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6:51 PM on 01.07.2011

Level-5 and Region-Locked Time Travel

Posted by: Ryan

I might be working near Level-5. Well okay, I'm under no illusion that they're developing games there, but it is a small brick building with the Level-5 logo in the corner. And I wonder if that building contains the eight people who probably make up Level-5's entire North American branch.

Level-5 seems to be known mostly in the US for their work on the Professor Layton series of games, but they were also the developers of Square Enix's Dragon Quest XIII and Dragon Quest IX. But to be honest, I've never played a Level-5 game outside of borrowing my girlfriend's copy of DQIX for a short while. And even then, I think of the Dragon Quest games more as the work of old-school Enix than Level-5.

So I'm not nearly as excited for the next game in the Professor Layton series—or even the Phoenix Wright cross-over game announced at their "Vision 2010" event—as I am for another game that they've recently announced. A 3DS game that I'm not sure will see release in the US.


It's called Time Travelers, and it looks beautiful. It's being directed by Jiro Ishii, who also directed the Japan-only game 428, the ninth game to ever receive a 40/40 in Famitsu magazine. According to the info I've been able to find, the girl in the trailer can see the future, and the creepy guy is some kind of "future" terrorist, who presumably causes the destruction of the city. It's being described as a "mystery suspense" game, and is being produced by Akihiro Hino, the President and CEO of Level-5 (who has actually played 428). Hino has some high hopes, referring to the game as something that could potentially sell 500,000 or a million copies.

In an earlier Famitsu interview, Ishii explained that his game has "the theme of the calamity that has become a trauma within me." Ishii is from Nishinomiya, a city affected by the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995 which killed over 1000 people, and echoes the destroyed city at the end of the trailer. To be honest, I can't remember any game creator hinting at putting that kind of personal touch into their game, except for maybe Shigesato Itoi (EarthBound).

And though Hino seems confident in Time Travelers and is taking the producer role, I'm still worried that I might not get to play it. None of Ishii's games have ever made it to the United States. And I don't know if anyone who has any say in the company works in that building, but I've been seriously considering leaving a note on their door for about a week now. A note politely asking them to please publish Time Travelers in the United States, and with a promise that I'll definitely buy it when they do.

Edit: I left a hand-written note under their door. I have no idea who that letter may have reached, or even if they just threw it away, but at least I tried.   read

11:52 PM on 12.26.2010

Javascript Pong (shortblog)

Posted by: Ryan

I was trying to figure out how to get basic collision detection working from scratch, which is essentially getting boxes to know that they've intersected each other and to react appropriately. And while I was prototyping it out in Javascript, I was able to get some rectangular boxes to collide, and the whole thing looked a bit like Pong.

So I made a simple Pong copycat with just Javascript code and by repositioning <div> tags, and you can play with it here.

Player 1: Move with 'W' and 'S'
Player 2: Move with 'UP' arrow and 'DOWN' arrow
Reset game: Press 'Enter'

Because of the way browser inputs are handled, rapidly tapping the keys works much better than holding them down. Also, the game is only 500 pixels wide because I originally planned to embed it into a post with an iframe.

P.S. If you're interested, my collision detection function is essentially this:

var a = object1.x,
    b = object1.x + object1.width,
    c = object2.x,
    d = object2.x + object2.width,
    e = object1.y,
    f = object1.y + object1.height,
    g = object2.y,
    h = object2.y + object2.height;

if (a > d || c > b || e > h || g > f) {

    // rectangular objects are not colliding

} else {

    // rectangular objects are colliding


Note that this code depends on the objects intersecting for at least one frame, so it won't work for really fast objects (or really thin objects).   read

6:52 PM on 10.05.2010

Noelani's Exploding Missiles at Work (shortblog)

Posted by: Ryan

I gave my girlfriend a copy of Bangai-O Spirits on DS a little over a week ago. She sent me this text today and it made me smile, so I just thought I'd share it with you all:

10:32 PM on 09.16.2010

PAX 2010: The Long Lines of Epic Mickey, Epic Yarn, and Portal 2

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

I'm finally here: the last of my PAX 2010 posts, and with TGS now soaking in the spotlight, it's just as well. I'm sure you'd all rather read about Shadows of the Damned than old news like PAX. But hey, I've saved some games that lots of you care about for last: the ones with the big crowds and the long lines.

Actually, the line for Kirby's Epic Yarn wasn't very physically long. Everyone played the demo in co-op, so people went up in pairs to play, and there were all of maybe eight people ahead of Dexter345 and me. But of course, the Kirby demo was about eight or so minutes long, which doesn't seem like a lot until you put it in context. For the four pairs of people in front of me, that translates to over 30 minutes of standing in line.

But there's something about this game when you play it: it hypnotizes you or something. I remember when my friends went to see the movie Avatar, I would ask them if the movie was good, and all I would get back was what the movie looked like. "Everything looks so organic," "the Navi look so cool," and such were responses that I got, but no one could tell me if the movie was actually any good.

That's how I feel about Kirby's Epic Yarn: it's really cute and charming, but I probably couldn't even tell you if it's a good game. I mean, in the co-op mode, Dexter345 picked Kirby, and my character was named "Prince Fluff." Prince Fluff! How cute is that? So you already know that everything's made of string, but the game has so many small things that hook into your brain. Dexter345 kept dashing, simply because Kirby's dash animation turns him into a string-car, and there's a great splitsecond wheel-spin pause before you take off. Even better, there's a bit of slide when you change direction as a car, and it feels good to just drive, press the other way, sliiiide, change direction, and just keep skidding your dashing Kirby-car back and forth.

