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4:58 PM on 01.19.2012

Fail List: The Console/Platform Wars Will Never Be Over Edition


This blog is about the results of a poll to do with the various gaming platforms that have been around since, well, forever. I have been well aware of how arguments about this matter turn into flamewars. I maybe looking for comments, but I refuse to condone any crass, unnecessary slanging matches about what console/computer makes your penis bigger. If you try to start something, I will do my best to remove any kind of opportunity to troll-feed.

You have been warned.

Everybody has their favourite platform to play on. Whether you were involved in the Sega vs Nintendo battles of the 1990s (involving many a violent image of Mario/Sonic getting his head chopped off by his adversary in a magazine’s letters section) or plumping for the more versatile PC than the ready-to-go console, everyone has their opinion. And they wish to share it.

GamesTM magazine’s website gave their readers and viewers the chance to put their vote on what their favourite gaming platform was late last year. In issue number 118, they published the results. Whilst limiting the number that would be covered in a certain depth to fifteen, the ten page spread also lists what percentage the unlucky outsiders had. Factors to remember about this poll were that voters got five choices to plump for, and although this was an internet vote where the world could contribute, the main contingent of the voters would be expected to be, once again, British.

The results, as the magazine quotes, were ‘shocking’. When I saw first place, I was more than a little surprised, too.

Okay, I’ve stopped here, because I want to calm about 75% of you down. This is only a list. Remember that. Another website by another predominant countries’ magazine might have different results. Two of the top three are predictable entries, and the other can be written off if you are not happy with it. Now, deep breaths. Inhale….and release. Now scroll down and relax.

I said, ‘relax’.

Yes, you.

See? That was surprising! Considering how many broke down and how many votes the Playstation 3 got (half compared to the winner!), you’d think it would be lower. But no, the Microsoft Xbox 360 is GamesTM reader’s favourite console. Explanations? Well, the pie chart on its page dispels any myths about pre-teen fanboy spamming, because they only made up two percent of the vote for the console. Over three-quarters of the 360 votes belonged to gamers 26 years-old and upwards. It was run very close by the SNES (my prediction for the top), which had a huge percentage of the first choice of each gamer, but featured far less as second-to-fifth choice. This polarisation, including decent survival of a first year without many big titles thanks to Gamer Points and backwards compatible play with Halo 2 helped the leader. Along with the expansion of the Grand Theft Auto series to the platform as well as Gears of War, Forza and more Halo, the updated experience of Xbox Live to include both mainstream and hardcore gamers as well as downloadable titles (from established developers as well as independent), those are the reasons GamesTM holds up in support.

And my ideas of the rest of the places? Well, I’m glad the Game Boy and the NES managed to squeeze into the chart, although they were under threat from the Nintendo DS, which was only 0.27% off the original handheld’s standings. It’s proof of how well Nintendo managed to keep their vision on what was important in their portable gaming machines. As for the Wii, it factored only just over 1.5% of the total console gaming vote. The Big N will need to learn from that particular rating.

Interestingly, mobile gaming for Apple is growing well, with iOS getting 6.17% of the handheld vote, close behind the Game Boy Colour and Sony PSP. The Amiga had a lead of almost 5% percent lead from the PC in the gaming computer vote, whilst the poor old Atari ST only got 0.61%. What also intrigued me was that the Dreamcast managed to accumulate double the total votes over the GameCube, as well as matching the favours towards the Playstation 2 two-thirds of the way. I find it a little mindboggling that, although the Dreamcast died a premature death in the West and the games (and not the console) sales were what earned Sega the profits, it didn’t survive even with that amount of support.

So what do you think? Be good, comment nicely and don’t start a flamewar.   read

5:03 PM on 01.08.2012

Predictions: Surfer Girl Not Included

Hello. I’m sure you’ll have guessed by now that this blog will be concerning this week’s musing, regarding what the year 2012 holds for gamers. I’d thought that, rather than focus on just one particular gaming-based idea for the near future, I’d just do a whole number of random topics. I’d thought it would be a bit more fun for me than try and pick one particular idea and squeeze all the issues out of it.

Regarding the title, Surfer Girl was an anonymous feed of information to Destructoid who popped up about a couple of years ago for one or weeks, then disappeared. Maybe Surfer Girl had an accident with a surfboard that left her in a coma, or maybe she was outed by Wikileaks and had to change to a different username. Still, this blog entry will be in honour of this mysterious ‘Deep Throat’ individual (no, nothing to do with the adult film), and the strange way she sailed into, and vanished from, this site.

Note that the following after this paragraph will be less ‘Captain Obvious’ than you would have thought. Yes, there will be a Call of Duty in some shape or form in the coming year. Paul Christoforo will be getting a new job, although he’ll be having to apply for a lot of ones closer to the bottom-rung of employment. No, 2012 won’t be the end of the world. For the rest, I’ll have to explain a bit of the logic taken towards them.

Microsoft and Sony will announce cloud-based gaming abilities in the next generation of consoles

Onlive has pushed the envelope for promoting the streaming of games across the internet in the past year. After getting a lot of positive feedback, from myself included, I’m sure that the renewal of several subscriptions, sales of games and continued promotions will leave them comfortably at their present vocation. This effort to get recognition via adverts and word of mouth will not have gone unnoticed by the established competition in the shape of the traditional gaming-platform, the home console.

Nintendo has already jumped the gun and is prepping the Wii-U, meaning they will not be considering it for a while. The other two big companies have still to give complete details of what is forthcoming (good thing too, I’d like to get some damn use out of my consoles), so they may have room to manoeuvre a few new ideas into the designs. Cloud gaming could be one of them, but I can already see you going oh no they won’t, they’ll have their XBLA/PSN downloads which people will leave safely on the hard-drives and stick to them. Sound argument, but I still believe the developers have the planning to implement them in a valid way.

Microsoft already has the ability to save your game using a cloud system on the Xbox 360. Extra developments to this may mean more free space from smaller hard-drives in future consoles, with the increased room for fans or processing power. There could be more opportunities for the console to multitask with the processor when the internet is doing part of the work for viewing the game. Okay, okay, I’m not fully sure how it works entirely. But console-makers can’t ignore it completely. All it may take is an application to set it up. They simply need an idea to make it relevant in a home console and keep one step ahead of the competition.

Microsoft or Sony staff will mention L.A. Noire and/or Heavy Rain as starting points for their graphics builds for their next platforms

These two games (aside from the Uncharted series) have set the standard for graphics for a while now. Question the amount of gameplay in Heavy Rain if you wish. Argue against the idea of an expensive facial/motion capture process that won’t help speed up the creation of a game long in development. But there is one thing you can’t deny; these games have had enough impact with their visuals to convince the industry that this will be the way forward.

Imagine how much more interactivity can go on and added complexity into both those games on a new platform, and, so long as the gameplay holds up, you may end up with game of the year material. That’s what both sides want to sell their machines and other games, and will be something to pitch to the third party developers.

Metal Gear Rising will scoop up gamer-bile and force chunder-chimps to eat their words

After looking at the latest round of articles regarding the new game from Hideo Kojima, you’d be forgiven that those commenting on them believed that the title was going to be developed by Ninja Theory. It isn’t. It is being built by Platinum Games.

For those not in the know, Ninja Theory have been getting a lot of stick for their intended reboot for Devil May Cry, DmC. This is before the game has even been released. We agree that their work on videogames has been patchy, in spite of the solid effort that was Enslaved, but trashing the game based on visuals and changes to character designs is jumping the gun.

A similar thing has happened now with MGR with people up in arms because they see more gimmicky lines in the trailer than a Conservative Party speech from David Cameron. ‘Revengence’ and ‘Let’s Move Our Hands’ had over-reactive gamers in overdrive; the former term felt the game had been dumbed down to a level of a pro-wrestler’s botched promo. The latter had others worried that the game would be a Kinect-exclusive or something. And the action involved looked to be a final nail in a non-existent coffin; the protagonist using moves so flashy and brutal, there was absolutely no chance of the game being anything like the stealth-based predecessors that the fans loved.

