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1:50 AM on 11.18.2010

The VGA category they definitely got right

With the VGA nominees announced ... well, a lot of people are rightfully questioning some of the picks. At least in my mind they are, because some of the categories are filled with abysmally weak choices (hi, Best Song in a Game) or are missing out on games that should be in there with them (Minecraft in the Indie Category instead of P.B. Winterbottom? Super Mario Galaxy 2 or Kirby's Epic Yarn for GotY, or any Wii game for that matter? Any semblance of love for the PC crowd?) or are categories that shouldn't really need to exist (Most Anticipated Game, which is already going to go to Gears of War 3 because it's BROTASTIC).

But there was one category that stood out among the crap for ... well, for not being crap:

Best Downloadable Game
Costume Quest
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Monday Night Combat
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game

Given the long list of downloadable games this year, any number of other titles could have and perhaps should be included in the "Best Downloadable Game" discussion that didn't make it into the indie category, like Shantae: Risky's Revenge, Comic Jumper, Recettear, Breath of Death VII, Alien Swarm, Shank, Bit. Trip Fate, Cave Story Wii, VVVVVV ... the list can go on for quite a long time. And it'd be easy for me to sit here and slice the VGAs as a whole up for not including one or more of them in the discussion.

But I'm not going to, because this was the only category I really didn't come away with thinking that Spike dropped the ball on. All four of the games on this list are absolutely worthy of winning the award, each for their various strengths. They've all scored very well among reviewers, and on top of it, all four games are in entirely different genres (RPG, action/adventure, team-based combat and beat 'em up, respectively), not to mention among the best new games this year in each of those genres. And coming up with an excuse as to why they don't deserve to be in the category really comes down to personal preference, because that's the only reason I could even remove one of the games from the list. I don't think you could say that for any other category, even the similar Best Indie Game category (see intro paragraph).

As for which one I'd pick? Scott Pilgrim over Monday Night Combat. But whichever of the four win will have very much deserved it, and that's one thing everyone involved can walk away with feeling great about.

Now, if only all the other categories were as proper as this one ...   read


5:15 PM on 11.09.2010

New documentary looks to capture the Japanese arcade experience

[embed]186859:33966[/embed]

During the summer, many people spent their time going to the beach or riding rollercoasters or any number of other fun activities. Brad Crawford, though, went to Japan on a mission: to film a documentary on the Japanese arcade experience.

The end result? A documentary-in-progress called 100 Yen. The documentary hopes to cover the history of Japanese arcades, the stories of those who game there, and how the world of arcade gaming is competing with console and portable gaming. In his travels to Osaka, Tokyo and Fukuoka to check out Japan's major gaming centers, he also talked to the likes of Q-Games designer Bear Trickey, professional gamer Ryan "Gootecks" Guitierrez and Kotaku editor Brian Ashcraft.

Check out the trailer above for a taste of what might come. Brad wants to go back to Japan to interview additional people, including Daigo Umehara, Osaka Electronic University professor of video games Satoshi Numata, spokespeople from Japan's arcade titans (Capcom, Konami, Taito, etc.) and more. But to do so, he needs to raise some funding. Brad's hoping to raise $9,000 in the next three months through a website called IndieGoGo that helps fund collaborative ideas. He's so far raised more than $5,600, and if you're interested in chipping in, Brad's offering a tonof incentives to do so: film credits, copies of the future "100 Yen" DVD, Street Fighter IV tourney sticks signed by a famous but unnamed figure (maybe Daigo?) and a lot more.

So what say you guys? Sound interesting? Thinking of contributing?

[via GameSetWatch]   read


1:58 AM on 11.09.2010

Gran Turismo 5 intro leaked (w/thoughts)

[embed]186810:33943[/embed]

That, which you see above, is the leaked intro to Gran Turismo 5. Really. It was first up on GTPlanet, but Sony's since sent letters out to pull it down. Unfortunately, it's out there now ahead of the game's release (now believed to be at the end of November ... maybe just in time for Cyber Monday after Thanksgiving?) and I'm sure this video will disappear in due time. So for now, watch it while you can.