Dexter345 and I played through an entire level, another level where Kirby changes into a tank halfway through, and we fought the dragon boss that you've seen in the trailer. It was the same stuff that all the video game reporters played at E3, as denoted by the text that read "E3 DEMO" on the title screen. And we made our way through at a relaxed sort of pace, we grabbed and threw each other, we unzipped the background, and we collected plenty of little trinkets, but I can't really tell you if it was a good game. I can tell you that when Kirby jumps into the water, he turns into a submarine, and one of his feet becomes a propellor, while his other foot becomes a periscope.

What a strange little game. It's charming as hell.

Unlike the Kirby line, the line for Portal 2 was definitely physically long, as it wrapped all the way around their booth, and then did this Disneyland-style back-and-forth line-weaving at the front before letting people into the booth to see the game.

And yes, that verb was see and not play. I swear, they let about fifteen or more people into the booth at once, and only one person out of the group got the play the game while everyone else had to sit, watch, and listen to the PR spiel about the new features of Portal 2. It was a fucking co-op demo, and only one PAX-goer got to play it with a developer. Would it have murdered them to let maybe two people play the co-op demo?

And even if you were the one lucky person who got to play it, you played the demo with a PR rep talking the whole time and telling you exactly what to do. You know how great it felt when there was a weird puzzle in the original Portal and you had to think in an interesting way to figure it out? There was no puzzle solving to be had in this demo. Look, I hate it when NPC's tell you the answer to a puzzle in a game, and note to Valve, it sucks in real life too.

I waited in line for 45 minutes to get the worst demo that I had for the entire time I was at PAX. I didn't even get to touch the game. That's pathetic. Yeah, yeah, Valve makes Half-Life, and the original Portal was an amazing game, so people love Valve. But c'mon, you can't just assume that you can give us a shitty demo and everyone's going to give you a free pass. Noelani's never played Portal, and I was thinking that we were going to go into the demo and she was going to find out how awesome Portal is. I wanted to share my excitement for the game with her. But when we walked away from the Portal 2 booth, Noelani wasn't excited to play it at all. Instead, she acted the same way that a lot of people did when the saw the first trailers for the original Portal: she thought it looked cool, but that it looked like something she wouldn't be good at.

So if you were wondering why absolutely no one came out of PAX talking about Portal 2, that's why. C'mon Valve, you're better than this.

So... Duke Nukem Forever. At any given time, the line to play this was two hours long. And this post is all about the games that had long lines, so of course, I have to write about the game that had the longest line, and that's also been the subject of the longest running joke in the video game world, right?

No way. I had better things to do than wait two hours to play a Duke Nukem game. Sorry, but you'll have to go to someone else for thoughts on this game. I didn't play it. Then again, it's not like I played Portal 2 either.

Now the line at Epic Mickey's booth was really interesting, because it had this area where a bunch of people clustered together to play a demo of the game, and then another area with a huge line that was obviously not for playing the demo. It seemed really strange that the longest line at the booth wasn't to play the actual game, so of course, we walked up and tried to figure out what the line was for.

As it turns out, the people in that line at the Epic Mickey booth were waiting for what was easily the coolest piece of swag that anyone was giving out on the show floor. Noelani's reward for waiting in that 45-minute line was that one of two Disney artists drew an original drawing of any classic Disney character that she wanted, and she could take that drawing home with her. People were walking away from that line with drawings of Mickey in a pirate hat, Donald Duck, and even the newly resurrected character, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Noelani originally wanted a drawing of demented, brainless Mickey from the cartoon Runaway Brain, but the artist actually didn't remember how to draw it. (Also, Runaway Brain is a great short animation if you've never seen it.) So instead, Noelani asked the artist what his childhood was like, to which he replied that he had grown up on an Amish farm. As a result, she asked for a drawing of an Amish Mickey, which I immediately assumed was from Mickey and the Beanstalk when I first laid my eyes on it. Weirdly enough, Noelani's actually never seen that cartoon, even though I have it at home on VHS. We'll probably watch it together sometime.

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7:30 AM on 09.15.2010

PAX 2010: The Gameworks Across the Street

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

Dammit, why didn't anyone tell me that Taiko no Tatsujin was so damned awesome?! It's so cool! Okay, okay, so a little context: Noelani and I went to the Gameworks across the street and that was where we both played Taiko no Tatsujin for the first time. It's an arcade machine that literally has two big drums in front, and some drumsticks, and it's obviously meant for two player. It kind of stands out, and it's one of the first games that Noelani and I decided to play.

It's not nearly as complicated or intimidating as a Rock Band drumset: instead, there is just one huge drum that registers from being hit either in the center or on the side. So it's easy enough for most normal people to play, and there's something satisfying about the fact that your patterns are the same as your partner's, so you're both sitting next to each other and pounding the drums together in rhythm. Make sure to grab a cute guy/girl when you play this, because it probably just wouldn't be the same playing it alone.

And then the cherries on top are the completely super-cute art design and music selections. The characters are adorable, and every time they speak, they speak in that high-pitched, Japanese cutesy-speak which admittedly gets annoying after a while. But you've got to check out the music: one of the songs on Taiko no Tatsujin's songlist is the ending theme to The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (which fans most likely remember for its synchonized dance sequence), and another is the terribly cheesy "Cha-La Head-Cha-La," also known as the Japanese intro theme to Dragon Ball Z. (And while writing this, I realized that "We Gotta Power" would be a great song for just banging on a drum.) Seriously, I don't even watch that much anime and I know those two songs, so I'm sure more than a few nerds definitely got a kick out of the available tracks.

