Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Smash Bros. Brawl Roster is Out

If you follow gaming news whatsoever you probably know this already. This game is being released in Japan this week, and just today people have finally gotten their hands on the game and have started unlocking characters. I'm just plain excited that Game & Watch will be returning. I'm much less excited that Marth is also making a comeback. I also heard a rumor that he'll be FASTER. Great, just what we need.

If you care about Brawl, google the roster and take a look.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I do not want a Playstation 3 a little bit less now

I do not want a Playstation 3. It cost WAY too much for a game console; it's got a built-in blu-ray player that I do not need nor want (and which is next to useless without an HDTV); and it has very few games out, or coming, that interest me. With all that said, though, I find that I do not want one a little less every now and then. In a year or two, it might actually appeal to me enough to warrant a purchase, providing the cost is low enough.

Now, I've heard a useful formula for deciding if a console is worth a purchase, and I'll try to apply that formula here and see if it works out. The formula is that you take the cost of the console, and compare it to the combined cost of all the must-have games on that console. If the cost of games is the same or more than the cost of the console, then the console is worth a purchase. The Wii for me is already well past that mark; at $250, I've already got Mario Galaxy ($50), Metroid Prime 3 ($50), Zelda ($50), Zack & Wiki ($50), and Resident Evil 4 ($50) to add up to $250 total. I'm leaving out lots of amazing games, and not counting some excellent Virtual Console games like Sin & Punishment, too.

So, let's apply this to the PS3. Right now, it cost about $400. How many games are on it that I would like to play? Virtua Fighter 5 ($30); Assassin's Creed ($50) (although I can get that for the PC, it will be guaranteed to be a poor port with poor optimization); Warhawk ($50); maybe Uncharted ($60). Ok, that's $190. I'll go as far as to factor in future games that I will want to play. The Force Unleashed ($60) (there's also a wii version, but it seems like it just won't be the same game, and being the Star Wars geek I am I just need to play every major Star Wars game eventually); Ico 3 ($60) (I've fallen in love with Shadow of the Colossus and I've already ordered Ico; I can't get enough of this development team. If Ico 3 turns out to be nearly as good as Colossus is, it alone is a huge incentive to get a PS3). Ok, that brings the total up to $310. Still not enough, and I just can't think of any more games that I'd really like to play.

Here's a few other factors that I like about the PS3, though: wireless, rechargable controllers; this is something I wish the Wii remote had, the ability to plug in the controller and let it charge, or just play it plugged in. Very smart idea. Next, free online service. As a PC gamer, I just can't believe that Microsoft charges for an online service that is no better than Steam on the PC (and in many ways worse), and yet they have the audacity to charge money for it. You aren't paying them for much more than content hosting for XBL Marketplace, and again Steam does the same thing for free with their hosting. Microsoft does NOT need nor deserve the money, and the idiots that actually pay for the service aren't helping much. I hear that the PS Network is pretty good, with some good games on their online store, and it's free, like an online gaming service ought to be. Score a point for Sony right there. Next point: as a PC gamer, I can't do FPSes without my precious mouse aim and keyboard shortcuts. Well, the PS3 is pretty much the ONLY console to offer mouse and keyboard support for FPSes, the only one so far being Call of Duty 4 (as far as I know). If this becomes standard for all their games, I could definitely see myself buying some FPSes on there instead of my PC, since my PC only has so much hard drive space. Most modern FPSes are going cross-platform with PC, 360, and PS3, and if I can still play them with a keyboard and mouse, I'd probably prefer the PS3 to my PC, since they would look better, I would conserve hard drive space, and it's one step closer to losing my dependence on windows and switching entirely to Linux.

So, that's a LOT of points against the PS3. Enough that I do not want one right now. However, I'm seeing more and more points FOR it, and fewer points against it, all the time. In another two years, maybe, I could see myself buying one. To satisfy my equation, the price would need to drop to around $300 (and there are rumors of exactly that already), and/or I would need to find about $90 worth of amazing games that really make me want one. Let's see what happens.

As a side note, I would never buy a 360 in a billion years. Mostly because I hate Microsoft, but also because (a) FPSes with dual-analog controls suck (see my earlier blog post on the subject), (b) don't expect me to pay you money just so I can play my games online, and (c) the darn things break every two weeks.

Update: Instead of lowering the price of the PS3, Sony is continuing to be incredibly stupid by keeping the price the same, but increasing the hard drive space. Gamers like myself are NOT saying "I'm ok with paying $400 for a game console, but I just wish it had more hard drive space." We're saying "I'm not going to pay $400 for a game console, no matter what it comes with!." I'd be more willing to buy a $250 20 gigabyte PS3 than a $400 100 gigabyte PS3. Honestly, what do you need all that space for? It's not a PC. The Wii has 512 megabytes of space and while it's probably too little, it's also not bad at all as long as you don't download a hundred N64 games. Sony, you're stupid.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Oh yeah, and the gameplay is awesome too.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Killer 7

Here's a great example of style over substance. Looking at the game, it seems unique, with a weird story and environment, and a surreal style. It's about something with suicide bombers attacking the world, and a group of assassin's being hired to stop them. I think. The game really doesn't make much sense. It goes for the cell-shaded anime look, which mostly works. So, now that we've got the style out of the way, let's look at the gameplay, because that's the reason I don't like this game.