So let’s set the record straight. Firstly, Platinum Games is made up of former Clover Studio members (credits include Viewtiful Joe and Okami). The development studio is responsible for Bayonetta and Vanquish, two very well-received games that would be good practise for this new title. And Kojima Productions are still involved in the production, so there should not be any deviation from Kojima‘s original vision for the game. I predict that, based on that information, the game will not take any half-hearted efforts that might lead to a mediocre review.

Secondly, the game is supposed to be different from the Solid series of titles. Kojima has eased fears by stating that a more traditional stealth-based game is in the works, so if the fans of the series don’t like Rising, they can fall back on their precious comfort blanket. Besides, this has been termed a ‘hunter-stealth’ game. It is going to be different from the MGS series, a fact that doesn’t seem to sink in to those who are plugging for a return to Solid Snake’s field of operations. Kojima should be allowed to branch out and experiment, to find new opportunities in game development. They aren’t going to force the gaming masses to buy the game, but some will complain nevertheless. Almost like an individual who is cowering in a corner, thinking they are about to be force-fed a spoonful of goodness knows what. ‘Let’s Move Our Hands’ may as well be as literal as ‘Nowhere to Hideo’, another tagline in a long-ago released trailer. That didn’t come to much, did it? I doubt that if Kinect was involved, then the game would never have use for a standard controller? Can’t you trust who is feeding you? Pity. Go miss out on what, I believe, will be some cool slice-dice action. And also…

A Policenauts reference will be shoe-horned into Metal Gear Rising

…well, maybe a copy of the full game I was hoping for. Then again, it took ages for the fan translation to be finished. A reference to Kojima’s other game will have to do.

Sega will release Athlete Kings (AKA DecAthlete) on XBLA/PSN

2012 is Olympic year. Sega have already released the second Sonic and Mario at the Olympics. Konami will (or may) put in a low-key entry in their Track and Field series, whilst Sega Studios Australia’s official London 2012 game and Ghostlight’s annual unofficial athletics-based release will battle for bronze medal position. But why shouldn’t we allow Sega to have a third bite of the cherry and release one of the best button-bashers of all time?

The arcade-thrill was pretty much ported brilliantly over to the Sega Saturn. With the company plugging its Mega Drive backlog for all its worth, and Treasure capitalising on their Dreamcast ports by adding the Saturn-exclusive Guardian Heroes to download, this will be a critical time for Sega to take advantage. Who knows, it might just lead to more ex-Saturn ports. Like Panzer Dragoon Saga. Or all the parts to Shining Force 3. Or even Dragon Force 1 & 2. Just think of all that money, Sega. Come on, you know you want it…

A new Robocop game will be released

Cast your minds back a few months ago, and you’ll have noticed that Robocop avatar clothing was available (I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR, etc) on Xbox 360. Now, with little other Robocop shows/films/promotions going on, why on earth would this be going on? Because the baying masses of Xbox Live actually requested it? Or…could this be a test to see how many people are still interested in Robocop? A test that might lead to a videogame?

It doesn’t matter whether those who crafted the avatar suit/props have any videogame experience or not; if someone wants a list of figures, they can demand it via those programmers or Microsoft or whoever. I’m guessing enough individuals want a new game taking down fleshy perps with an automatic handgun and ED-209s with a rocket launcher.

Tecmo Koei will add more licenses to their Dynasty Warriors-type games

Contrary to what person was responsible for the graffiti that daubed the Koei building may have been thinking, a lot of people still put their hard-earned cash into the Dynasty Warriors hack-and-slash-and-wash-and-rinse-and-repeat series. And they still will, as long as Koei can re-edit it for Gundam and Fist of the North Star fans.

Problem is, Koei have squeezed a lot out of their above franchises. There are only so many Chinese warriors, Gundam series and characters that have been on the receiving end of Kenshiro’s fists to warrant sequels for Omega Force‘s work. The answer to this is to find more to work with.

If Yoshiyuki Tomino allowed Tecmo Koei to use Gundam, for example, how about securing the extra licenses for his other anime that he has been involved in and group them together? Or maybe Omega Force can put giant robots to one side, and create a game based in the comic-book universe of Marvel or DC? Even Jim Sterling’s love of the Dynasty Warriors series is beginning to wear thin now, so the developers need to start afresh. Which finally leads me to my final prediction of 2012...

Jim Sterling will appear on a major television news channel for an interview

Some ex-Destructoid members claim he is the reason why they are not part of the site anymore. Some so-called Destructoid members claim he is the reason why this site is rubbish, although those who send those messages do so on a regular enough basis with enough hate to make you wonder why they don’t leave. For the rest of us, we take him as he is; a British guy who has knowledge of videogames, who can put idiocy under the spotlight and show for what it is, and someone unafraid to give his view of what he thinks and knows about a game in a review.

Jim has gotten into controversy one or two times, but that doesn’t stop him from continuing to be in attendance for Destructoid or his videos on the Escapist. This is usually enough ammo for the mainstream media to keep their distance from him. However, I believe that there will be at least one corporation that will go ‘Hey, we need material for this violent videogames scandal thing, we may as well get this Jim Sterling guy. He’s outspoken and stuff, he’ll give us ratings if he says the f-word. And he’s exactly the kind of sucker we want to rip into.’ Unfortunately for them, I don’t think that is going to happen that way.

For Jim, 2012 will be the year his notoriety will increase, simply because he has managed to increase his exposure a bit within the last 52 weeks. 2/1 he says the word ‘bias’, 3/1 he has a toucan on screen, 5/1 he swears above the level of ‘crap’.

So what do you think?

Did I lack a bit of reasoning somewhere in these predictions, or that you have a piece of information/news that already confirms it/shoots it down? Comment and be gentle with me. I am a human with feelings. Do you have a prediction? Comment, give your reason, however sensible, wacky or outlandish. Want to give me any kudos if these come true? Do so, but I’m giving a tenth to Jesus. Tithing y’see.

Whatever happens when commenting, don’t suck. You don’t want to disappear like Surfer Girl.   read

5:43 PM on 11.13.2011

Acquisition: Midcity Madness

Shepherds Bush, London, under a decade ago. I was standing around in frustration at my recent efforts to accomplish what I thought would be an ideal; my attempt to progress at an Unreal Tournament 2003 World Cyber Games qualifier came to an abrupt halt at the first hurdle (came fifth in a group where three move to the next round), then found myself out of my league in the FIFA qualifiers (I’m good enough to beat my friend many times, but not good enough to score a single goal against the pros).

After uttering a list of expletives (which only happens when something I really really really want to achieve goes begging), I returned to looking around the building at the various games to play. Whilst this was the first in several stepping stones towards convincing myself that I wasn’t cut out at all for pro-gaming in the minor leagues, I never really lost the love for competition and winning things. Ever since I won a large piece of McDonalds merchandise answering a question in a newspaper, I was bitten by the bug. Several videogame competitions were won, for decent games too.

I never won a games console before though. That was to change the moment I headed upstairs for another look at the Xbox stand.

Earlier on, I had a look at the newest console on the block. Microsoft had been largely ridiculed by gamers and critics up and down the videogaming world for its Xbox. They were thinking how it had the power of a mid-range PC, with a control pad that could barely fit into the hands of those holding it. And they all had experienced enough grief from their operating systems, so goodness knows how functional their console will be. A few months into its release, the laughing stopped. It had the games and the balls to back up Microsoft’s claims, and by the time I was at the WCG event, Halo: Combat Evolved had been on the shelves for about a year.

I’d be lying if I didn’t want an Xbox. The Battlenet LAN centre I attended had one set up, with the newest Dead or Alive, Burnout 2, Halo, Steel Battlion and Project Gotham Racing amongst the games it had available in the first couple of years. They were great fun, and not only that, the LAN centre could link the consoles up to Xbox Live. I was hearing and witnessing great stuff. On top of that, IGUK were presenting competitions (yay!) with the chance to win copies of Xbox games and other prizes by getting the various LAN centre all-comers to set times, scores, etc. This, in retrospect, was an awesome way of advertising Microsoft’s machine.

