simpler as gameplay progresses. I would have much rather seen Starfox Command employ a system similar to the one in Lunar Knights, if only for the frantic pace it consistently provides. Powering weapons, unlocking new abilities, attributing stat bonuses (although very simply) are all present and accounted for as well. It's almost easier to look at what isn't included in Lunar Knights than what is.
What isn't in Lunar Knights? Anything resembling a bad game. No fault of Lunar Knights is enough to make it anything less than one of the best titles on the DS. The game is, as everyone seems to agree, more Castlevania than Metal Gear, but who could fault Konami for bringing their two best franchises into a beautiful marriage?
The review on Modojo can be found here.
I don't normally allow myself to post my writings for Modojo here on my blog, but I enjoyed this feature, and I thought I'd like to share it to my "blog readers" as well as those who take the time to look at my writings on Modojo. I'd even like to add a few possible groundbreaking moments I think 2007 could hold, apart from handhelds, but I'll save those for an upcoming post.
Focusing on the handheld market in particular allows us at Modojo to take a look at the coming year a little differently than those who are watching the console scene specifically. While the large scale releases for consoles in 2007 are mostly laid out, and already under the gaze of gamers world over, handhelds are pretty unique in that the production time is genuinely shorter, and the releases come much sooner to their initial announcements. So, while we have games like Halo 3, Resident Evil 5, and Final Fantasy XIII for consoles that are pushing against 2008 already, there are only a minuscule number of portable games that have been announced for any later than this coming summer. Taking that into account, it’s safe to say that there aren’t just a few amazing games that are yet to be announced for 2007, but there’s actually a mountain of them, especially when you consider that we have basically no knowledge at all of how the Holiday 2007 season will be shaping up. We can only expect that with both popular handhelds having larger installed bases, and the DS in particular coming off an amazing year, the number of quality releases this Holiday should dwarf the already large number of games that dropped in 2006.
With that thought as our inspiration, we’ve taken the task of placing our bets on what 2007 could possibly hold for handhelds. Well, it’s not as if we’ve dropped ideas in a hat and selected what we lucked upon, but using some serious number-crunching and hypothesizing, it seems as if some of these things are more than likely to be occurring within the year. Don’t count on everything, as we couldn’t possibly have them all correct, and definitely don’t imagine that we’re quoting some hidden industry information. We’re not here to rumormonger, but only to look at what we feel is the realistic future. So, what exactly do we feel are some of the unannounced handheld happenings in 2007?
New Super Mario Bros. 2: The New-er
This is the most beautiful instance of how development time for handheld titles being shorter than a normal games development time is going to be beneficial to gamers. New Super Mario Bros. is still racking up sales around the world, but expect Nintendo to capitalize on never letting those sales falter. Just as sales for New Super Mario Bros. should probably be wrapping up, and we do say probably, sometime around next fall; expect New Super Mario Bros. 2 to be making its way to store shelves. This is THE DS game that Nintendo wants to have available for Holiday ’07, and do you think they don’t already know that? The announcement for this release will probably come sooner than later, and perhaps something could be revealed as soon as GDC in March. Mr. Miyamoto will be giving a keynote address, and it is just at moments like that, in which big bombs like this game tend to drop onto the radar.
Estimated Release: Fall/Winter 2007
Metroid DS. Dread Samus? Dreary Silence? Dropped Suit?
The announcement that Metroid fans have been waiting years for in 2007? Sure, why not? 2007 could very well be the Year of the Samus for all we know; and as far as we do know, it already is. Metroid Prime 3 will be released sometime in 2007 for Wii, Super Metroid, most realistically the series’ crowning achievement will undoubtedly hit the Wii’s Virtual Console at some point, and the time is finally ripe for Metroid DS to make its shocking debut. The interesting debate is of course, what type of game will Metroid DS be? Will it be a return to the 2D Metroid worlds that set the standard for the series, and that old-school fans are pining for, or will it be in the vein of Metroid Prime, or Metroid Prime Hunters? We’ve got our money on the return to 2D, as Nintendo has seemingly been comfortable going that route with almost all of their other popular franchises. If GDC isn’t the time for Metroid DS to appear, then expect it soon after, perhaps at the Min-E3 conference. Although this game will probably be announced in 2007, this is a title that could realistically find release a little later, maybe slipping into 2008.
Estimated Release: Winter 2007/Spring 2008
Kid Icarus DS – The One from Left Field
The announcement that is eating at our core is probably the one we’ll least likely be seeing, but we can’t help but feel as if something is up. Nintendo’s playing a pretty sly game including Pit, otherwise known as Kid Icarus, in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, and being so hasty in releasing the original to the Virtual Console in Japan. Nintendo has Kid Icarus on the mind, and we’ve got a feeling it isn’t just because they were feeling nostalgic. The Kid Icarus franchise is going to be making a very exalted, and much deserved return to the forefront of gaming, but alas, will it be for the Wii, or for the DS? The truth is, if the game is happening at all, it will probably be on the Wii. However, pending the success of Kid Icarus Wii, or Kid Icarus DS, whichever comes first, the game will surely appear on the opposite system in time. This hypothesis does have some pretty concrete facts on which to stand, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the loftiest of the bunch. Here’s hoping that our whining at least wins over someone important.