So, what do I think? As a fan of racing games and the Gran Turismo series, it's a mixed bag. The intro with the car building footage is cool ... but it runs too long. Maybe chop a minute of that stuff out of it and we're good. And the actual editing of the footage is very tight and looks great throughout the 6 or so minutes this goes on for.

But then, it gets worse.

The new My Chemical Romance song is just ... ugh, really? If not for the fact they're one of the biggest bands Sony has signed, I doubt they'd seriously have this as the theme. In fact, if I could have had my choice of any song, it would have been the appropriately car-themed "White Knuckle Ride" by Jamiroquai off their new album. And as any Top Gear fan knows, lead singer Jay Kay is an avid fan of automobiles. The only problem with that is that Jamiroquai and Sony had a very heated, very public break-up after their record deal ended, and suffice to say, the two sides do not like each other very much. So there's no way in hell this will ever happen and I'll be forced to just turn down the volume every time I see the intro.

The game, though, looks great. Hopefully, when I get my PS3, I'll still be excited about this game and the intro will just be something I can look past as a single flaw on an otherwise great title.   read


1:41 AM on 11.07.2010

Short Thoughts on Kinect: It'll be middle of the road


Kinect is out, and the reviews seem to be mixed. Some people love it, other people think it's garbage, and even more think it's meh. But the question is, in this world where everyone has an opinion, who's right?

The answer well, probably no one, but the people thinking it'll be ok but nothing magical will likely be closest to the truth. In part, that's for two main

Biggest reason why it'll do The technology.

Even more so than the Wii. While the Wii took down the button-mashing brick wall between gamers and non-gamers, Kinect aims to do that even more with the "you are the controller" approach. Sure, it doesn't work perfectly, but from what I've seen so far, it has a lot of promise. More promise than Move and the Wii remote combined. Kinect is intuitive to anyone who knows how to move their limbs.

I know, it seems weird to suggest that no controller is better than even a small controller, but there are plenty of people who still struggle a bit with a Wii remote or Move. They still require you to be able to follow button commands on-screen, but unlike a reg   read


2:13 AM on 10.25.2010

Should games that have major updates get updated reviews?


Every once in a while, I find a post I started writing and never finished. Tonight's one of those nights. So I present, to you, the Dtoid C-Blog readers of the world, one such post, written a while ago but perhaps important because it's now a subject that affects me what to do with games that get major patches/updates. Not DLC, mind you, but fixes for problems that were present in the game in the first place. And this is relevant to me now because I reviewed one such game — F1 2010 — which I may have scored higher if the bugs Codemasters are fixing now were never present.

The original post was inspired by Backbreaker's massive update a few months ago, essentially fixing problems and complaints that dragged the game's score down in a number of reviews I read. But it's still timely, and will be in the future as more post-game patching is done on the likes of New Vegas and others (though New Vegas sscored so highly, it may not affect it much).

So here it all is, open for debate. Please feel free to discuss any part of this post in the comments. I might just reply if you   read


1:26 AM on 09.16.2010

Why I'm excited about a game with Avatars in it again



For TGS, most people will walk away with excitement over Gran Turismo 5 or The Last Guardian or Catherine or the new Castlevania or whatever else tickles their fancy. But for me, one game's already kind of stolen the show, and it's not one I even saw coming: a new Fire Pro Wrestling title from Microsoft and Spike that makes use of the Avatars on Xbox Live. And result, I'm suddenly excited a bit about a game that uses Avatars again.

I say again because, honestly, the only other time I've been excited was for the now-defunct 1 vs. 100, a game that was fun to play with other people and because I tended to do pretty well at it. I had been down on them before that game came out and actually took a liking to using them for the virtual game show, but since then, nothing's really made me think they're being used in a good way.

If you're unfamiliar with Fire Pro, here's a video recapping a bit of what it's about. Keep the volume off, since it's crappy Linkin Park music, but this is the only video to cover the entire franchise up until about 2 hours ago:

[embed]184045:33187[/embed]

You'll probably notice, the games are all in 2-D. This was something Spike continued to choose to do, even though 3-D games were possible and they did release 3-D wrestling games that were not part of this series. But what makes Fire Pro so different is that the grapple system is all about strategy and timing, not just button-mashing; the comprehensive edit mode; and the huge roster of wrestlers across many different styles. It's the only game where you can really see the difference between Mexico's lucha libre, Japan's puroresu and North American-style wrestling all in the same ring, as the WWE Smackdown series and the like are often featured far more limited movesets and personality styles.

