With Christmas just under two weeks away nearly all of the major game releases for the year 2009 are now out. As expected, September brought on a steady shower of anticipated new titles, culminating in the annual November downpour of blockbusters, with Modern Warfare 2 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii standing out among them. Scattered trickles remained this week, but for the most part everyone's Christmas wishlist is now set. Let the excited giggling begin!
Of course, not every highly anticipated game made the Christmas deadline. Some that were originally scheduled to be ready were pushed back, whether due to falling behind schedule in finishing or to avoid all the competition, which seemed especially heavy this year (Modern Warfare 2.) In fact, this post-holiday period looks to be more exciting for Wii owners (or at least me) than the run up to December. Whether they were pushed back or not, these upcoming games have the potential to give the Wii one hell of a start to 2010.
I think a lot of people have been ignoring this one, at least if there are a lot of people like me. Up until about two or three months ago I'd assumed Crystal Bearers was going to largely follow the multiplayer mold of the three previous retail Crystal Chronicles games. I'd managed to play the first one on Gamecube a handful of times when my group of friends managed to get the requisite hardware together, and it was fun. The two follow-up games on the DS reduced the accessory overhead and added online play, but reviews weren't as kind to them, and I'd pretty much written off the series.
Then the magazine and online previews started hitting for Crystal Bearers. The September '09 Nintendo Power cover story mentions the game's troubled development history, with changes in direction and at one point even a rumor that the game had been canceled. Given that situation and the fact that two other games bearing the Crystal Chronicles name were also in development it's little wonder then that Crystal Bearers hasn't been on many minds. What grabbed me was the revelation that it's not the multiplayer-focused dungeon crawl of the past titles, but a single player action game revolving around Wii remote-controlled telikinetic powers. "You mean you have to use your hands? That's like a baby's toy!" some of you are now saying. Yeah, there are times I don't feel like waving around the remote, either, but if Crystal Bearers can pull it off well, as several games before it have (Lost Winds, NyxQuest, No More Heroes) it could be a very good time indeed.
Of the games I'm writing about here this is possibly the most anticipated, and the one I'm most likely to pick up at release. From the beginning of middle school until the beginning of college I hadn't played a Capcom fighting game since Street Fighter II Turbo on the SNES. The biggest reason? I had a Nintendo 64. The system saw 3 paltry releases from Capcom, two of them ports of PS1 games and one of them a version of Tetris. I loved the 64, but I couldn't help wondering what the hell the deal was when I thumbed through Electronic Gaming Monthly on the newsstands and saw things like Darkstalkers and Street Fighter Alpha 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom.
This drought in Nintendo fanboy land was finally ended by Capcom vs. SNK 2 getting ported to the Gamecube, and while it proved to be the sole Capcom fighting entry on the system it was enough for my starved heart. In fact, more than enough, as over half the cast were unfamiliar to me. Aside from Terry Bogard and Mai Shiranui I didn't recognize anyone on the SNK side, and there were even a few Capcom characters I couldn't identify. It didn't take long, however, to learn more about them and fall in love just by fighting as and against them. And now, with Tatsunoko vs. Capcom I feel a little déjŕ vu: Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix, Street Fighter IV, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2 were all released (or re-released) in this past year, with none of them touching the Wii, a blow that was even harder to take with the knowledge that there was a new fighter on Wii that looked like it would never leave Japan. But now, here it comes, another Capcom Vs. fighting game where I get to fall in love with a cast I know nearly nothing about. Can't wait.
My second most anticipated game, which, according to Amazon, is releasing a day after my #1? Good God! I'm honestly not likely to pick this up until later, as I'm something of an asshole and know the price is likely to drop quickly and that short term ideal matters more to me than the higher concept of supporting games (and creators) that take risks, but the first game left such an impression on me that I will be picking up the sequel in the not-too-distant future. I've gone on a media blackout for the game, ignoring previews, trailers, and the like. As Tron Knotts noted, director/auteur Suda51 is great at packing in the surprises, and I want to see it all in the proper context. For those who know nothing about the first game: bloody, funny, and weird. Go rent it at least, the risk that you may not care for it is far outweighed by how much you might enjoy it.