I played two games, Burnout 2 and Midtown Madness 3, thoroughly because the opportunity to win something was there. I got a copy of Burnout 2 for setting one of the fastest times, but the chance of putting my skills to a Midtown challenge was thwarted by cancellation. Oh well. It wasn’t like it was as fun as Burnout anyway. And Burnout had no annoying female characters bitching about you and your driving. And less visible bugs.

At the London event, I gazed at the booths holding the new Top Spin, Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and any other new game the Xbox team could show. I also spotted Midtown Madness 3 there, so I moved on to another booth to play something I hadn’t already put my hands on.

The next time I visit the area, I see flyers about with information of a competition on the four Xbox consoles situated in the middle of the floor. The prizes on offer; one Xbox console with game and remote for the winner, one console and game for the runner-up. The game this challenge will be set; Midtown Madness 3.

All of a sudden, I realised that this was my opportunity. All those hours spent in Norwich, throwing vehicles around virtual representations of Paris and Washington D.C. How many of the people around me had the same amount of, if not more, experience than I did on the game? I signed up, and returned to the floor when the time came.

There were several groups of four players, so I had the good fortune to analyse what would go on in each of the races. The first was a normal sprint to the finish line in…buses. Yes, buses. Naturally, the organisers were going to have fun watching us manoeuvre the things around a city course that wasn’t built for racing them. Looking on, I noticed one particular corner catching out the drivers playing over the linked-up consoles. A sharp bend close to the final straight had participants stuck to the edge and each other, desperately trying to haul their metal public transport machines away from the trap. I made a mental note of that potential slip-up point.

My opportunity had come, and I made the most of it. I was doing well, and I was in second place. It would guarantee me passage for the next round, and I was some distance away from third position. I came up towards the corner of peril and…I’m stuck. OH BUGGER, I’M STUCK. Third place catches up to me, and in its attempt to navigate around me, becomes stuck as well. As soon as this happens, my big metal block comes unstuck from the concrete and powers away. I knew I had lost most of my advantage and all that separated me from third place was a small amount of stopping distance. It was a drag race down the straight to the finish, and it all hung on acceleration and speed…

…and I made it. Second place, and through to the semis. I was really shouting when I hit the corner and trapped myself. Kinda doubt I would have forgiven myself if I jammed myself out of contention.

The semis moved us to the venerable Mini as the mode of transport, whilst the game type was altered. The game type was ‘Stayaway’, since in order to win, you had to be ‘it’ and keep from making contact with the other drivers for the longest amount of time. Obviously, being ‘it’ was going to be tough; three other drivers wanting the same thing was bound to have awkward periods of bunching, then once I became ‘it’, I’d have to try and make a break with the previous owner plus two others racing after me. One benefit from my amount of time on MM3 was knowledge of getting around Washington D.C. and that was about to be used very wisely.

The game started around the foot of a hill near a park (possibly around Constitution Avenue), and the bunching started. Minis clashed into each other in the hope of getting points, only to have that chance snatched away. When I managed to become ‘it’, I raced away into the park and left them charging after me. I can’t remember the exact details of how distance was formed between me and them, but I think I managed to head in a north-westerly direction, using my memory of how fast to go on each road to force mistakes from those unaccustomed to playing on those routes. In the end, a comfortable win. I gained a lot of confidence from that result, and entered the final. Beat two of three other players and the Xbox was mine!

The final was to ramp up the difficulty and haphazardness to maximum. ‘Capture the Gold’ was a mode I was familiar with. Grab gold located on the map and stash it for points in an allocated area. However, we were now in charge of the fastest vehicle in the game, the Koenigsegg, in icy conditions within the French capital. To take a supercar and try and take corners where the back end of the vehicle could slip out was a tough undertaking, but trying to slow the car down at high speed in a straight line was hard enough. In the game, I was lagging behind two of my three competitors, each having about double the money I had. My only chance to gain the upper hand was to wait in an area of the map that was not only away from the opponents but also would end up spawning somewhere near the area I was situated. Quite risky, since I may not get the gold spawn I needed until late in the game, where someone may be so far ahead, the game is finished.

Suddenly, a yellow icon appeared closest to my vehicle. I made for it, making sure I gingerly turned each corner slowly to make the journey easier on my vehicle, which had gained a fair amount of damage throughout the match. Then, it was a case of heading towards the drop point after collection. Easier said than done, since I not only had to avoid spinning out, but also had three Koenigseggs homing in on me. Although I was taking my route carefully, knowing that a slip-up might let the others catch up or the gold be taken off me, my enemies were throwing caution to the wind and their make-believe supercars into virtual brick walls. They were gaining and they didn’t care how they did it. They didn’t care that wrecking the car would take a long respawn that would remove their momentum, they had the same thing on their minds. The Xbox that I wanted to win.

I was dodging speeding chunks of metal by bare inches, sometimes at shocking velocity. I hauled myself up to first, but the game still had several minutes left on the clock. Then a duel was forced against another racer who took to guarding the drop-off point when I nabbed the gold. I wrecked the car and had to wait moments soaked with nervousness to reappear. Slowly edging away from the pack with the gold that had been accrued, I couldn’t let up or get complacent. The seconds were counting down…3…2…1…

That’s it. I had done it. I released my sweaty palms from the gamepad and…well, I can’t remember what I did straight after that. I accepted the big box the console was in, with the game and remote, and had it put in a bag. I was happy. I met up with the second place guy who also got an Xbox. It was a guy who I knew on the IGUK Unreal Tournament leagues in a LAN centre in the north of the country. Turns out he also got some practise in for MM3. We had a chat before we left. Catching the tube back the short distance to Hammersmith, I got back to my hotel I was staying and laid the Xbox down on the floor. I called my mother to tell her what I won. She sounded surprised and glad, especially when I informed her as to how much it would have cost to buy. I hung up and rested in the room.

Looking back, I would have returned a bit despondent if I never tried to win the console, because the expectation of performing in the WCG qualifiers didn’t bear fruit and wouldn’t have had much to replace it. But I should remember that being at a gaming event is a reward in itself. You get to do the things you love. You get a glimpse of the future. And you never know. You might win something.   read

5:42 AM on 09.17.2011

Countdown to Eurogamer 2011: A Look at Last Year

Hollie and the gang hanging out at her home

For those of you basking in the memories of PAX Expos, E3 and Gamescom, you’d be forgiven for believing that all of these shows managed to cover all of the forthcoming videogame treats for the next year, and that there wouldn’t be any more to come. You’d be wrong.

As I mentioned in Destructoid a while ago, Gamescom happened in Europe. As such, there has been extra pressure on both British-based gaming shows to deliver something that the German one didn’t. After all, if someone has already had a whale of a time at one event, the newer event needs to give the impression that it isn’t a case of déjà vu. GAMEfest, happening in Birmingham at this very moment, will deliver the UK’s first chance to have a go on one of the biggest titles this year, Modern Warfare 3. Meanwhile, next week’s Eurogamer Expo will have the next chapter in Sony’s ongoing attempt to muscle in on the handheld market, the Vita.

For most of the Destructoid community across the other side of the Atlantic, this won’t mean much. The Vita will probably be demoed at a later event over there. For the British and European contingent, however, the Eurogamer Expo in London will be an important chance to meet up again and have brilliant fun. I promised a post-event blog on last year’s Expo, but I’ve decided to make a pre-event blog now instead. You can blame my laziness for that, but this is also an opportunity to stir up a bit of enthusiasm.

[b]Just to make you aware, cosplay doesn't happen very often at the Expo. When it does, the outfits look very good[b]

When we all met up last year, Kinect and Playstation Move were trying to muscle in on Nintendo Wii’s active-gaming craze. Kinect was stirring up a buzz with various attendees trying out Dance Central, whilst Move had several more booths on hand for people to try the sports launch game. Microphone-based Def Jam Rapstar was something that Hollie Bennett, our leader for the event, managed to give us a more detailed preview thanks to an early copy she was allowed to try out, and was also present on the floor of Earls Court.