If you ever get the chance to play a Taiko no Tatsujin cabinet, don't pass it up. It's a treat. When you put together the approachable gameplay, the cutesy art direction, and the shameless, yet recognizable song choices, it creates a game with the same kind of wonderful, lovable appeal as one of my favorite games of all time, Samba de Amigo for Dreamcast. As if I didn't talk about SEGA games enough in my other post.

So to mention SEGA again (:P), I was really surprised at how much SEGA was all over this arcade. I played a bit of After Burner Climax, OutRun 2 SP, and Air Trix, and Noelani played a round F-Zero AX. (Pssst, Noelani and I had no clue what we were doing in After Burner Climax, but I still thought it was cool anyway.) And I should be ashamed, but I have to admit, I actually really like the song "Night Flight" in OutRun 2. I know, I know it's a terrible song, but I still like it in all it's dangerous cheesiness. As for what others were playing, we saw a few people with plastic guns shooting zombies in House of the Dead 3, a few people racing around in Initial D, and even the Ferrari F355 Challenge cabinets were constantly in use, which I thought was kind of weird. I wasn't under the impression that F355 was popular. I had forgotten just how big the truckload of SEGA arcade games was, but man, this arcade was filled with them.

So we ate at this same Gameworks one of the days we were in Seattle, and the food was pretty decent. It's not as good as the Daily Grill, but it's definitely not bad. The service was slow, but that was by no means particular to just Gameworks. Pretty much every restaurant near the convention center had slow service and was running out of supplies, but I guess it's not too surprising when you realize that there were 67,000 of us in town. Even the server girl at Johnny Rockets was telling us that PAX had completely cleaned them out, and that they were completely packed for lunch on Saturday with a line going out the door. Also, to the girl at Johnny Rockets: my girlfriend and I both want to date you.

...wait, what was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Gameworks! Upstairs, they had a section where all the fighting games were lumped together, so we played some of the arcade version of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. I own the US version for Wii, so I seriously didn't realize how pathetically few characters that game has in it's arcade release. Not just in terms of the US-exclusive characters like Frank West, but I couldn't even play as Saki, which was kind of a shock to me. But as I've mentioned several times, I love Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, so Noelani and I still had plenty of fun with it. Jonathan Ross was playing some Street Fighter 4 at the cabinet next to me, but that game has never really been my thing. I recognize that it's not a bad game, and maybe I'll give the game another shot when it comes to 3DS, but I don't know.

Now a ton of people I know really like BlazBlue, and even though I've only played it two or three times ever, I decided to throw down some credits so Noelani and I could play it just because it was pretty. Noelani's got an eye for animation as well, so I thought it'd be something that she and I would like. But unfortunately, BlazBlue sucks. It doesn't just kind of suck, it really sucks. I'm sorry guys, but no matter how high-resolution the graphics are, we both had a horrible time actually playing it. Again, sorry if you're a fan, but we both hated that game. I needed a palate cleanser fighting game after that one.

The King of Fighters XII cabinet was in use, so I didn't get to play a game of that, but rightly so. KOFXII is an excellent, overlooked game that might have been heralded as the best in the series if it only had more characters and good online. And I mean that whole-heartedly: a 3-vs-3 game needs at least 34 characters to keep from getting stale. But I completely love the KOFXII system: the dark shading and weight of the the character's movement, the pause and zoom when you hammer home a critical counter, and the sound of every hit just make the game feel good to play, even if you don't really know what you're doing. But instead of playing that, I was luckily able to pick up a game of 3rd Strike against someone at another cabinet, and we went 2 and 2 before he took the third match and beat me, despite the fact that I was using a lot of normals. The timing on Makoto's Karakusa into HP into Hayate is tougher than I remember, so I wasn't playing very well, but my fingers just love the way that 3rd Strike feels. The collision and hit-detection in 3rd Strike feels better to me than even current fighting games now.

There were so many games there (yay Raiden Fighters!), and it's not even the biggest Gameworks I've been to. So yeah, if you're ever in Seattle, possibly during next year's PAX, make sure to spend some time at the Gameworks across the street, and make doubly sure to play some weird games you've never heard of. I think you'll have a good time.

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11:26 PM on 09.12.2010

PAX 2010: The Last Hours on the Floor w/ Fluidity and Raskulls

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

It's an odd state to be in when you've only got less than two hours left to play games on the show floor, because you still want to see things that you haven't gotten around to seeing yet, but you also don't want to wait in line and burn the precious little time you have left. So the last hours on the PAX show floor tends to be filled with games that are "hidden gems" of sorts. Games like Nintendo's Fluidity.

Now Nintendo certainly had it's share of long lines with both Kirby's Epic Yarn and Metroid: Other M, but Fluidity only had one kiosk where you could play it, and every time I walked by it, there were never more two people in line waiting to play it. Now from what I can tell, it seems like Nintendo doesn't give a fuck about WiiWare: they don't advertise download games at all (unless you're signed up for Nintendo's email newsletter, and even then, not so much) and instead of allowing developers to put up demos, they released demos for only five games for a limited time. I really like the content of WiiWare and I've been happy with the games I've bought, but Nintendo seriously treats the platform like a zit on prom night. So when Nintendo said that they were going to debut Fluidity at PAX, I figured it was just a half-hearted attempt to throw us a bone.

But no, I was totally wrong: Fluidity is actually awesome. It initially reminded me of Mercury Meltdown Revolution or LocoRoco, in that you're tilting the Wii remote to move the world around a blob of liquid. Except that Fluidity is a completely 2D, side-view game and your liquid tends to break apart a lot. You can shake the Wii remote to pop yourself up (also known as 'jumping') and you can hold the '1' button to try and draw the liquid all back together again. But if you hold the '1' button for too long, too much tension will build up and your blob will explode outward into droplets again.