But the inclusions of Avatars fits well with this game. Past Fire Pro games had high levels of customization, and I'm sure with the Xbox Avatar engine, we'll have quite a few options. Hopefully, not ones we'll have to pay for, though!

But more importantly, it provides an actual use for the Avatars like Miis in Wii Sports. No longer is the Avatar simply standing there, but he or she is actively in the ring, throwing punches, putting people in armbars and delivering devastating piledrivers onto Avatars of your friends. Basically, imagine Wii Sports, but with pro wrestling as one of the games. I know I would have liked that, even if it wasn't super-realistic looking.

Of course, this could all be for nothing, as the game's only confirmed for Japan right now. But Spike and Microsoft, knowing there's an audience here in the U.S. that would be receptive and needing to give Avatars a first-party use with 1 vs. 100's cancellation, would be dumb to pass up the opportunity to bring this across the Pacific. And I, for one, can't wait to start dropping my Xbox Live friends on their heads as Super Tiger King. I just hope we can dress our little guys up in something awesome.   read


1:29 AM on 09.14.2010

Rumortoid: Yun, Yang in Super Street Fighter IV Arcade?



Word has started to spread onto Kotaku and a handful of other notable game blogs about a post at EventHubs concerning Super Street Fighter IV Arcade. Among the changes that apparently are confirmed from a number of test locations are some move changes, such as Cammy's normal moves are easier to combo with now, but Tiger Knee (instant) Canon Strikes are no longer possible. Which PISSES ME OFF.

But more importantly, those test location cabinets apparently have two new characters: Street Fighter 3's twins, Yun and Yang. Now, this is good for me for one reason: one of my Street Fighter 3 characters was Yun (who I admit I originally picked because I liked his hat), so having him in the mix will be nice to see. Still, though, would be nice to get Skullomania in. Or are we still pretending the EX games never happened, Capcom?

In any case, I might need to find an arcade cabinet of this somewhere around here. And by somewhere around here, I mean "The closest one will probably be in Chicago." *sigh*   read


12:01 AM on 09.10.2010

More Than Just Noise: Euphoria at 35,000 Feet



"When asking friends for game recommendations, I've yet to have anyone suggest a game to me for the sole reason that the sound/music is stunning." - Jonathan Ross, in this month's Monthly Musing post.

When I read that quote, I began to think Jonathan was right. When was the last time I'd given such a recommendation? When was the last time I'd heard one? I couldn't think of an actual answer to either. But those words inspired me to seek out a game I didn't think Jonathan would ever play, based on what I knew about his gaming tastes from my time in Destructoid's community.

Truthfully, it took me all of 10 minutes to figure something out, a game that's still one of my favorites and one I'm not sure anyone on Dtoid's staff except Josh Tolentino has played, and that's only because we are both fans of the same franchise. It's a game where the soundtrack means everything, a game I never would have fallen in love with had it not had such beautiful music, a game in a franchise noted for both its action and its music.

JRo, you ask, I respond. And my answer is Ace Combat 04: Shattered Skies.

Ace Combat 04 was the game that actually got me to buy a PS2. Sounds odd, but it's totally true. And a large part of that came not from flying the missions, but the soundtrack itself, which I consider one of the five best-fitting soundtracks to any game ever.

Many if not all of the songs in Ace Combat 04 were chiefly composed and arranged by the duo of Keiki Kobayashi and Tetsukazu Nakanishi. Kobayashi's first soundtrack for Namco was working on the one for Ace Combat 04, while Nakanishi's been with Namco since the early 1990s. Together, their collaborative teamwork, along with the other members of the Ace Combat music staff, has put together a soundtrack that takes you along for the ride and, combined with the in-game sounds, draws out the right emotions at the right times.