Several more conventional games were trying to help people decide what to do with the contents of their wallets. FIFA 11, F1 2011 and Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood were on show, but the ‘highlight’ had to be several booths dedicated to the ‘phenomenal’ Mafia 2. With its slightly buggy NPCs that seemed to have the ability to lean on the most unlikely of surfaces, it ‘could’ have taken Game of the Show. If there was a ‘Game of the Show’.

Forthcoming games like Brink and Medal of Honour were getting extremely long lines, Gears of War 3 had its ‘Beast’ mode on display, and we were getting hands on with Hunted and Killzone 3. The latter game was also being displayed on a 3D television, another important feature of the show. Whilst I was sceptical about how well it would make a long-term profit (we only just had HDTVs out before then, FFS), I was impressed by how it worked on not only the aforementioned game, but also the new Motorstorm game. Seeing people, debris and stuff fly at you was awesome.

What wasn’t so awesome was when the developers of Hunted decided to show off their game in a developer session, only to see it crash right in front of the audience. Humorous, but you had to be reminded that the game was still at an unfinished state.

You'd be surprised how many peeps managed to fit in the tiny place

The first night was spend around Hollie’s pad, checking out Rapstar, socializing, playing around with fake promo Rapstar dollars and in one case, blowing chunks when the alcohol got too much.

There was much more to consider over the first two days which I attended. I didn’t get to see the booth with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, but I had fun with Mario Sports Mix instead. I was joined by Approximation (the same could be said about my spelling of his name, because he might have spelt it differently to how I believe), who related a tale of frustration at being barged off Marvel vs Capcom 3 by an over-zealous gamer. Both of us had a go in the end, and I was feeling particularly impressed at my ability to catch my rival’s characters in a Dante/Chun Li cross-up until a big attack on both my fighters wiped them out. But I was happy.

This is the smile of a man who got his first ever go on Marvel vs Capcom 3

Last year will also hold happy memories of what was the last time we got to play in the arcade heaven that is the Trocadero Funland. A hotel will be constructed in there for the Olympics for next year, and I’m sure that all of us will be mourning/enraged at its loss. I personally will be gutted, as will the area of its coin-op machines. I’m praying that they all get good homes. Hopefully, we’ll be able to visit Namco Station at Westminster instead or something.

And can I mention the karaoke? Yes, that was a thing that happened, and it will be happening again this year. It will be joined by a special after-show charity party AND a night watching Jurassic Park in the cinema. And don’t forget the meet and greets with the other Destructoid members. And all the stuff at Eurogamer like free Onlive sets, Gears of War 3, Halo: CE, Forza 4, the new SSX, Skyrim, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations, Batman: Arkham City, Final Fantasy XIII-2, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Guild Wars 2, Mass Effect 3, Saints Row: The Third, Sonic Generations, Soul Calibur V, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Retro and Challenge Areas, developer sessions, Rage, Ninja Gaiden 3, the Indie Games Arcade, Battlefield 3, FIFA 12, Dark Souls

gasp, gasp, gasp, gasp, gasp, huuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrr….

Expect to feel like this towards the last day of the Expo. Barring any mishap, Aidan (AKA Toilet Duck) will be present at this year's event!

I never knew that looking through the Expo newsletters and listing the names could be so tiring. O_O

Well, I let you in on how it went. Or I’ll let someone else do it, and do the same type of blog next year. Anyway, I’m looking forward to a weekend of fun. Roll on next week.   read

1:06 PM on 08.22.2011

Handhelds: But Look at All This SPACE!

I noticed the title for the weekly C-blog musing and thought could I really be bothered to write about a favourite/worst handheld? I couldn’t be. In the end, I’ve decided to do something a little different. Instead of a sharp focus on the chosen subject, I’ll attract your attention over to the area a handheld doesn’t cover, as well as all the bonuses. That is, all that empty space that would otherwise be taken up by a home console.

It may sound like a stupid idea, the very thought of lugging a home console in the open air. Whether you wanted to show it off at work during break-time so more fun could be had playing Halo with your work-mates or taking it to play games around a friend’s house…it was a little inconvenient. In a rucksack, on a bicycle for several miles, or sitting it on the seat of your friendly public transport, you either had to carry extra things you wanted in your pockets or have another backpack that would make you look pregnant/overweight/overloaded.

No, no, no. That will not do. A handheld games-console is the way to go. Put one up against your home console. Go on, do it. Look at the difference in siiiiiiiiiiiiiiize. Look at the difference. Now think about how much stuff you can put in your bag now that you have something that still can play games, but smaller. Granted, you still need to bring games and a charger in the event of the handheld losing power, but even with those items, you still have more space.

Now, I put a comment forward in a debate about whether handhelds would overtake home games consoles in the major part of the industry. I decided (and a few members noted) that handhelds, since they couldn’t do the things that the home consoles offered (a movie experience, decent controls for one-on-one fighting games were a couple of standards that handhelds still fall short of) would be a smaller, if not equal force in the market rather than the dominant.

We don’t stay at home all the time. Since we love gaming, we can’t bear to be without some semblance of our pastime during periods when we haven’t got anything to do, and handhelds fill that gap. But what quite a few negative nancies are spouting are comments in the above paragraph. They can’t do this. They can’t do that. We should have had robots that cleaned our grotty bedrooms like Tomorrow’s World said, but we have progressed to this, etc. We all nod our heads sagely. However, I feel that continually comparing what handhelds can’t do against their home counterparts is like putting small children next to fully-grown adults, and telling everybody that they will criticize the kids for not being able to hold their own in a pub-brawl. We know they can’t, but that’s because it is not their modus-operandi. They were made that way.

But you know what you can do with them. You can fit one on the extremely tight luggage quota or take it on board a plane for your holiday without much hassle. You’ve got the rest of the space to cram more stuff you want to relax with. You are not encompassing an area of your friend’s or relative’s living space with one. You already have it in your hands, in the event someone wants you to go downstairs and considers a cut in the electricity will spur you on to get your food. You don’t have to be stuck in the same room all the time or fight over the use of a television with someone to play with it.

And just to make you aware, the paragraph above was about handhelds, not small children.   read

5:31 AM on 06.02.2011

Fail List: Before You Die Edition

Fail List: Before You Die Edition

This is it. The big list. About as close to the ‘ultimate list’ as you can get.

When Cassell Illustrated published their 1001 series of books, the first one that caught my eye was 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. I bought it primarily via flicking through and finding Boards of Canada’s Music Has the Right to Children within it, a most righteous entry in my eyes indeed. For those not in the know, these lists are compiled by a group of several knowledgeable people in their chosen field, and presented chronologically. Each of them writes about the reason why their inclusion should be approached, highlighting facts and stuff about it. These books would get occasional updates to remove the chaff and insert what others felt improved on the removed. It is top quality work, well-presented.

The only problem I had with the book usually is the problem with every list; in spite of the large number of albums allowed, there were omissions of certain albums that I believed had a right to exist. I still enjoyed it thoroughly though, despite that fact. And that is the only negative feeling I get when I had perused my fresh copy of 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die.

I started testing the list by finding out ones which I didn’t think should belong in the alphabetical list section at the beginning. Wii Fit and Wii Sports are allowed a begrudging nod through the doorway, since the title of this list isn’t ‘Absolute Best Games Ever!’ and introduced a whole new audience to gaming. However…John Woo Presents Stranglehold? And Army of Two: The 40th Day? Well, I guess those will probably get exchanged with something better when new editions are released, since it is at the latter end of the timeline.

Garry’s Mod is in the list. Explanation? Well, let’s just say that if you think LittleBigPlanet belongs in the list (which it does), then the Half Life mod should exist there too.