The game has a very precarious feel, as you hop a blob of liquid that's barely holding itself together, but can't be held for too long before it'll explode and fall apart. And despite how unstable and just barely in control I was, the game felt good to play, if slightly disorienting due to constantly tilting the environment. It probably won't set the world aflame, but I was really impressed, and I'll most likely be picking up Fluidity once it makes it's way to WiiWare. When I asked the Nintendo rep about the release date, he said that he wasn't sure, but that all the games at Nintendo's booth were intended to be holiday games, and he said that, "fingers-crossed," the game should be coming out before the end of the year. So I'm thinking maybe a December or January release.

Next up was Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, which also only had one kiosk at Capcom's booth (for perspective, Ghost Trick and Okamiden each had four), and it also only ever had two or three people in line to play it. And I really wasn't sure what to think going into it, because while I was waiting in line for the Retronauts panel with Kraid, he told me that he had felt disappointed by it. But then in the panel itself, Jeremy Parish said that he liked it and he recommended that we go play it.

To be honest, once I got my hands on it, I actually really liked the new jumping mechanic. Everyone's been pretty skeptical about it, but your character doesn't jump very high, meaning that you often just use the jump to make more daring, faraway swings. And you would think that the jumping would make the game lose some of the original game's bloody-minded precision, but that's weirdly not the case. Even if you suck at the "jump, then grapple mid-jump" thing, there's still usually another lower path that you can make it through without much jumping. Essentially, the game still feels like Bionic Commando, which is a very good thing, and the jumping mechanic really just adds to the game.

Not too far from that was the booth for Raskulls. Now apart from the fact that Mr. Destructoid is in Raskulls, I really didn't know anything about the game. For shame, I know. So imagine my surprise when I found out that the game is pretty much just Mr. Driller, except even more awesome and with race-to-the-finish multiplayer. They've made the game a bit more Bomberman-esque by including a turbo power-up and some items, but the fact that it really is just blatantly Mr. Driller came as a complete surprise to me. The second surprise hit me once I found out how much faster and way more fun this game is than yet another Mr. Driller game.

And you wouldn't think that would be a big deal, but the game has a great, cute art direction, it feels great to play, it's got some sidescrolling sections, and it's even got some boost panels thrown in for good measure. Now if you've never played Mr. Driller, it's kind of hard to explain why it's so fun to travel downward by destroying weirdly-shaped, gravity-affected blocks, but I assure you it's an addicting formula that Raskulls both apes and improves. Seriously, I'm definitely buying this game when it finally comes out. Go look up a trailer if you haven't already seen it.

Also, they gave me a Raskulls shirt, which of course means BIAS.

The next game I played was Lost in Shadow, and the people I talked to seemed to really like it, but what I played was just incredibly easy and boring. Your character moves very slowly, he jumps realistically, you can occasionally move things in the environment to a turned/unturned state with the Wii remote, and attacking was short-ranged and a little stiff. And it's not like I revel in disliking games: it's actually kind of sad that quite a few people I know really liked this game and I didn't. I dunno, maybe it's just not for me.

Not that there isn't potential for the concept: I'm hoping that later levels of games have more complex mechanics, such as moving light sources to make enemies larger/smaller, but I didn't really see any of that in what I played. I've still got some hope that the game will introduce more clever mechanics than the ones I saw as it's progression goes on.

Yeah, I didn't like that game much, and I certainly wasn't going to end my time on the show floor on that note, so I played the Castle Crashers arcade machine, which was totally cool. And then I got in a few more rounds of Super Meat Boy before they kicked us out. I couldn't help but get my hands back on that game one last time.

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11:09 PM on 09.09.2010

PAX 2010: Visiting the SEGA booth and Happy Birthday Dreamcast!

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

Yup, the Dreamcast launched in America 11 years ago as of today. Happy birthday Dreamcast! Can you believe it's been that long? And it's not a big secret that SEGA's Dreamcast console is my favorite video game system of all time. Though maybe not for the most obvious reasons.

You see, I'm about to turn 22-years-old next month, so when the Dreamcast was released in 1999, I was in sixth grade. (Yup, I'm younger than I look. Also, Noelani is older than she looks.) So obviously, I didn't have a job, and after the Dreamcast died, games just fell to the floor in terms of their prices. So I would just go to my local game shop, and any game that anyone said was any good at all, I just picked it up. I bought Soul Calibur for $12, Jet Grind Radio for $6, Chu Chu Rocket for $5, and there was Grandia II, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis, and the list of great games that I bought for disgustingly cheap just goes on and on. I was only a middle/high school kid, and yet thanks to the Dreamcast dying so quickly, I was able to afford a large library of games that I really liked and was proud to own.

(via IGN Boards)

And so I have more happy memories of Dreamcast games than I do of any other console. Samba de Amigo and Power Stone 2 (and even the original Power Stone) are still some of my favorite games of all time. Now to be fair, the Dreamcast actually had very few games that I would consider "perfect 10" games, but I'd be willing to say that over half of the Dreamcast library is filled with 7 and 8 games that were absolutely great.

All right, all right, all right: I know you guys came here to read about PAX and not Dreamcast nostalgia, so instead, I've decided to mark the occasion by talking about the stuff I did at the SEGA booth. That's related, right? Oh, but goodness, I played five games at the SEGA booth, and that was only a little over half of the games they brought with them to PAX. There were seriously nine different games to play at the SEGA booth, which is pretty rad and kind of insane. It's nice to see them finally doing well and coming to PAX with a great line-up, but now I've got a lot to write about in just one post. I'm probably biting off more than I can chew, but aww, here it goes.