The non-licensed standard-bearer of the long-lived Mystery Dungeon series extraneous-hyphens-joke for the attention-paying reader, Shiren sees its third installment on Wii, the second installment to make it to the States after the port of the SNES game for the Nintendo DS. I've never played any of the Mystery Dungeon games, and I've only played a little bit of Nethack, enough to see the underlying appeal but not quite enough to push through the learning curve. However, Spelunky has had me in it's grasp since version 1.0 came out a few months ago, and through repated enjoyable murders may have instilled in me the proper mindset with which to approach more traditional roguelikes. This recent obsession combined with Atlus handling the localization (I'm one of the many converted to the cult by Persona 3 ) has resulted in Shiren grabbing my attention. I only hope I can muster the required patience and not get totally distracted by other games if/when I decide to play it.
You play as a boy in a post-apocalyptic world chasing after a girl who keeps running away for you or keeps getting torn away from you or something. And there's Wii remote-as-flashlight gameplay, and some creepy stuff. What little I've seen so far can be summed up with three adjectives: sad, mysterious, and beautiful. My only problem is I'd feel guilty if I tackled it before some other games in my current RPG backlog. I hope it stays on sale long enough for me to give it a shot.
Much like Crystal Bearers I'd written this one off based on the name alone. Pokémon and Monster Rancher were the automatic associations my brain made upon reading the two word title. It wasn't long ago that I finally learned Monster Hunter isn't like either of those games, being real-time, action-based, and with a focus on the player characters personally slaughtering animals for food and armor rather than training them for cockfights. I have a feeling the fervent Monster Hunter fanbase has had to put up with that kind of ignorance a lot when trying to talk to people about it. No word yet on whether Capcom will implement the same fee system for the big draw of online multiplayer that they do in Japan, or make it free, or come up with something else, but I can see myself getting sucked into the single player alone. Good old addictive quest-for-better-stuff gameplay.
The graphics are pretty damn good for a Wii game as well.
Bad Dudes, Caveman Ninja, Burgertime, and Magical Drop III are going to be the major draw of this one. I love arcade collections, especially the ones that let me recall long-forgotten games like The Super Spy, which I didn't remember the title of for years and thought it had been a licensed James Bond game. Also encouraging to see these collections still coming out at bargain prices when digital distribution lets them sell games piecemeal for potentially much more. I honestly thought the Virtual Console was going to be the death of these when the Wii launched, and I'm happy to be wrong.
The Williams Collection was great, featuring the best videogame recreations of classic pinball tables since... well, ever. This collection is slightly less exciting, being that Gottlieb is generally acknowledged to be second fiddle of pinball companies next to the designs of the Williams team, and the fact that this is a port of the collection that appeared on the Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox several years ago, AND the Wii version has been out in Europe as Gottlieb Pinball Classics since the end of 2006. It should still be a great way to scratch the itch for those who've played Williams Collection to death, and includes three more tables than the earlier versions as well, enough to make it worth picking up over the other versions at the budget price.
Never did get around to the first Endless Ocean, and then it went out of print relatively quickly. A small bother, as the sequel looks to expand upon the underwater exploration premise considerably. I haven't seen much about it since Nintendo revealed it in their fall press conference last year, and it only recently received the new subtitle and a release date. Might make the perfect complement to Shiren as a way to relax after dying and losing your godlike sword.
Game:Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney From: Capcom
I have all three of the Phoenix Wright games on DS already, but the WiiWare ports are fantastic news for anyone who never tracked them down. As a bonus, maybe they'll fix all the typos in Justice For All. For the full effect, please start with the first game!
Game:Bit.Trip 4 From: Gaijin Games (published by Aksys)
Holmes, you dirty tease. Oh well, I still have to finish Beat and get the other two games as well.
Game:Cave Story From: Nicalis
A man can dream.
WHEW! I hope some of you are as excited as I am about this upcoming lineup, because that sure looks like a lot of words all typed up in Notepad. There have been times when it seemed the interesting Wii releases were few and far between, but those look to be a distant memory until the usual summer doldrums. Whatever happened to pack Q1 2010 with so much to look forward to on the platform is fantastic. And I haven't yet mentioned Sin & Punishment 2 or Metroid: Other M, which don't yet have release dates. Then almost a year from now there's Super Mario Galaxy 2!
What are you looking forward to? I probably missed some.