And…that’s it. It is quite astonishing that only two games look seriously out of place. The reason for this is the choice of experts. These include Kieron Gillen, Jim McCauley and Jim Rossignol who I knew from the great PC Gamer magazine. Believe me, they definitely know their games. You could have a go at certain choices involving sequels (no Grandia, Shining Force or Donkey Kong Country, but they are represented by Grandia 2, Shining Force 3 and Donkey Kong Country 3), and spiritual installments (no Ico, but Shadow of the Colossus is there), but there is not much to really knock about the book.

So, it seemed like a strong list with one movie spin-off and a late entry that will be eaten up by a more awesome game. But what about those omissions? The ones which you love that seemed to slip through the cracks? To find out, I asked the Destructoid IRC what games they would expect in the list. A few of the IRC-dwellers started off by deliberately shouting out bad games. This was handy, since they were testing their faith in the book’s contents, finding out how good this supposed ultimate list really was.

However, a gap in the armour was discovered early on by T0pc0w. He made a simple, common-sense request for a game that (I agreed) should have made it in there; the Sega Mega Drive/Genesis version of Aladdin. To my concern, the game…wasn’t in the list. I tried looking to see if the game appeared as a subtitle to something (still searching in the alphabetical section, see), and with no luck. Then, after registering his disappointment, he asked for another Disney game, Castle of Illusion. No luck. Then Evil_Cheese suggested Magical Quest. Nope.

When I couldn’t find that either, a shiver went down my spine…and after searching through the whole amount of entries, I reached a conclusion. Apart from Kingdom Hearts, there are no Disney-themed games in this list. Just let that sink in a bit. Maybe it is because most of those great, memorable games are platformers, and other, well-styled ones came before and influenced them. Or maybe that group of chosen gaming journos and experts have something against the big D. I mean, the only person I wouldn’t recommend the book to for fear of upset, other than hardcore Disney fans, is Chad Concelmo. Fortunately, he has already done us a great service and shown his own Best Disney Game List so we don’t need to worry about that…

…although he didn’t include Quackshot and The Jungle Book in that list. Hmph.

Continuing the subject of the rejects, the Star Ocean (Gemsi’s choice) and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Coonskin’s choice) series of games do not feature in the book. Yars Revenge, a game that rated really highly on the Atari 2600, isn’t there, and neither are my personal favourites, like Turrican and Shogo: Mobile Armour Division. That said, the latter game still managed to get a nod; Fear 2’s listing has a large picture with a figure wearing an T-Shirt emblazoned with an unmade sequel.

But can you really fight against the existence of the list when you have entries such as Xenogears, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger, Square games that usually get passed over in top lists because they either didn’t get an official release in some territories or just because they weren’t mainstream enough for people who didn’t know their stuff? Could you really denounce a book that selects Canabalt, Uplink or VVVVVV, when other lists wouldn’t acknowledge their minimal simplicity? Can you really be so dismissive of this tome just because it doesn’t have your favourite game, when it gives credit to Giants: Citizen Kabuto, God Hand, Muramasa: The Demon Blade, Mother 3, Odin Sphere, Sin and Punishment, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, Psychonauts, Earth Defense Force 2017 and Retro Game Challenge, games that have had their praises sung to high heaven by other gamers and critics, ones who feel that their words have been ignored?

Other than the couple of odd selections and one or two pictures that don’t seem to match the games listed, this is an essential purchase if you can stomach those missing Disney games. I’m guessing that even those that can’t have to admit that choosing not to buy the book because only Kingdom Hearts represents their corner is a little bit sad. If you are one of them, why not make a list like Chad has done? The community blogs are here for you to do just that.

And it has a two-page preface by Peter Molyneux. You could decide not to get a copy because of that. Erm…

No. Just buy it. There really isn’t going to be another book out that is of this quality for a long time, other than an update of some sort. Seriously, I can’t recommend this 960-page book more. It belongs on your shelf.   read

2:57 PM on 12.16.2010

A Temporary Greek Tragedy: Law 3037/2002

2002 was an interesting year. The Allied forces were in Afghanistan and (unwisely) trying to get stuck into Iraq as well; the World Cup was held in Japan and South Korea, eventually being won by Brazil; Joe Strummer, Dudley Moore and Spike Milligan all died (the former quite unexpectedly). In videogaming, Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City were the top grossing games of the year. In Greece, an unexpected attack on the gaming community was about to happen.

Before Greece’s financial problems and their hosting of the Olympics (including their amazing win in the European Championships) in 2004, the country hadn’t really seen much (internationally) newsworthy stuff happen to them, since, I don’t know, the fall of the military junta in 1974. To me at the time, Greece was a holiday destination, and had a football team that couldn’t even score in the World Cup finals stage.

Illegal gambling has been a problem in Greece for a long while, and whilst the leading political party at the time, PASOK, had promised to crack down on this, the last thing they wanted was one of their own to go about doing it. Sadly, that was exactly what happened. One Mr. Chrisanthakopoulos MP made the foolish mistake of stepping towards a poker machine in an illegal gambling joint without knowing a video camera was being trained on him. It wouldn’t be fair to just accuse this person only for the events that introduced this law, since this led to several other MPs being named and shamed. The video evidence, however, was shown on television, fuelling debate. The Prime Minister had to act with the public pressure on and ruled the MP out of the party.

On July 30, in further response to the situation, Law 3037/2002 was drafted in. In trying to ban the illegal gambling, it ended up also prohibiting the use of any form of game software. Every platform, from console to mobile was affected. Not only that, the law even applied to private use; you play games at home? The Greek government had now deemed you a criminal.

As Dan Faber pointed out at the time, Greek politicians not being able to tell the difference between videogames and illegal gambling programs wasn’t the only error they would make. Prime Minister Costas Simitis was quoted being all for the opportunities created by technology, so he’d have to be brought up on that matter and eat his words. As well as this, the Olympics were coming up, and the police would be getting very busy trying to crack down on games-playing visitors from around the world (did I mention the law applied to foreigners as well?). There would be little time to catch real criminals!

The effects were immediate. The businesses wanting to start or continue to work with their LAN centres found it very difficult to build any trade. Police raids took care of any that decided to ignore the legislation.

The good news was that in the same year, a Greek judge decided this law was a pure case of douchebaggery, and decided to throw it out. This was swiftly followed by the European Union who, in spite of all the stupid laws they make up, believed the law was too much against the idea of trade with other EU nations, as well as putting in place procedures that would go further than the aims intended by it. Gamers could all breathe a sigh of relief.

The only other issue is that the Greek government still wanted to curtail all this illegal gambling, so it kept amending the law in the hopes that was better, submitted it to the EU, only to have it slapped back on their desk. The government has kept doing this up to last year…only for this year’s recession to provide a way back for low-price gaming and gambling machines.

Admit it, it was a messed up situation videogaming could have done without. LAN centres out of business, putting a hobby in jeopardy for several months, eight years of a government striving to stop illegal gambling, only to backtrack and have economic conditions putting well-intentioned plans on hold and wasting valuable administration time….you couldn’t make it up. But it serves as a reminder that when certain laws are introduced, they can have a wide-ranging effect that covers other areas, impacting on freedoms and things we all too often take for granted. This threat was only brief…thank goodness that the Greeks can join in our pastime with the rest of us.   read

6:15 PM on 09.13.2010

Small Brain: Woman Neglects Dogs and Kids Whilst Playing Online Game

Damn. Usually Jim Sterling gets shocking articles like this first, especially since it is one I first spotted in the UK's Daily Mail newspaper. Rather than demonising the game, the article writer at least managed to give a few details about Small World, the game a woman from Kent played so much, that her dogs died of starvation and her children (aged nine, ten and thirteen) had to eat cold beans straight from the tin. Seriously shocking stuff.

The only good news here is that the Daily Mail (and the court judging the woman's actions) recognise the woman was responsible for this messed-up situation. Click the link above for the full article.   read

5:39 AM on 09.08.2010

Enslaved: Batthink’s Viewpoint

Some of you have no doubt had a look at Ace Flibble’s blog (the one rather unfortunately posted below two spam-blogs for a penal-enhancement advert) about his experience playing the first seven levels of Ninja Theory’s Enslaved. For those who haven’t, here’s what happened.