So I guess I'll start with the game that everyone wants to hear about: Sonic Colors! Well, it's the game that I personally was excited about, and once I got to the SEGA booth, that was certainly the game I made a beeline to. The Wii version of Sonic Unleashed is the closest SEGA's come to making a good Sonic game, and so from watching videos, I just assumed that Sonic Colors was going to be nothing more than Sonic Unleashed with the night levels stripped out.

My assumptions were wrong. Sonic Colors certainly has the skin of Sonic Unleashed, but after my time with it, I realized that the level design makes all the difference. So first off, the boost mechanic is now mapped to the B button and since you get boost from white Wisps (from killing enemies and such) and not from collecting rings, you don't get as much boost as before. Also, the game actually seems to spend the majority of the level in 2D, which means it feels less like a twitchy arcade racer, and it has some more actual platforming, if you can believe that. I'll say that I did not completely blast through my demo of Sonic Colors the way I would have with a level of Unleashed. I did have to occasionally slow down, and I'm totally okay with that.

In addition, the levels still don't take a very long time to complete, but they seemed pretty huge. The branches in the path seem much more weirdly organic than previous games, and I was kind of surprised once or twice when I unexpectedly fell down to a different path instead of a bottomless pit.

Now the Z-button drifting thing from Sonic Unleashed is still here, and though it was very underutilized in the demo I played, I'm still holding out hope that the cool warping floors will be making a return. But the sidestep move is completely gone, and it will be missed. (The sidestepping section of Eggmanland was totally badass.) Oh, and the Wisp powers: they're activated by shaking the Wii remote and they're horribly unresponsive, but that turned out not to be a problem. From what I played, the game never asks you to use a Wisp power with any sort of precise timing at all, and they even seemed almost optional. Seriously, the Wisps may be on the cover, but they're not a big deal when it comes to the gameplay side of things.

So as far as I'm concerned, it looks like Sonic Colors is doing everything it needs to be doing, at least from a gameplay and level design standpoint. Well done, SEGA.

I also got to demo a level of the DS version of Sonic Colors, but in stark comparison to the Wii version, the gameplay of the DS version is exactly the same as the previous Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure. Don't get me wrong, those were great games and all, but there's really nothing to see here. If you want to play a DS Sonic game, just go buy Sonic Rush Adventure right now. It was a highly overlooked, excellent game (once the raccoon girl shuts up), and you can grab it new for only $15 in a Best Buy bargain bin.

But even worse than Sonic Colors DS, which left me apathetic, was Sonic 4, which was actively frustrating. And I can deal with the graphics or whatnot that people are bitching about, but yeah, the physics are just borked. The game just really doesn't feel good to play, and even people around me were getting a little frustrated at the game. We all overshot jumps, fell from vines, and got stuck on things we simply shouldn't have. We even had trouble fucking spin-dashing up an incline, and that's just wrong. I've heard that SEGA is aware of the problems and they're making changes to the game, but yeah... it's not in a good state to be demoing right now.

Edit: Jim Sterling says: "Wow, I didn't have those troubles. The only thing I would agree with are the vines, which are a bit tricky. They're only a small part though. The rest of it, I was fine with. No problem with physics for me. Argument DENIED!"

And then there's Vanquish, and no one cares what my opinion is on this game because I don't play many shooters and the demo that I played is the exact same demo that you could be playing in a few minutes (depending on how good your bandwidth is) on XBL and PSN. But you know what? You're gonna get an opinion anyway. Take that! Hah!

So as I was saying, I don't play many shooters, and I died two or three times during my demo of Vanquish, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of it at all. In fact, I think I probably liked it even more because I suck. So if you don't know anything about Vanquish, the best way to think of it is Gears of War with a crazy boosting dash move and a lot more enemies.

But as someone who isn't too great with the analog stick aiming thing, damn does it feel good to just get out from cover, dash over to three guys, shotgun or melee them in the face, and then crazy-dash off again to another cover point. There's a point in the demo where a bunch of soldiers are coming down off of the stairs, and they're accompanied by a hulking robot. I was seriously able to dash right along side the robot and shotgun him several times from point blank before taking off... and that actually worked. I really killed him that way.

Unfortunately, this takes a lot of the methodical pacing out of a Gears of War-style game, which will appeal to psychopaths (me) and maybe not so much to others. I don't know, it's tough to tell how much mainstream interest there is in a game like this. I shot out the driver of a mech walker, and instead of mentally checking my surroundings and figuring out the best way to cover-hop my way to the mech without dying, I just dashed my guy over there, jumped in, and started shooting people with the mech walker. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Vanquish moves fast and furious, and it gets your heart pumping, but in a very good way. The only problem is that I've heard it doesn't have any multiplayer, which I know is going to be a deal-breaker for some people. I'm disappointed too: a bunch of players booster-dashing back and forth around a large map would be a sight to behold.

But hey, what is there looks pretty great. I liked it so much that when I got back from PAX, I pushed the XBL demo onto my friends, who promptly made fun of the game being "Gears of War in the future," but since they were already big Gears of War fans, they also seemed to really enjoy playing it too.

...and as for Valkyria Chronicles 2, I think the game is already out, isn't it? As in, if you liked Valkyria Chronicles, then you could totally go buy the sequel right now! It wasn't too much different from the demo I played of the original game. And while I had some hands on time with one of the missions in the game, and I enjoyed what I played, I definitely won't be buying it because I don't own a PSP!

Not only that, but I've almost never used one either, so I didn't even know where the analog stick was on the thing. Luckily, the dude at the booth was really nice, and showed me the ropes of how to play the game. In fact, in general, all the people at the SEGA booth were great. One of them saw Noelani with her DS out and offered to give her the Sonic Colors DS demo, and one of them even took a picture of me since I was wearing a Sonic shirt on Saturday. Seriously, visiting the SEGA booth was a really pleasant experience, they've got Vanquish and Sonic Colors on the horizon, and they threw a big fan party at the Gameworks across the street. So despite everything, it seems like they're doing well these days. Thanks SEGA!