For most missions, though, it's the music that sets the tone. So let's take a look at a few examples:

[embed]183563:32958[/embed]

This is the music that plays during your briefing missions, conveniently called "Operation". During your briefing missions, people. Listen to that uptempo, driving music. If this doesn't get your blood pumping, makes you want to hop into a plane and go shoot down anything in your path, I don't really know what else might.

[embed]183563:32952[/embed]

Helpfully, most of the game's tracks are named after the missions they're used for, such as Mission 3, "Northern Eye". As you may notice, the song has some elements of, or appears to emulate, eastern European music a bit. That's fitting, since the mission takes you across a vast, frozen mountain landscape, not unlike what you might see in someplace like Siberia.

[embed]183563:32953[/embed]

One of the most underrated songs in the game comes in the fourth mission, "Blockade." The mission puts Mobius 1 above the skies, tasked with taking out E767s that are jamming friendly radar. What's fantastic about it, truthfully, is that the song's rhythm stands out: it is, by my estimation, the only song I've ever heard in a video game in 7/8 time. It also has that light tinge in the background of xylophone amongst the high notes of the violins, kind of giving it a floating through the clouds feel, only to have the bass underscore it at various points as a reminder that, hey, you've got enemies to go shoot down, buddy.

[embed]183563:32959[/embed]

"Stonehenge's Attack" of course, plays during the first time you run into Stonehenge, during the end of Mission 7. It has this pulsing, frantic pace that not only sounds tense, but the beats in the background seem to almost fit right in with Stonehenge's massive railgun blasts, threatening to blow you out of the sky if you traverse higher than 2,000 feet. Did I also mention that you're doing all this while flying through a canyon? Because you are, and just when you don't need to feel any more rushed, this song comes on, with its haunting strings and booming bass, and tells you that you'd better get out of there. Fast.

[embed]183563:32956[/embed]

Mission 8, "Shattered Skies," has a fitting theme as well in "Comona". The entire level is predicated around defending a rocket that's about to launch into space with a satellite, a rocket the Erusians want destroyed. Essentially, it's one massive dogfight in the air, weaving through Yellow Squadron members and MiGs that are darting across the sky. The heavy rock orientation and massive chords of this piece, along with the quick tempo, really get my adrenaline pumping every time and desn't let go until I'm being debriefed. Can't ask for anything more fitting.

The icing on the cake, though, comes right at the game's climax, the point the entire storyline has been building up to: Mission 15, "Emancipation." This is not only the best song in the game, in my humble opinion, but it's also the most fitting. And with the in-game chatter, it goes from simply being a fitting song to being an absolute masterpiece. You can listen to the song alone here, but instead, I'm going to link to the actual game play so you can watch how it all flows together so well:

[embed]183563:32954[/embed]

The mission here is to liberate the city of San Salvacion, which is the same city the narrator of the game's subplot lives in. Within the first 90 seconds, you can hear your teammates, speaking perhaps with a bit of nervousness and panic as they try to liberate the city and avoid enemy fire; the sounds of a local radio broadcast being picked up, reporting on what's going on above them and on what's happening below with the resistance, cutting out from time to time as the enemy censors try to stomp them out. They, too, are fighting for freedom, and all throughout the mission, you can hear how the tide is turning in your favor as you take out the enemy installations and free the city. Meanwhile, the level's theme plays in the background, giving off a feel of both hope and tension.

[embed]183563:32955[/embed]

And then it all goes to shit. A heads-up from AWACS cuts the party short: Erusia is sending in not one, not two, but SIX Tu-160 supersonic bombers to level the city. And you have only minutes to catch them and shoot all six down. Even letting one through becomes failure. At this point, that bit of tension seems to amplify ten-fold, because those Tu-160s are closing in on their targets incredibly quickly and the people on the ground have no idea what's coming, no time to react if you don't stop them. The entire fate of this city is in YOUR hands, and the music lets you know that.

But of course, this wouldn't even be a proper feature on Ace Combat 04's music without me mentioning the one song just about everyone seems to know:

[embed]183563:32957[/embed]

The music for the final mission, "Megalith": "Rex Tremendae" and "Megalith~Agnus Dei". If you're looking for more fitting music for a final mission that has you trying to take down a massive ICBM launcher with the ability to rain ruin down upon the entire world ... well, you'll be looking probably forever.