Estimated: Fall 2007 (Most likely on Wii)
PSP Redesign? No. Price-Drop? Yes
A little different than game announcements, is the announcement that Sony is going to be required to make sometime this coming year about the state of their handheld system. While many fear the announcement might require a priest of some sort, and an audience garbed in all black, that probably isn’t the announcement we’ll be seeing. The state of the PSP is probably going to be a little like the State of the Union, in which everyone says really good things about the past and the future, but never dares to mention the hideous, glaring faults that are actually eating away at their very souls. Somewhere in that announcement Sony will HAVE to officially announce a price-drop for their hardware. If they continue to refuse, then truthfully, retailers are probably going to start dropping the price themselves in order to push units, and be hit with less of a loss than they otherwise would. Expect the price-drop sometime in 2007, but more interestingly, we wouldn’t hold out hope for the redesign that fans are clamoring for, and that the system really needs. Sony plays the redesign game rarely, and more often than not, years after the console’s release.
Estimated: Summer 2007
Probability Price-Drop: 85%
Probability Redesign: 10%
The rest of 2007 is going to be filled with all sorts of other announcements that we haven’t yet been able to foresee, or potentially foresee, or even imagine because of their sheer outlandishness. Luckily, we can think of a few more (slightly outrageous) things that 2007 might be known for come 2008, and here’s the quick list:
Pokemon Diamond/Pearl cause riots upon their US release and bring about the apocalypse, albeit, a very cute and charming apocalypse. Probability: 65%
Another Sonic Rush game is announced for the DS, and it is again very good, continuing the proof that anyone can make a good Sonic game these days, just not Team Sonic. Probability: 85%
When Maple Story DS launches North Korea abandons all communistic traits and surrenders to South Korea, with the conditions of surrender that all North Koreans receive a free year’s subscription to the game. Kim Jong-Il becomes the next person in a long line of Korean fatalities from those who refuse to stop playing video games past the 36-straight-hour mark. Probability: 10%
No less than four Mega Man games are released amidst the various handheld consoles, and all of them are, as expected, very average. Probability: 90%
Sega FINALLY announces some version of House of the Dead for the DS. Yeah, we’re kidding. The world is not that awesome. Probability: 5%
I am given a raise, a penthouse, and Shigeru Miyamoto’s home phone number, to call and discuss a few plans about 2008. Probability: 100% … guaranteed to never, ever happen. Well, at least the raise bit; me and Shiggy party all the time!
Anything else that seems like it will be making an appearance in 2007? Will it be the year of Castlevania, or the year of Final Fantasy? Will Reggie kick more ass, but take less names? Let me know what you think, or why you think we're wrong.
The original feature can also be checked out on Modojo right here.
A direct inspiration of Retronauts stellar exploration into retro game music, I've since gone and explored the vast netspace searching for an outlet where I could do the same. Luckily, I discovered www.vgmusic.com, and I've since been rocking casually to the long lost art of the .MIDI. It kills me to realize that this music is being replaced in video games, because it truly was an artform. Inspring an emotion with nothing more than cheesy synthesizers on hand is one damn impressive feat. Nowadays games ship with licensed rock garbage, so we can listen to Good Fucking Charlotte EVERY SINGLE TIME. Bleh! I'll accept licensing for Ouendan and the occasional moments it does us good, but from an overall perspective, it is not a very pleasing alternative.
However, The full-on symphony thing is acceptable, and it's hard to argue that it isn't the best direction for games; but in some places it just doesn't fit, and that is where .MIDI should always be. To hold up the little handheld adventure, or the occasional action game. I'd say it works for puzzle games as well, but Lumines and similar titles are proving that full-blown music is something that can change puzzling experiences profoundly.
Anyways, by all means jam out to some of the supreme .MIDI pieces I was able to discover. I was thinking this could be something I did weekly, but well, let's see if I can even do it next week before I start claiming I'll do it for all weeks until the end of time. Also, be wary of the occasional feedback reverb type thing at the beginnings of the songs. I don't know why it is there, but it is loud and painful to the ears.
Please copy and paste the links to your address bar. VGMusic broke my heart by not allowing me to hotlink.