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6:58 PM on 09.08.2010

PAX 2010: Dying and Smiling w/ Super Meat Boy and Bangai-O

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

The show floor at PAX is completely covered in game demos, so even if you burned all your money on a flight and hotel and you barely have enough to eat with, there's more than plenty of things to do at PAX, both on the show floor and off. And Noelani must think I'm some kind of masochistic maniac, because the two games that made me smile more than anything else involved me dying over and over and over with a 360 controller in my hands.

My total love of Super Meat Boy probably shows that I'm a man of simple tastes: it's a game about a guy made of meat running through a box filled with buzzsaws trying to save a girl made of bandaids. The entire game is only played with two buttons and a D-pad and the level map doesn't have any branching paths, but for its simplicity, what is there is nearly perfect. Especially the controls, which I initially assumed would have some problems due to the 360's D-pad, but it somehow still played incredibly. I cannot stress enough how great the controls, the jumping, and the collisions feel.

And there are also collectables in the game. Levels have bandaids, which are generally difficult to get and seem to go towards unlocking new characters. And in addition to that, beating a level under a certain time unlocks a more difficult, "dark world" version of that level. And this is where things get fun.

So I was just blasting through a few levels in World 1, occasionally talking with the dude at the booth, when he tells me that I've unlocked the dark world version of the level that I'm on. So he shows me how to change between the main game and the dark world, and I fire up the dark world version of the level I was just on. I beat two or three dark world stages pretty quickly, but then I get to this one that I just keep dying on over and over. Now I've got a couple people watching, including my girlfriend, and I'm playing this level that's just killing me over and over and... I'm happy. Like really happy. There's a big smile on my face, and I don't think Noelani quite understands how I can be so gleeful with each continuous death, but she finds it cute nevertheless.

After enough deaths, the booth dude offered to switch the game back to the normal mode, and I had to shoo him away once or twice. No way booth person, I'm totally beating this level. I can do it. And about twenty deaths later, I finally did, after which I passed the controller off to someone else. And then I got to see about thirty meat boys (minus one) get slaughtered as they made their way through my glorious replay. If I had to choose, Super Meat Boy might have actually been my Game of the Show. Yes, it's that good.

Edit: And apparently, the Destructoid editors agree! Congrats Super Meat Boy on winning Game of the Show!

Now while the demo of Super Meat Boy I played was a polished, near-complete game, Bangai-O HD: Missle Fury, on the other hand, was very obviously a build and not even an actual demo. It had all the levels unlocked, and almost all of the menu and story text was in Japanese, though they had an English-translated GUI and pause menu. But even in what seems to be an early-ish state, the actual gameplay of Bangai-O HD is coming along beautifully.

So it's finally a proper twin-stick shooter again, with movement on the left analog stick and firing on the right, though the Bangai-O series definitely sets itself apart from other twin-stick shooters with a ton of crafty enemy types and ingenious, almost puzzle-style environments. But more than anything else, Bangai-O is known for exploding. Just hold down the left trigger to charge up you're EX Attack (the guy at the booth called them "counters"), and when you let go, your mech explodes missiles in every direction. And the more enemy missiles you have near you, the bigger your EX Attack is: you explode even more missiles when you're about to die. At any given time, the screen is generally filled with line trails of your missiles or your enemies missiles, and it's fucking amazing.

Though it should be noted that the mechanics are slightly different than the most recent (and my personal favorite) game in the series, Bangai-O Spirits. I know that certain people hate on the DS version, but it's clearly a better game than it's Dreamcast predecessor. (Don't get me started: I'll fill up a whole blog to defend that statement at some point.) But possibly influenced by fan outcry, the Bangai-O HD system attempts to strike a happy medium between fans of both old and new.

The story is back, though it seems to only be in text-form, with sketchy characters and speech bubbles appearing before each stage. As I mentioned before, I couldn't read it because it was in Japanese, so I can't say if it's as bat-shit crazy as fans expect. You no longer select weapons before each stage, which is a huge (again, huge) disappointment, but the weapons you start each stage with are not always the same. So there are still a few different weapon types in the game, but without the ability to choose or mix weapons, I just found myself leaning on the homing missile pretty hard. Also, in another return to the Dreamcast version, your EX meter is filled by destroying enemies and not by collecting fruit. Instead, fruit heals a small portion of your health and fruit even follows you if you get close enough to it, which is a weird design choice, and it's tough to tell this early on whether that'll make Bangai-O a slightly easier experience than it's been in the past.

In general, fans of the Dreamcast version will be happy with the changes and fans of the DS version (like me) will be slightly disappointed by them. But my biggest disappointment is that EX Attacks can no longer be directed, and now are only omnidirectional. It makes them a lot less useful and, combined with the lack of selectable weapons, means that you'll be exploding a bit less than you did in the DS iteration.

Edit: According to Kotaku, you can direct EX Attacks with the right analog stick! (I kept trying to do it with the left stick.) I really hope they're right!

I know it sounds like I'm being down on the game because it seems worse than the DS version, but being slightly worse than an amazing game is still amazing. If I say that Cave Story is better than Super Metroid, that certainly doesn't mean that I dislike Super Metroid or that it's a bad game, and it's the same idea here. Despite my concerns, I still loved the hell out of Bangai-O HD.