Ace Flibble himself. That smile would get wider in the three hours he got to play the game.

Me, Ace and a couple of other Destructoid members took up a request for people to play the game ahead of its release on 8th October. We travelled to Hammersmith, London to the UK offices of the game’s publisher, Namco/Bandai, to take part.

The sofa in Namco's lobby.

Being accustomed to the Hammersmith area on previous visits and armed with a printed map, I found the building I needed to arrive at quickly. Zooming up in a pretty fast lift, we were greeted with more people waiting to play as well as members of the office, who took us through to a room with several 360s (as well as pointing over to another with a couple of PS3 consoles) and got us accustomed to a note regarding the rules for online previews, free soft drinks and water.

Also in the lobby, a list of awards from Pocketgamer. I'm guessing that the London office ports those classic games to the mobiles.

For those whose only knowledge of the Monkey King legend is from the 1970’s series Monkey, you will still get a wry smile of recognition from the references to the actual core material. Monkey, the playable character of the game, starts off imprisoned in an egg, for example (‘the nature of monkey was irrepressible!’). You’d expect to think Ninja Theory would have dropped stuff like that, but no. What they simply did was give these references a futuristic spin, and this doesn’t feel out of place at all.

After escaping from the egg and undergoing a tutorial on the basics of gameplay via some hostile mechs, you end up having to guide Monkey to the outside of the prison ship, and that is where the first full breathtaking moments are found. Uncharted-style climbing and clambering is needed to survive, and quite a few close-calls were had, albeit on a pleasingly massive scale. And when I mean Uncharted, it does look and feel like Enslaved has been influenced by the PS3 game sequel’s shift from precarious cliffhanging animated scene into playable section. That isn’t a bad thing at all, because it has been done so well in the game I’d been controlling.

On the ground, the headband was introduced, as well as a couple more mechs to fight. The headband acted as a pretty handy HUD for information and checking where Trip (the second character) was. This latter ability is pretty important, since Monkey and Trip will become separated often. Trip will find herself under attack occasionally, and if caught by a mech, she’ll dole out an EMP that temporarily disables them. However, Monkey cannot leave her in danger for long, so allocating a button to check her whereabouts was a very sensible move by Ninja Theory. Once the mechs were dealt with, they left behind red orbs, which added to a points total. What was this for? A ‘Trip-Shop’ that upgrades Monkey’s abilities, found via the headband options. I found this very useful.

After traversing the landscape, wrecking mechs, avoiding mines, flanking turrets and a running from a huge, menacing ‘C-Dog’ (as well as very sweet bit where you get to use Monkey’s ‘cloud’; I’m hoping that there are more opportunities to use that piece of transport later on), my three hours were up. I had only managed to reach the fifth chapter of the seven we were allowed to play, but I was very happy with the game. Very seldom does a game encourage me to smile spontaneously, but this game did. Ace managed to get all the way to the seventh chapter and had to have his monitor turned off by a staff member as he was just about to enter further into the game. It wouldn’t surprise me if the reason he went almost too far was because the game was so involving…

Environmentally and graphically, the game is astounding. The rusted hues of the prison-ship make way for the bright blue sky, then lush green and red foliage around abandoned, decaying buildings. The animation on the characters is particularly impressive; Monkey’s trips and stumbles as he sprints through the ship are very fluid and natural. Aside from glowing pipes and handholds, there are some parts which do require a little bit of thought about which direction you need to go and what cover you’ll feel you’ll need when avoiding mech-fire. Trip doesn’t get herself into trouble too much as long as you have your wits about you, and as a result, becomes more of a help than a hindrance with the few abilities that she possesses.

As for negatives, the character did get a little caught on the environment because of a dodgy camera angle, which may not be handy when running from a cyborg dog about three or four times your own size. There is also this feeling of not able to jump to a surface which I felt would be achievable with the agile Monkey. Nevertheless, with the game near to its release date, I am more than satisfied that Enslaved deserves your attention and a small chunk of your bank balance when it arrives on shelves.   read

8:37 AM on 08.18.2010

Fail List: Toy Gun is Not Sexy Edition

Good afternoon. It has been a while since my eyes managed to spy another videogame-based list for a gander. That was until I saw this;

Hey, a semi-laddish technology magazine will get your attention if it has GAMING in BOLD BLUE LETTERS on the front. I also spotted the '20 Best Games Ever' tag on the cover (its just under the rather hyped subtitle 'Onlive kills the console'. I highly doubt that). Of course, you must think I'm a complete sad act for mentioning all this ahead of the hot model pictured. Well, I have a reason for that, and it is not because this model isn't the best-looking I've seen out of others. Oh no. The exact cause for relegating her importance is because of the PS Move controller in her hand. To the knowledgable, it is Sony's effort to grab some of Nintendo's market share in motion-control, fitted into a gun controller. If you didn't know anything about this, it is just going to look like some woman trying to look sexy with a toy gun. With a ping-pong ball on the end.

See? It doesn't look anything near hot. It just says 'I must pose with this as if it is a real gun'. If it looked like a real gun, the combination of smouldering lass and self-defence device might have set an explosion off in my pants, but not so. I may, however, have a better idea to improve the image...

...on second thoughts, let's get back to the list. One, two, three...

This list seems pretty good, thankfully. Certain decisions, like Sensible World of Soccer's inclusion ahead of the more recent FIFA and Pro Evolution series, as well as Beatles Rock Band over any of the Guitar Hero games, get reasons to go along with them. Final Fantasy VII's inclusion is, once again, mostly down to Europe having been passed over for the sixth game in the series until the Playstation generation. Red Dead Redemption stands above the highest-placed GTA game and... well, there really isn't that much to complain about. I guess that's the advantage of picking only twenty games for the list.

So, is there anything about the list that you take issue with? Is Flight Control really that good? Feel free to comment below. And remember; don't let your girlfriend take a photo of herself with some day-glo Fisher Price laser blaster. She'll just look stupid and your boner will disappear.   read

4:07 PM on 07.06.2010

The Short History of World Cup Themed Football Games

Warning: if you are American, the game that is being referred to as ‘football’, by the author from the United Kingdom, is actually what you would term ‘soccer’. In order to respect both sides’ views of what this sport should be termed, please refrain from even attempting to register a dislike of either term in the comments. Please also refrain from retaliating with stupid made-up nicknames of the other nationalities’ sport. Either of these two methods of communication will be ignored, and advice will be given to others to do the same. You have been notified.

My earliest memories of World Cup football belonged to Italia ’90. Trying to remember the final between Germany and Argentina was a blur, and rightly so; I remember that it was ill-discipline by the Argentines, a single goal from a penalty and the fact that it was a boring match that contributed to much of the memory haze. No, it was one night in Turin (I would never have thought about using those last four words without seeing a DVD case like this where I work) and the same night in front of a television in Norfolk that elevated my understanding of what football meant to a whole new level. That, Roger Milla’s celebration dance and New Order’s World in Motion.

The frustration of going behind after a free-kick defected off Paul Parker past Peter Shilton in goal; the elation of the Gary Lineker equalizer; the dawning moment on Paul Gascoigne’s face when his poor tackle meant he’d be disqualified from a possible final appearance; the despair and agony of going out on penalties after extra time. All of these memories mixed into a story of hope and loss, of dreams and missed chances. What better way to overcome the misery than to plug in a games console, turn the semi-final back to kick-off, and get your team to actually win this time, with you in control, instead of being a helpless spectator.

I may (or may not, at the time) have had only had a Commodore 64 to play with, but there were already a solid amount of football games out for it. Problem was, some weren’t very good, and it was a bit hard to control with either a keys or joystick. No, I needed something like a games console with a joypad to really get decent graphics and control. And there were officially licenced (and unofficial) games available at the time to cash in on the football fever.