A Few Selections from the GBA and DS:
Mother 3 - What Now? - http://www.vgmusic.com/music/console/nintendo/gba/Zenkusa_-_Mother3Jpn_WhatNow.mid
Mother 3 - Accelerando - Battle Theme - http://www.vgmusic.com/music/console/nintendo/gba/M3_Accelerando.mid
Mother 3 - Nifty Battle Theme - http://www.vgmusic.com/music/console/nintendo/gba/M3_NiftyBattle.mid
Metroid: Zero Mission - Norfair - http://www.vgmusic.com/music/console/nintendo/gba/MetroidZeroMission-Norfair.mid
Kirby Canvas Curse - Drawcia Sorceress - http://www.vgmusic.com/music/console/nintendo/ds/t_k_41.mid
F-Zero Climax - Illusion - http://www.vgmusic.com/music/console/nintendo/gba/F-Zero_Climax_-_Illusion_V1_1.mid
One of the most impressive things about .MIDI, is that it is one of the few examples where the best isn't always yet to come. Some of the tracks on the OG Game Boy are more impressive than songs on the Advance, or even the DS. That could mean the art is dying, or that it is so complex that now that we're able to do something else, few are willing to take the time to explore what all can be done with .MIDI. At least Mother 3 is a good showing that modern .MIDI music can still be more than throwaway tracks.
I'm only beginning to discover how awesome some of these songs are, so definitely expect more on this front as it develops.
It's finally time to break the photographic seal on this technological masterpiece currently sitting behind me. The whole "picture = 1000 words" thing applies here, so I'll just jump right in. However, do note, some of the photos look rather grainy and plain bunk, particularly the DVD shot. That is not anything but a shitty digicam, with a shitty zoom function. Please allow me the pains of such a camera, you see, I sort of spent all my money on ... you know, something else.
This is the all-encompassing home theater masterpiece I've concocted. It actually looks small from this angle, but in reality it seems to take up more space. The basic contents are:
Westinghouse 32" HDTV - (Up to 1080i resolution)
Yamaha 5.1 Audio/Video Surround Sound Receiver with DD, and DTS
Phillips Progressive Scan Upconverting DVD Player - (Up to 1080i resolution and hacked to all region)
Microsoft Xbox 360
Sony Playstation 2
... and a satellite receiver and system selector. Although, I don't suppose those matter.
This is how you break in gaming on an HDTV. There is no other way.
Zooming ... I think it seems around this size when I'm playing most of the time. The first pictures were probably from close to 12 feet, whereas this seems closer to my normal playing distance of 5 or 6 feet.
The opposite angle and the dashboard. Notice the DVD shelf lingering in the corner. That is pretty much what makes the room seem crowded I think.
... and from a more dead-on viewpoint. Do you see wire Hell back there? I dare not look. Zatoichi is chilling there and saying, "You dare look at the wiresplosion behind me! I'll cut you. I'll cut you right in half monkey-whore." Yeah, Zatoichi totally said stuff like that. He's hard.
Well, if I'm going to be bragging here. This is probably noteworthy.
The Xbox 360 is on component, the DVD player on HDMI, but the freaking Wii is temporarily still stuck on composite. Although, you couldn't tell when looking at the menu. It's so bright and clear that it literally lights up my room like a lighthouse.
I don't care how useful it actually is, this is the coolest weather system ever.
Ummm ... stay warm. I don't know why I took this picture.
Yes, you're goddamn right it is. I've spent $50 in one evening so far. This is going to be dangerous to my financial situation if both the VC and the XBLA end up having consecutive "good weeks."
I think the zoom ruined this screen, but I'll be damned if I can even explain how glorious this looks in 1080i. There just aren't words. I'm told there is a Man Law, and this Man Law states:
"Any man purchasing an HDTV, who does in fact contain within him two testicles, must break in said HDTV (According only to the realm of film.) with Gladiator. If a man attempts to justify not breaking in said HDTV with Gladiator, and instead suggests other films including but not limited to Die Hard, Rocky, Rambo, Terminator, or any other franchise seemingly suited to this endeavor, that man, no matter his justification, is demanded to forfeit one testicle, and be henceforth called Katie for the duration of A. The HDTV's lifespan. or B. The remittance of his foolhardy original opinion and acceptance of Gladiator as the single film worthy of deflowering high definition. This is Man Law. So it is written, so shall it be done."
That's all she wrote. I had so much work to do instead of making this post, but obviously my priorities aren't skewed at all.
Just wanted to announce my first post from the Wii internet browser. It''s not terribly cumbersome to post, but I think I'll stick with a keyboard for most activity. Browsing, on the other hand, is pretty solid, if a little blurry at times. I even watched the Youtube'd extended Sonic and the Secret Rings trailer through Wii's Opera browser. If I zoomed in enough, and waggled the Wiimote a little, it was as if I was already enjoying what is looking fairly must buy. I'm off to the VC, expect an interesting photo-laden post from me very soon.