About one-and-a-half years ago at the San Diego Comic Con I met cartoonist and Nickelodeon Magazine comics editor Dave Roman at the Slave Labor Graphics booth. I ended up talking to him for quite a while on each day of the con, and it didn't take too long for the conversation to turn to games. It turns out he's a pretty big gamer as well, so big in fact that he had collaborated with some of his friends to produce an anthology of comics and fan art with the proceeds going towards Child's Play. Life Meter was the name, and he directed me to another booth where I picked up both volumes. Quality and individual taste vary, but overall I liked it a lot, and it's a fun idea.
Anyway, onto the POINT, as given away in the title: Life Meter Vol. 3 is in the works, and they are taking submissions. I promised to spread the word, and anyone who has visited our little Destructoid recently knows that the community has more than its fair share of artistically-inclined gamers. So, if you've got the time and the wherewithal, make something and send it in! The deadline for final art is May 1st.
Some more submission details, reposted from the original:
Read over our SUBMISSION INFO:
-The book's dimensions will be 6x9 inches. Please feel free to have your art be larger but proportionately in scale. -Deadline for FINAL ART for Book 3 is May 1st. -We encourage people to send pitch ideas for feedback before final art. -Comics are preferred over pinups! -We will reject stories that are well drawn but poorly lettered or illegible. Web resolution will not be good enough for print, so make sure you read the specs. -There's no guarantees or promises of what will make it into the book. -Contributors who are included in the book will get 1 complimentary copy and the ability to buy more at cost. -Just like the previous, volume, all profits for Life meter go to Child's Play. *************************************************************************************************************************************
It'd be neat to see something in there from someone around here. Good luck!
Well, we finally got Club Nintendo in North America, but there will always be reasons to remain jealous of Japan. Toymaker Banpresto is currently selling a life-sized Mr. Saturn plush, coming in at just under half a meter (4 apples) tall. I can't read Japanese at all but from what I can make out on the site (and the Google-translated link on Offworld, below) it looks like a limited edition of 500 will be on sale until the end of February. They're priced at Ľ12,000, or roughly $120 US, not surprising given the limited run and the size of the thing. Seriously, look at those hands!:
I finally got to play EarthBound in the middle of last year by borrowing a friend's copy, and enjoyed it immensely. Sadly, even if I had the money I don't have the space for a gigantic Mr. Saturn in my house, but for any superfans that do, wire money to a friend in Japan as soon as possible and have them put a reservation down.
Man, I can just picture someone selling this with a complete copy of EarthBound on eBay for a bucketload of cash.
Seriously, tag 25 people? That's an incredible exponential rate of growth. I almost didn't do this either because I didn't want to push any of the videogame related blogs off of the front page, but then I realized that wouldn't be a problem and it's been pretty fun spying on everyone else.
1. I was on the Academic Team/Quiz Bowl team my junior and senior year in high school. It's basically the only extracurricular I participated in. We won the division in our league both years but couldn't make it to the final round in the playoffs. Senior/varsity was crazy, as despite being a brilliant bunch of bastards the team shrunk by about 50% by the end as members failed to meet the GPA requirement or decided to drop out. Still, fun times. I'd bone up on my literature knowledge by walking through the fiction section in the school library and simply browsing the spines so I could associate the author with the book. I also recall being the first to ring in in quite a few of our matches. We even did an exhibition match taping for the county educational channel:
As you can see, I also had long hair in high school.
2. I lost two spelling bees in elementary school. Both times I was tripped up by animal names. The first time it was "oxen" (O-X-A-N) and the second time it was "caterpillar" (C-A-T-T-E-R-P-I-L-L-A-R.) I don't know why I over-thought on "oxen." Hell, I think that had even been a word on my spelling list in 3rd grade, and I sure as shit should have known it thanks to Oregon Trail. I doubt I've ever misspelled either word since.
3. I graduated college with a BS in Mathematics almost 3 years ago and my first (and only) job out of college was manning a booth at the county fair part time with my sister for about a month right after. I've been a drain on society and my parents ever since. I really don't know what I want to do with my life, and I've been too lazy to figure it out. Incidentally, I was voted "most likely to succeed" in middle school.
4. I'm a packrat from a family of packrats and I've held on to a ton of shit over the years. I need to invite Topher over so we can have a yard sale. My room is a terrible mess. I have a ton of crap from Comic Con over the past 3 years that I need to just throw away but something keeps me from doing so.
While I'm namedropping editors, I'll take this moment to say my Goodwill is almost as awesome as Dyson's.