What makes the songs so fitting, first, happens to be their style. Both are full choral and orchestral pieces that give them the whole "this is the end and we've pulled out all the stops" feel. But dig deeper, and you'll see that underneath, these songs don't just paint a pretty picture for the dreary, storm-like skies or the massive assault on the Megalith complex. They help tell and reinforce the story itself. "Rex Tremendae" translated into English means "tremendous king," referring to the absolutely massive size of Megalith itself. "Agnus Dei" translates into "lamb of God" and yes, is a name sometimes given to Jesus Christ. It's a hint at not only Mobius 1's mission and possible sacrifice should he not make it back in one piece, but to that of every pilot and every member of the ground assault force sent in to gain access to the main bunker and stop the launch. That theme of sacrifice is further reinforced when you hear the transmissions from the ground force, hearing how team members have gone down as the survivors continue to solider on, willing to give everything to save the world from its destruction. Top top it all off, it does really give the mission a feel that everything hangs on this, which is highlighted by the actual operation name: "Operation Judgment Day".

I could, if asked, sit here and go through a mission-by-mission, track-by-track analysis of the Ace Combat 04 soundtrack and game. But it would all come back to one thing: the game's soundtrack is amazing and ties in directly to each mission in the game, playing with your emotions at exactly the right time and setting the mood sensationally. It's a game you should at least give a shot, even if you don't like flying planes too much, just because the music is so damn good and so damn fitting.

Or at least you should listen to the OST. Because even if the game lets you down, the music won't.   read


1:54 AM on 09.06.2010

Gearbox Studios, your proud new owners of all things Duke Nukem



So, you thought the Gearbox/Duke Nukem marriage was a one-time deal? Well, so did I, until this news came out from Gearbox's last panel at PAX Prime 10: Gearbox Studios, not 2K or Activision Blizzard or anyone else, has bought the rights to the Duke Nukem franchise. The whole thing.

According to a press release Joystiq has apparently seen, "Gearbox Software announced today that it has acquired the full intellectual property rights of the 'Duke Nukem' brand including Duke Nukem Forever and all future projects in a cooperative deal made with 3D Realms." However, that's not all: "The first product to be available under the Duke Nukem brand will be the long awaited Duke Nukem Forever."

That all seems to indicate that, nope, this isn't the last time we're going to see Duke. Does it mean we'll see some of the many missing-in-action Duke games like the rumored Duke Begins Gearbox was developing or the Duke Nukem Trilogy for handhelds that's in limbo? Who knows. But always, always bet on Duke.

Me? I can't wait for Anthony Burch's writing debut in Duke Nukem Forever 2: Duke Harder coming summer 2013 to the Xbox 360, PC and PS3. Feel free to start spreading that rumor right now on Twitter.   read


1:13 AM on 08.24.2010

Can Bioware deliver their big Mass Effect 3 promise?



With the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2 coming, I find myself looking back at a promise BioWare made concerning how your choices would affect the third game in the series. And I began to wonder what, besides my relationship with Liara, would carry over to the next game.

And then, I began to think back to the Mass Effect-Mass Effect 2 storyline elements that carried over, how generally insignificant they were, and whether the cycle would repeat itself. Whether I ought to get excited, or ought to prepare for disappointment.

Based on what carried over from Mass Effect to Mass Effect 2, and likewise, what we can also assume will carry over to Mass Effect 3, and with even more choices made in Mass Effect 2 that would seriously change how the story is carried out ... over 1,000 is a bit low. I was once planning to do a series of calculations based just on the choices from Mass Effect that made it into the sequel (who's ambassador, relationships, whether the Rachni are alive or dead, Paragon/Renegade, etc.) and the number for that alone was over 1,000. Now, with someone who played just the second game, 1,000 might be a rough estimate, but add in the first game's choices possibly carrying over AND some of the major decisions in the second game ... and you begin to wonder if BioWare can deliver on its promise while being able to program for such a wide number of possible choices.

Of course, they could simply limit the number of choices that affect Mass Effect 3's storyline ... but then again, how much would it suck to see that another promise - your choices in one game have consequences in the others - effectively neutered or played down, forcing you into a storyline you would have been a part of?