I’m going to list those games that have existed up to when Electronic Arts took control of the World Cup licence from 1998, because in following tournaments, they are very much like the EA games that you play today. There’s no real need to reference them unless you want to compare how they contrast with the older games.

The earliest game I noticed was a sole effort for the 1986 Mexican World Cup. That tournament was memorable for one reason; Diego Maradona. He destroyed England with one highly questionable goal and another of pure genius, before going on to win the cup with the Argentines winning 3-2 against Germany. Would his display of skill inspire people to try their on little mazy dribbles on the small screen? Let’s find out….

World Cup Carnival
For: Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum
Published by: US Gold
Developed by: Artic Software


…the answer is no. The game was actually called World Cup Football, and this incarnation is the same, just with the licence added for the tournament. US Gold had to acquire Artic’s game when their attempt to make their own game in time for the tournament had met with problems. Maybe they shouldn’t have bothered; the eventual game was met with extremely poor reviews for the Spectrum and Commodore versions. The latter had a rather subdued theme tune playing throughout the action, with six players on each team. Artic’s original version was even more basic on the Spectrum, with a crude version of ‘When the Saints Are Marching In’ and other tunes played over and over again. I bet you won’t even be able to stand listening to it over the course of this following video…although it is worth loading up the final part of the four just to see the piss-poor image of the cup-lift at the end.

US Gold developed an improved version of World Cup Carnival for Italia ’90, but let’s face it, if you have a rep for a bad game like that, it won’t help the copies of forthcoming games flying off the shelves.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Mwepu Ilunga of Zaire; YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.



You’ve already heard my memorable moments from the 1990 tournament, so we’ll get straight into the available games. Just before we do, Wikipedia lists World Trophy Soccer (AKA European Club Soccer) as a World Cup game, but there is a problem with this; the game’s listed as being released in 1992. This is a year too late to the party, and we are having no gatecrashers here.

World Cup Italia ‘90
For: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis
Published by: Sega
Developed by: Sega


This game hasn’t aged well, and it shows (for example, when in the semi-animated cut-scenes, the players’ colour palettes just swap not only their shirts, but also their skin colour without changing the image; Brazilian players just look like tanned players from a European country if they didn’t have the classic yellow shirts…). However, it is playable in spite of its top-down view and straight-line passing. The goalkeepers are tough but rewarding to play and score against, and game adds a little depth by introducing a squad selection scene at the start of the game after you select your country.

The music is a good addition too, with the funky tune playing over the title screen. Shame it doesn’t play during the match, as the sound-effects and the tune that plays over the action are a little lame. However, there is digitised speech too! In Chad Concelmo’s termed ‘Double Dribble speak’, you have a roar of ‘goal!’ that ends up sounding like Street Fighter’s Blanka was rushed into a studio and recording a ‘GAAAAARRRRRRRHL’ instead.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Gennaro Gattuso of Italy. Plays rough and not very pretty, but he gets the job done.

Tecmo World Cup ‘90
For: Arcade, NES
Published by: Tecmo
Developed by: Tecmo


My first impressions of the arcade version from the video are really good; the graphics are solid, as is the movement of the players, with a good soundtrack and crowd noise behind it. A nice touch is the two insert images pop-up when one side scores to display the contrasting emotions of both sides, along with the players running about in circles in celebration.

What is also intriguing is that your player can make mistakes; for example, you can fluff-up the timing of an overhead kick, and watch the ball fall limply as the leg connects with it. Since it is an arcade game, there are only eight teams to select from, but that’s not the only unusual thing; when you win the cup, your team lines up, then surrounds this massive trophy that falls to the pitch!

The strange thing about the NES version is that is almost exactly like Sega’s World Cup Italia ’90 in the way it looks and plays.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Giovanni Ferrari of Italy. Someone Gattuso would no doubt look up to.

Nintendo World Cup
For: NES, Game Boy
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Technos Japan


You know how you guys love River City Ransom and that dodgeball game? Well, commence fapping; the forth Kunio-Kun game (originally called Nekketsu High School Dodge Ball Club: Soccer Edition) was adapted for the World Cup, and boy, did I have fun with the Game Boy version. Only six-a-side, the players had that recognisable charm, and as a result, some damn character. Fouling is encouraged (hey, this is RCR we are talking about), and you can take players out for a while after plugging at them repeatedly. The game also gives players the ability to take a ‘super shot’, of which there are limited amounts in each half.

Since I’ve only played Sega’s Italia ‘90 and Nintendo World Cup, I’d rather have the latter game, because it just seems to do what it does so well, and with personality.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Paul Gascoigne of England. A guy whose antics stay with you, but his skill and potential on the world stage appears, sadly, all too briefly.


When the World Cup got handed to the United States of America, English comedians were making a song and dance about how the Americans had no idea how to handle the tournament taking place. You not only proved them wrong, but the joke also fell back on the English; our team didn’t qualify. Still, there was much to enjoy; Diana Ross missing a penalty in the opening celebrations, Bulgaria became the surprise package by knocking out the Germans (and trashing a goal along the way), Jack Charlton’s argument with a bespectacled moron during an Irish substitution, Maradona failing a dope test….it was eventful.

The same couldn’t be said about the final… another boring match with Brazil and Italy goalless and going to extra-time penalties. So boring, in fact, I probably would have watched the movie being shown on another channel, Alien, instead. I think Roberto Baggio would have been better off watching face-huggers latch onto John Hurt as well, because he blasted the ball over the bar and Brazil got the trophy. Back to the games.

World Cup USA ‘94
For: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Mega CD, Sega Master System, SNES, MS-DOS, Amiga, Game Gear, Game Boy
Published by: US Gold
Developed by: US Gold


As an ex-owner of the Mega Drive version, I felt US Gold finally seemed to have constructed a decent World Cup game. The more I look at it, though, it seems that they had looked at what their competitors did. The game was a bit like Sensible Soccer in its viewpoint. It had a map of the pitch on-screen like Italia ‘90. Little insert pictures, a la Tecmo World Cup, appeared for referee decisions. That said, it did have a line indicator for goal-kicks and free-kicks. Anyone who has played one of the earlier games in the FIFA series knows how difficult it is to score with a free-kick, and this was a nice bit of help. The game moved at a fair pace, and you could spot the referee in the action. Crowd noises were good (no in-game music) too, not to mention a nice animated introduction.

The only problem with this game is that you can score quite easily by taking a shot parallel with the goal mouth close to the post. That and the fact that when I watch videos on Youtube to refresh the memory, one attack on an opponents’ penalty area was met with two static defenders who didn’t close down the striker. Slightly dodgy AI is not what you need, but still, this is a major improvement from US Gold.

Then again, I may be easily satisfied; this guy is not happy with certain elements in the SNES version (swearing included in link). He does have a good point about the menu selection screen images looking a little vague in their meanings. His grumble about the tough AI is noticeable too, and with no map of the pitch to get an early warning on the SNES version, trying to get out of his own half proves to be a massive effort. At least the Mega Drive version had its opposition players carded for fouls. I also noticed a short, controllable action replay available when a goal is scored on that version too. Probably of little consolation, though.

Finally, an interesting fact; the Sega Mega CD version of the game had a CD soundtrack including two tracks by German rockers The Scorpions….I’m wondering if their inclusion had anything to do with the fact that the German national team had collaborated with The Village People for their World Cup song for that tournament….

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Edmundo for Brazil. A schizophrenic player who can either be heaven or hell incarnate for your team. At world level however, he can’t cut the mustard when you need him to.

World Cup Striker
Published by: Elite
Developed by: Rage Software


In the USA, it was renamed World Soccer ’94: Road to Glory. Now, this game I actually have in my room. Hell, I could even boot it up on the SNES I have right now if I wasn’t so lazy. That said, I still remember how good the game was and the way it played. The rapid pace, fast passing and quickly-shifting environment wasn’t to every player’s taste, but I loved the game. If me and my friend spent time playing the original Striker racking up hours and scores of goals without the smiles drifting off our faces, then Rage was doing something right. In particular, the ability to bend the ball was an awesome touch.