5. I grew up listening to classic rock, and that's pretty much the music I like. My dad is a huge Beatles fan. Classic rock radio is terrible in general, though. I actually like a lot of music but I'm not a huge enough music nerd to seek things out. I was really big on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in high school, and in the last couple of years I've concentrated on David Bowie. There seems to be a Bowie resurgence or something hanging in the collective nerd consciousness right now beyond "Labyrinth." Maybe I only notice it because I've become a bigger fan, but between Venture Bros. and Flight Of The Conchords and what have you I'm seeing a large fandom in my existing media/internet social circles.
6. One book that affected my view of the world to an unknown but significant degree is Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, which is something of a geek classic. I received it as a gift from my senior English teacher (who I TA'd for and thus became somewhat close with,) oddly enough shortly after I had been introduced to it by one of my friends (who was in that class and on Academic Team.) There's some heady mathematical content, and I myself didn't quite grasp all of it the first and only time I read through it (it's a big fucking book and I need to read it again now that I'm a bit wiser,) but it's wonderfully written. I highly recommend it. Here's one of the most clever passages in the book.
7. I don't drive. I need to learn how. I never had the impetus to learn when I turned 16, as I wasn't really into going places or hanging out with friends (the few close ones I had) outside of school. Laziness and an ability to cope with what I needed to do without having to learn have prevented me from getting around to it. In fact, I have two sisters and a brother, we're all adults now, and none of us have learned how to drive.
8. My short acting resume includes playing The Big Bad Wolf in a musical production of The Three Little Pigs in kindergarten. Somewhere there is a videotape. The acting bug never really bit me afterward, but recently I finally saw the film version of Sweeney Todd and faint stirrings have arisen. The songs are great.
9. I started gaming when I was 2 or less on my parents' Atari. Frostbite was one of my favorites. I was excited when my dad brought home an NES with Super Mario Bros., Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, and Q*Bert, but then dismayed to learn that in order to help pay for the NES he had sold the Atari and most of the games to a friend! I got over it pretty quickly, but I recall that shock. It's probably part of why I never ever sell games I get, even if I never play them. I still have a Centipede and a Donkey Kong cartridge, though, which somehow escaped the sale.
10. Things that scared me when I was young:
-I freaked out when I went on the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. I was doing OK until the part where A GHOST SITS IN THE CAR WITH YOU and then I totally lost my shit.
-I also got a tad freaked out when we saw Captain Eo on that same trip. I had the 3-D glasses off for most of it, but then I put them on right when it cut to the elephant guy and the extreme close-up was too much for me. I didn;t wear the glasses through the rest of it.
-Most embarrassing: I saw the 1986 film version of Maurice Sendak's Nutcracker and the crazy multi-headed Rat King scared me so much that I was afraid he would rise up out of a hole in the bathroom floor while I was in there alone. As a result, I would not go to the bathroom for weeks unless one of my parents watched me. This and the crazy intestinal torture I forced myself through probably explains a lot about who I am today.
As someone who hasn't taken the plunge on an Xbox 360 yet, I've been occasionally checking the official Braid website for news on the PC version. It had been scheduled for the holiday season but was moved back to February or March so as not to get lost in the blockbuster insanity that was Q4 2008.
Anyway, checking the official blog the other day informed me that creator Jonathan Blow started a contest this past week. The prize is one copy of Braid on Xbox Live Arcade to the first 20 people who correctly identify from what games the 10 screenshots he posted were taken. Apparently if less than 20 people manage to identify all of them he'll pick winners from those who got the next highest score and so on until they've all been given away, so give it your best shot. No word on whether anyone has managed to identify them all yet.
I got #1, 2, 5, and 7 I believe (still a bit iffy on 5.) Most of the shots are pretty difficult--if you don't know right away what game it's from, you're going to have a hard time guessing. Except for #1. Everyone here should know #1. He mentions something about doing another contest after the PC version comes out.
Please refrain from posting answers in the comments. Have fun!
The rumor just came out that the DSi will be arriving in North America in less than 4 months, fitting neatly into the window that Satoru Iwata hinted at just before the system launched in Japan. Somehow I missed this comment and had held the earlier statement by President Meat in the back of my mind, and all this time I'd been prepared to see new hardware on these shores in October at the earliest.
Now I'm caught with my pants down and I'm freaking out.
Not really, but please, feel free to entertain that mental image if it excites you. I'll wait.