Grand Theft Auto IV promised something similar on a smaller scale, and honestly, as it turned out, it really didn't matter. Yes, your choices did affect how the game played out, but by and large, they were really just surface changes. You still played the exact same story with a few tiny tweaks here and there. Nothing you really did ever really changed how Niko's story went, just some of the elements in it. And that might very well be what we end up getting with Mass Effect 3: a thousand different ways to tell what amounts to the same predestined story.

But what if they manage to pull it off? It would be fantastic to see that if you saved the Rachni in the first game, they'd come to your aid in the third, and vice versa if you killed them off. Not in a side mission, in the actual main storyline. Or if you kept the Reaper base intact, that it had some impact one way or the other on what Sheppard had to do to stop the Reapers once and for all. It would be a ton of work, more than really we'd perhaps expect them to do, but it would be extremely satisfying to the player to have their changes reflected and not simply made for us, as they have been by just about every other game ever.

So we'll wait and see what happens with Mass Effect 3, I guess. For now? Guarded optimism. Where this story goes might depend on the choices BioWare makes.   read


2:04 PM on 08.10.2010

Mixed feelings on Ace Combat: Assault Heroes

[embed]181097:32113[/embed]

Yesterday came the announcement of Ace Combat: Assault Heroes, a new game from Project Aces and Namco-Bandai that had a bit of a different feel to it from the Ace Combat games of the past. And today, I'm still sitting here wondering how I feel about it. As a long-time Ace Combat fan, and someone who bought his PS2 originally for Ace Combat 04, I've had some good times and bad times with the series, but I don't yet know where this is going to fit in.

On one hand ... it looks good, at least. Hopefully the trailer represents how the game will actually look, I mean, and isn't ten times better than how Assault Heroes will look in the end. And the helicopter parts don't bug me a whole lot, as it might add an interesting twist if you have to pilot one here and there, or if you could play the same level, but have different objectives because you've selected a different type of craft. If done right, it could be tremendously satisfying.

But my main worry is that in pushing for realism, Ace Combat will be more and more pigeonholed into being more like H.A.W.X. or a sim game and allow for less wiggle room. Like Josh said yesterday, this is a series known for having giant flying carriers that can shoot cruise missiles out of them, or massive rail guns in the middle of the desert or giant bases with ICBMs and lasers. Put it here, and we can't have that. Any of that. And that's a tiny little piece of Ace Combat that's gone. And on top of it, from the trailer, it already sounds like that's the old "Americans vs. Russians/Soviets" storyline is going to happen here, with the enemy ace's name as Marakov (man, that Modern Warfare 2 guy sure gets around!) and his nickname of Akula, or "shark" in Russian.. It's nothing we haven't seen before, after all, right? Not like it was the underlying basis for a ton of action films and video games over the past 15 years, right?

So we'll have to see how it all shakes out. I'm willing to give this new Ace Combat a fair shake ... but I just hope it doesn't let me down. I can deal with it being in the real world. I can't deal with it being just another real-world combat simulator, something it hasn't been before.   read


2:34 AM on 08.10.2010

What'd You Get? - Gratuitous Amounts Of Blogging Edition

[embed]181042:32106[/embed]

Hey guys and gals,

Sorry I fell off the face of the Earth for like a month. Comic Con does that to you. Even if you don't go. But rest assured, I am still alive, and I have bought a few new things to talk about for What'd You Get?

But what did I get? I bought Gratuitous Space Battle, first off, which was last weekend's Steam sale. I haven't had the chance to try it out yet, but at $6 for the whole thing including all DLC, that's not a terrible loss if it sucks.

I also bought all of the Forza 3 DLC on sale that I didn't have (everything except the Hot Holiday Cars pack), so I'll be riding around in my shiny new Kia Forte for a bit. YEEEEEEEEEEEEAH.

I also have a preorder down for Gran Turismo 5's collectors edition. Which might seem odd, as I don't own a PS3. But this is a big incentive for me to get off my ass and actually buy one. Or beg and plead come Christmastime.

That's all for me now. What'd all of you guys get?   read


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