But what really kept me hooked on it was when the representative at the booth tried to take me off of a certain level because he claimed that it "was gonna be rebalanced" and that he didn't think the developers had even beaten it yet... oh, it's on now. Now, I had to try and beat it. I was gonna beat it, and then this guy is gonna tell the dudes at Treasure about this crazy American kid who actually beat the level and I was gonna be the most awesome kid at PAX. Man, I played that damned level so many times... and I died many, many times.

But I know it wasn't impossible! I kept getting closer and closer to actually killing the massive hordes of enemies in the level and making my way through, and then I even came back the next day, I picked that same level, and I tried again and tried again.

And try as I did, I still died again and again. I love Bangai-O.

Bonus: If you want to read even more about Bangai-O HD, fellow LA Dtoider Alex Barbastis wrote a piece on it for SEGA Addicts, where he claims that "others who played the game felt more strongly than I," and I can't help but think that he's partially referring to me. I did kind of geek out about Bangai-O in front of Alex and Cadtalfryn. And I also stole the images from his article, so thanks for that!

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2:34 PM on 09.07.2010

PAX 2010: Niero is super-cool and Slam Bolt Scrappers

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

One of the more unexpected things about PAX is that when you're there, you tend to brush sleeves with lots of people you wouldn't expect. For example, Noelani and I sat next to Capcom's Community Manager Seth Killian while playing a demo of Sonic 4 and we ran into Warren Spector at the Nintendo booth. (Warren Spector => starstruck Noelani) It's actually really fun to be able to run into these kind of video game higher-ups, just sort of randomly, and chat with them for a bit.

So I don't know why it came as a surprise to me, but when Niero sat on the couch next to us during the Saturday night meet-up, I didn't realize that he'd be such a cool guy. I've met the CEOs of my company and stuff, and so I expected that the founder of Destructoid would be a bit more high-strung, but that's not the case at all: Niero may be the most laid back person I've met on the entire Dtoid staff.

So he sat down with a few of us and we just chatted for a bit about things we saw on the floor and even some early Game of the Show talk. There was talk of Retro City Rampage and Dead Space 2, and I've got two games that I personally loved to death on the show floor, but you'll hear about those later. So then Niero asks us if we played this game: he didn't know the name of it, but he says it's kind of like a fighting game, but it's also kind of like Tetris, and you're building a tower, and his description is really making no sense at all. But he's really into it, and after asking, he tells me that it's on the show floor near some roller derby game.

Of course, this story would totally suck if I didn't actually go the next day and play the game he recommended, right?

Right. So the next day, I got my hands on this Tetris-fighting game, which I found out is actually named Slam Bolt Scrappers. And as you would expect, it's pretty weird to play at first, but it's not as complicated as you would initially think.

So monsters float up at the top, and if you beat one up, you get a colored Tetris piece. The point of the game is to get your colored Tetris pieces to line up in 2x2 or 3x3 squares, after which they become laser turrets and such that can destroy your opponent's Tetris-piece-made tower. The concept is amazing, and the game, while confusing at first, is a whole ton of fun once you've got the idea. It takes an extremely familiar mechanic (Tetris) and then twists it around so much that it's almost reminiscent of Power Stone or Smash Bros., which is a great, great thing.

Perhaps the only issue I had with the game was that players could go to the other side of the board and directly beat up their opponents, but when I did, I couldn't really tell who was winning or what combination of the two attack buttons I should be pressing to beat people up. I would just kind of fly near them, and mash a button and hope that they took more damage than me. But even then, there were occasionally some power-ups (including a shield), which encouraged you to go to the other side and annoy the hell out of your opponent, so there might be more to that mechanic than I initially gathered. And hey, dying isn't even a big deal anyway, since you come back really quickly if you ace a quick-time event.

I've never actually heard of Fire Hose Games before, and I might have missed this had Niero not recommended it, so consider this post as me passing on his recommendation: Slam Bolt Scrappers is damned awesome game that you should definitely keep an eye on.

Edit: Adding in a gameplay video!


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7:42 PM on 08.30.2010

Breaking Down the BIT.TRIP FATE Teaser Image

Posted by: Ryan

Abstract as they are, there is definitely still some debate as to the symbolic meaning of the first three BIT.TRIP games. Some speculate that CommanderVideo is born in BIT.TRIP BEAT, while others argue that he is first born in BIT.TRIP RUNNER, but I think that it's fair to say that the first three games are from an "internal" perspective, whether that means his formation of self or just the synapses firing in his brain. BIT.TRIP RUNNER, on the other hand, is the first time we get to see CommanderVideo and his interaction with the world from an external point of view.

BIT.TRIP RUNNER starts with CommanderVideo running at top speed along a strange, wonderful new planet. That early stage of the game embodies the naivety of arriving in a new place, like the first day of college or the first day at a new job, where everything is cool and new and the possibilities are endless. The core gameplay shares that same optimistic feel: if you trip up, you start from the beginning again without missing a beat. It's like one of those rare nights when you get a flow of inspiration and your mind just keep going and going without stopping.

"This game is about taking life by storm and not taking 'no' for an answer."

— Alex Neuse on BIT.TRIP RUNNER

But unfortunately, if I were to predict what's coming in BIT.TRIP FATE, the next logical stage after being new to the world and feeling unstoppable, is eventually finding out that there are limitations. If this is CommanderVideo's first journey into the external world, then I think BIT.TRIP FATE will be his first experience dealing with the boundaries of his new world, learning to deal with frustration and unfulfillment, and maybe being unable to stop bad things from happening.

The core of this teaser image is the juxtaposition of ice and lava, and taken as life symbols, these could be symbolic of the contrast between depression and anger/mania. But also in the image is a chain burrowing through the ice, while the lava shows a construction site, possibly a factory or a forge. Although the extreme heat and extreme cold are completely natural in both the external world and the emotional world, it's unsurprising to see a strong effort by humans (I AM ONLY A MAN) to control both.