Back? I'll continue. One thing this news means is that the days of the GBA cartridge slot in the bottom of the DS are numbered, and it's not as high a number as I'd thought. Many gamers aren't happy with this and have ruled out purchasing the DSi as a replacement for their current Lite or original models any time soon. I'm one of them, but not being able to play my GBA games on the toilet is only part of the story. I'd miss the Rumble Pak.
While I'm sure I'm not the only one, it's likely that many of you wouldn't miss the Rumble Pak for the simple reason that you probably don't own one or more than a few of the games that use it. You're missing out, dammit, and here are a few reasons why:
Metroid Prime Pinball
For those like me who actually have a Rumble Pak, you probably obtained it bundled with Metroid Prime Pinball. It's also quite probable that this game proceeded to shack up in the slot in the top of your DS for several months, as Pinball is one of the finest pick-up-and-play games ever. It wisely enough also serves as the perfect showcase for the Rumble Pak. A number of actions in the game result in force feedback, the most common being just about every time Samus collides with something on the table. What this does is give you the feeling that you're holding an actual pinball table in your hands: You have both hands on the DS in sort of the same way you hold them against a full sized machine and action plays out in the space between them, both visually on the screens and physically from the Rumble Pak. I don't feel I've ever felt force feedback in any other game that so closely mimics the real experience, and a big part of that has to do with that synergy brought on by the positioning of the elements on the DS.
To get a better idea, contrast this with how rumble works in Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection for Wii: the left hand holds the nunchuk, right hand holds the Wii remote, only the remote has rumble capability, and the field of play is a screen that's likely several feet away. It's a great game, but I play with the rumble off and don't miss it at all, whereas Metroid Prime Pinball loses quite a bit if I don't have the Rumble Pak in.
It's a bit of a shame there aren't many pinball games for the DS.
You wouldn't expect a grid-based puzzle game to bother at all with rumble. I didn't. And I sure as hell didn't expect that it would enhance the experience in any way. Picross DS, in addition to being another unforeseen addiction of a game, proved to be a pleasant surprise on both counts.
On a basic level, the Rumble Pak turns solving a puzzle into mathematical bubblewrap. Every "punching" or marking of a square is punctuated with a satisfying little kick. The best moments come when a puzzle has a high number in one of the rows or columns, signifying that you must punch out a bunch of continuous squares in that row or column. These moments are especially great if you are female and have the DS in your lap.*
Picross DS doesn't call it a day there, however. The puzzles are grouped together in different themes (animals, vehicles, flowers, and so on.) In addition to dictating what the solution to each puzzle will resemble, each theme comes with a skin for the puzzle board that changes it into a different material (water, metal, wood, grass, etc.), and when you punch out a square the Rumble Pak actually reacts differently depending on the material. Granted, a large part of the difference in perception is likely due to the distinct animation cues, but the vibration ties in perfectly with these, and the difference between the quick thunk of chipping away at stone versus the constant whirr of mowing away a grass tile is clear by feel alone. It adds a level of character that helps keep a game that doesn't change much throughout the whole experience from becoming too repetitive.** Much like Metroid Prime Pinball, I really do feel like I'm missing something if I don't have the Rumble Pak in the slot for this one.
*I'd imagine. And I do. **I wish the Rumble Pak could do the same for my sentence structure.
Space Invaders Extreme
One of the complaints about the Rumble Pak when it first came out was the level of noise that comes out of the thing when it's doing its job. For some reason it's a noisy little gadget, much louder than vibration functions typically are in console controllers. But what has the potential to be an annoyance in most games turns out to be an asset to the experience of Space Invaders Extreme.
Like Rez before it, Space Invaders Extreme's sound design replaces traditional shot and explosion sound effects with musical tones, marrying the player's action in the game to the soundtrack. Extreme also borrows the techno music and rave-inspired visuals from Rez, along with the use of vibration to provide the physical kick one feels from the beat in a club. Unlike Rez however, vibration on the DS adds one more element: more noise, or more accurately another instrument. Whether by intention or simply a bit of good luck the emphasis on rhythm in Space Invaders Extreme's design takes advantage of the Rumble Pak's volume and turns it into part of the experience.
It's kind of strange that some of the best uses of force feedback I've come across have been for a handheld system. Then again, perhaps it isn't so strange. I alluded to the uniqueness of handheld games being, well, experiences held in your hands, and maybe simple proximity strengthens the connection between vibration and what happens on the screen. Too bad the picture is looking quite grim for the chance of any future DS releases making good use of the Rumble Pak.