Additions to this game included an indoor pitch, where you could happily bounce the ball off the wall to your hearts content (and remove any need for throw-ins), and a really catchy menu tune. Penalties were taken using a ‘stop the arrow to shoot in that direction’ method. Mode 7 was also used to good effect at certain points, compared with hardly any for US Gold’s effort.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal. Blisteringly fast, with great touches and style. Can be a bit annoying to others, though.


France 1998, and England were expecting to win. Again. However, this time they had history on their side, or more precisely, one interesting-looking list. Basically, when England won in 1966, the order of subsequent winners appeared as Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy, then Argentina, Germany and Brazil. Did you notice that all it takes to make that list of countries become a palindrome is to put England at the end? I only discovered that before or during that World Cup. Sadly, it wasn’t to be. However, maybe it could have been a tempting clue as to who really was going to the win the Cup; it would be won with a balding midfield genius on the host team (in 1966, Bobby Charlton for England, who were hosts; in 1998, Zinedine Zindane for the French, who were hosts…).

Anybody with an initial idea of who was going to win the tournament that year (without the use of history-based omens of any sort) would have plumped for Brazil. All they needed to do was take a look at how their striker Ronaldo was playing, and they were sold. How they would have liked to know about the fit the star player had in the dressing room right before the final, unsettling both him and the team in the process. A shadow of the squad that cruised to the final, they were thumped 3-0 by France. A surprise to cover over the events of young Michael Owen’s goal and David Beckham’s red card against Argentina, as well as trumping the French comeback in the semi-final by Lilian Thuram.

Three Lions
For: PC, Playstation, Game Boy Colour
Published by: Take-Two Interactive
Developed by: Z-Axis Ltd


Three Lions (or Alexi Lalas's International Soccer) is an example of a game made for the World Cup and marketed with the national team in mind, in this case, England. The developer had an interesting idea to separate this game from the others; by manipulating the camera angle whilst the game was in motion, it would be easier to score if you were closer to the goal. This was done by forcing the camera to take up a standard view of the pitch when the action was at the centre, then slowly shifting the view so that the closer you were to the goal-mouth, the camera would line up more with it and more visible it would be. In theory, it would stop all those unrealistic long shots from the half-way line to score, encourage a little more adventurous play and hopefully prevent loads of double-digit goal-fests.

Unfortunately, it was awkward. Me and my friend played the demo and could hardly get a goal because of where the camera was pointing (as well as getting used to the ‘shooting-target’ method of scoring). We agreed we should go back to EA’s World Cup ‘98, and say no more.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Andy Cole for England. Prolific scoring at club level suggested a promising international career. 15 games for England with only one goal in reply changed that.

Neo Geo Cup ’98: The Road to Victory
For: Neo Geo, Neo Geo Pocket
Published by: SNK
Developed by: SNK


Also available in Colour for the Pocket Colour….wait a bloody second, that’s Super Sidekicks! Ohh, the happy memories of arcade football…I can load the game up on the SNK Arcade Classics release and play that instead. I have to assume it is virtually the same game (hell, even the introduction is the same, aside from the title…).

Super Sidekicks could be written off as a flashy version of Tecmo World Cup ‘90. However, there are at least a few options at the start of the game other than picking your national team. You can also choose the playing style and upgrade for your team, then you are off to play some (very quick) matches. Players can sometimes act out special skills, as evidenced in the video, and shooting can vary between short strikes on goal to a quick third-person view of the player for a long shot, leaving you to quickly press the shoot button when the reticule is over a vacant area of the goal-mouth.

The only problems visible are the short duration of the matches (I reckon that the time can be increased for home versions of the game, surely) and the lack of ability from defenders to clear the ball effectively. That said, it is a Neo Geo game, and presentation and graphics are top-notch. Don’t think about being able to delve deeper towards a simulation of the beautiful game, okay?

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

David Beckham for England. Good-looking, skillful player making long passes and shots look sublime. In danger of sounding a bit dumb though.

Jikkyou World Soccer: World Cup France 1998
For: Nintendo 64, Playstation
Published by: Konami
Developed by: Konami


AKA International Superstar Soccer 98. Everybody should know about ISS by now. The game that had the balls to take on FIFA, and grew a fan-base to match it. The franchise that started strong with its own distinctive gameplay, mixed in with realistic player sprites and polygons. The name that disappeared after a PS2 outing that had its weaknesses shown up by its own younger brother Pro Evolution Soccer.

This incarnation of the series made its way from the SNES to the N64, and the move to a next generation of console allowed for more international teams and players to be added, along with a formation mode that could be changed during the match and five difficulty levels.

The Playstation version, called ISS Pro 98, was a different game compared to the N64. Nevertheless, both versions received good reviews for both critics and gamers alike. It is just a shame that, unlike FIFA, their developers have hit a brick wall in where to go with their football games.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Peter Crouch for England. Looks weird when first encountered, but will win you over with his useful height, when in action and when you look at his strike record. Problem is, will his manager let him get off the bench (are you listening, Fabio Capello)?

World Cup ‘98
For: Game Boy Colour, Nintendo 64, Playstation, PC
Published by: EA Sports
Developed by: EA Canada


Finally, we arrive at the point where EA captured the official licence and never let go. This game is not to be confused with FIFA: Road to the World Cup 98 by the same developer. Although the games use the same engine, World Cup ’98 had additional gameplay improvements like changing team strategy on the fly. The players all had their proper names (if you didn’t have the licence, your game would have made-up ones instead), and had excellent presentation and commentary from John Motson, Chris Waddle, Gary Lineker and Des Lynam in the English versions of the game. It had a great soundtrack from artists at the time (‘Tubthumping’ by Chumbawumba, anyone?), but most importantly, the game looked and played good. Not to mention the ability to play as classic teams of previous finals after a tournament win.

Many great times were had playing against my mate on World Cup ‘98. The main memory that still lingers is putting each other into a proper cup tournament, my friend controlling England, me with Jamaica, and the rest of the teams as the CPU. We both made it to the final, and with great difficulty and an inferior team, I managed to win the trophy for the Reggae Boys in the dying moments of extra-time 3–2.

If the game was a footballer, it would be…

Ronaldo for Brazil. His skills, style and goals will win over men from around the world. Will become bloated on success, however.

So there you have it. Feel free to make me aware of any games that I haven’t mentioned that have picked up on the World Cup craze, and share your memories of the ones I have. As the final for this year’s World Cup edges ever closer, maybe it is about time that, if you are one of the many fans who were unlucky in this tournament, you should have a dip into one of these games sometime. It’ll help you cope with the disappointment if you control your team to glory. Trust me, I know. I’m from England.   read

6:44 AM on 04.14.2010

Fail List - Inaccurate Title Edition

I usually get some great responses to some of the newspaper/magazine videogame lists, so imagine my joy when I found the Independent had done a top fifty list themselves in their Information weekend pull-out. The only problem was that I had to wait a couple of weeks before I could get my hands on it to scan the contents, so I apologise if you've already noticed the article.

Now, when I mean 'Inaccurate Title', let me put it this way; if you had the choice of 'The 50 Best Videogames' or 'The 50 Best Videogames and Peripherals in the Last Year or Two', would you choose the former because it was shorter and more likely to fit the page, or the latter because it accurately described what the list was about? Well, let's just say the editor went for the shorter title. It is a shame, because not only is this title misleading but it also conseals how decent the actual list is.

If you look on the second image I've scanned (I can't scan the whole page since the pull-out isn't A4 size), it gives not only a colour-coded key to the types of games and peripherals, but also gives information about the panel which decided what should go in. If you look carefully, you can see that not only are there three representatives from the Independent, but also one each from the Pocketgamer and Computer and Videogames websites, so there is a little bit of good knowledge to bolster this top fifty.

Let's have a look, shall we?

You can call me easily impressed, but I'm very happy to see Half-Minute Hero and Demon's Souls in there. There are a few unknown games in amongst the great titles too.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome as always.

Batthink out.   read

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