It's hard to call this an on-rails first-person shooter. It is on rails in the sense that you can only move in certain paths. However, you can choose which way to go at hallway intersections and different doors, and it can get fairly nonlinear in large levels. There is only one button to move forward, and one button to turn around. Other than walking along set paths, you'll occasionally hear crazy laughter. At this point, you switch to first-person mode and shoot terrorists before they can rush at you and blow up. The problem with the shooting mechanic is that you really can't defend yourself. They can pop up right in front of you if you're running down a hallway, and by the time you try to shoot them, they just blow up. You can't back off or dodge or shield yourself in any way.

One of the rules of good game design is that you never screw the player. For example, if they mess up a puzzle, you shouldn't have to reload the entire level because you're screwed. If you're surprised by an enemy, you should have some means to defend yourself. That's what adds depth to the gameplay. This is exactly what Killer 7 lacks. If you get surprised by a suicide bomber at close range, you just die. It takes a second or two to even switch into first-person mode and aim properly. Reloading happens when it happens, and you can't do it manually. If you are low on ammo after killing someone, and then start shooting someone else that surprises you, you'll just reload right there and they'll kill you. It's unfair to the player and it's not fun.

Likewise, the puzzles are the tedious unintuitive kind. The kind where you're supposed to either think WAY outside the box, or else just guess random stuff until you get lucky. Not too fun either.

This is another case where reviewers give good scores purely based on a game's appearance. This is a case of just bad game design all around. I hope that the next game by Suda 51, No More Heroes, will be much better, but when it comes out be sure to check that the reviewers ENJOY THE GAMEPLAY, and not just the graphics and style.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Ignis Solus "Burn Alone"

Really magnificent Team Fortress 2 short film about one Pyro alone on 2Fort. Here's the website of the great team who made this: link

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Shadow of the Colossus

Also known as "Oh my god that thing is huge!" this is one of the best games on the PS2, hands down. The game consists entirely of searching out the 16 giant Colossi, one by one; finding its weak point; finding a way to climb onto it; climbing successfully to the weak point(s) without being thrown off; stabbing at the weak point(s) repeatedly without being thrown off, and until the Colossus is dead. Sounds kind of boring and repetitive, but it's really just an amazing experience to climb onto a colossus and climb to its weak point as it tries to buck you off.

The animations are really immersive; seeing your character scramble trying to keep his balance as the massive colossus steps onto the ground, causing the earth to shake all around you, is just a sight to behold. As the colossus tries to throw you off of it, your character will be flung all over the place while madly holding onto a patch of fur or a small groove of armor. The art in this game is off the charts. It is one of the most gorgeous games I've seen, and not through any real technically advanced graphics, but through the art direction. Each moment in this game makes you feel like you're playing within a painting. It's art. It's designed to evoke emotional responses, and I think it succeeds admirably. When you kill a colossus, the music turns somber and you see the majestic beast fall to the ground crying in pain and bleeding profusely, and you really feel bad for what you've done. The music helps this too. As you first see it lumbering in the distance, you'll hear a sad and majestic song play; as you begin to climb it, the music will dynamically change to something upbeat and resolute as you make your way to the weak point. As you kill it, the music will become triumphant yet sad. Perhaps most interesting of all: while riding along in the search for a colossus, there isn't any music. This matches the empty landscape littered with ancient ruins. It's just you and your horse, and the colossi.

Each Colossus has to be taken down a different way. This is really a puzzle game as you try to figure out first how to actually latch onto and begin to climb a colossus, and second how to kill it. Each colossus is unique and so far (I've killed 4 out of the 16) it doesn't get repetitive at all. The first colossus will have you simply climb up its back and stab it in the head, while another might be a bird and require you to find a way to jump into its wings as it swoops low to the ground. On paper the game comes across as a series of boss battles, but that's really what makes it so fun.

To really get this game you need to play it. It's one of the few games that really evokes an emotional response from the player and conveys something that is hard to describe. This game is art, and it's an example of everything that's good about gaming. It's unique, it's fun, it's amazing to look at, and it deserves to be played. I found it for $20 and it's already well worth the money. If you have a PS2, go look for it.

Super Mario Galaxy!

Best Mario game ever made.

One of the best games on the Wii (Zelda and Metroid Prime 3 are so good as well, it's hard to choose among the 3). Fantastic level and gameplay design are standard for Mario, but Nintendo has really outdone itself here.

This game must be played for great justice.