"You are going to experience a side of CommanderVideo that you haven't seen before, and it might be a little scary. It might be a little weird."

— Alex Neuse on BIT.TRIP FATE

And most interestingly of all, CommanderVideo is going to have friends: lots of friends. That's the part I'm most interested to see. How does that kind of darker emotion play off of his new comrades? Does one of them get hurt or kidnapped? (Your princess is in another castle.) Will he be the one to hurt or betray them? Will the ice level be completely in Nether Mode (depression), while the lava level is sparking off of Extra Mode (mania) the entire time?

There are definitely still plenty of questions to be answered.

All right Gaijin Games, I've made my first guess and showed my hand. It's your move. Show me something. I'll be at the Destructoid LIVE panel this Saturday during PAX. Be there. :P

Edit: We've got a debut trailer for BIT.TRIP FATE! And a soundtrack as well!
Here are some of the little nuances I've noticed:

+ The titles of the levels are "Patience," "Frustration," and "Anger."
+ CommanderVideo's chest has a CORE that fades in and out like a heartbeat, and it can fade to grey.
+ The top-right corner of the soundtrack depicts CommanderVideo with an evil, glowing red eye.
+ CommanderVideo is entirely on rails, and cannot deviate from his path (as far as we know).
+ His friends are used as power-ups. Not too sure what this means.

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4:04 PM on 08.17.2010

The Adventures of Small Puppy (NVGR)

Posted by: Ryan and Noelani

Friday morning, when I woke from troubled dreams, I was a small, stuffed puppy.

"What's happened to me?" I thought. It wasn't a dream. But instead of moping around, I decided to go traveling.

Though being small, I can't go very far. It's tiring.

So a guy let me stowaway in his pocket! And thanks to him, I made it all the way to Disney California Adventure!

I sure do love California Adventure! Its.BIG!

Follow the adventures of small puppy at:

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3:11 PM on 08.09.2010

Dear SEGA: How to Make Us Love Sonic Colors

Posted by: Ryan

Sonic Colors has an official release date (November 16) and SEGA looks like they might get this one right. They're essentially making Sonic Unleashed again, but they're focusing on only Sonic and the action-levels this time. (Although the pre-order bonus continues to feed into the belief that all SEGA fans are furries, which makes me sad. Seriously SEGA, why can't I just get a Wisp plushie or something that I can put on my desk?)

So to celebrate, let's go through what I'd realistically like to see in a modern-day Sonic the Hedgehog game. Then when the game comes out, I can compare this list to what they've done in the actual game. And you guys seem to like this whole "how-to" format I've been using anyway. I'll try to be as specific as I can just in case anyone from SEGA happens to read this. (Seriously though, if you know someone who can get this in SEGA's hands, I would be honored to have them read my obvious, unoriginal suggestions.)

As far as I understand, the reason Sonic Team has been too afraid to release a game with just Sonic until now is due to gameplay length. They argued that Sonic Unleashed would be only a 3-hour game without any of the Werehog sections, which is probably true, and there are some legitimate reasons for that. So to make a full-length Sonic-only game like Sonic Colors, you'll probably need to:

Reuse Your Level Art

Since Sonic games move through the environment more quickly than most other platform games, they require longer stages, which means each stage needs more art assets to be made per individual stage. Sonic levels have a decently large number and assets, but the old-school Act 1/2 structure of those games allowed these level assets to be re-used to create multiple levels, and to make a decently long Sonic game, this form of asset-reuse is probably a necessity. A Sonic stage probably needs three or four acts, each reusing assets from the last, to make a Sonic-only game feasible.

Sonic Colors is coming exclusively to Wii and DS this time, which is a step in the right direction. The game will obviously have lower-poly models and environments than a high-definition game would, so it'll be less of a strain on the art team to make more levels, and it won't need the 100 computers and the 2-3 day wait to calculate a stage's pre-rendered lighting like a Hedgehog Engine game does.

But even with reused art assets and less polygons, a proper Sonic-only game will probably still struggle to reach the 6-hour mark. Now let's be honest: there are plenty of high-profile games with main campaigns that are only 6-hours long (not naming names), but those games usually make up for it with online multiplayer modes that people can replay over and over.

Replay is Your Strong Suit

And this is the point I want to hammer home. This is where a modern-day Sonic game needs to shine more than anywhere else. If a proper Sonic-only game is destined to be a short experience, it necessitates replay value. No Sonic game should ever be released without several hooks for replay. And so we'll start with:

Unlockable Modes

Beating the main game must unlock at least one thing on the main menu screen if you want normal people to replay your game. And whatever extra mode you add should be as low-resistance as humanly possible. Personally, I would highly recommend that the game have some kind of "Level Rush" mode where the player can play through every stage in the game back-to-back without any breaks or interruptions. I realize that loading times are necessary for each stage, so an OutRun-style transition between levels would definitely be acceptable. If after beating Sonic Unleashed, I could just select an option from the main menu to play all the daytime stages in a row, I'd fire that mode up all the time.

And if the player beats that mode, then give them a shuffle mode: same thing, but they play through the levels in a random order instead.

Multiple Paths and Online Leaderboards

A Sonic game needs online leaderboards that show you your place, and more specifically, how far you are from your nearest friend on the leaderboard in a kind of Geometry Wars style. I don't need to know that I'm 200-millionth in world as much as I need to know that I'm only 2 seconds away from beating my best friend's time. But of course, to create a wide gulf in times, the stages need lots of places where times can vary. Players need to be able to shave off seconds by rounding corners, they need to be able to get much faster times by taking more difficult paths, and the game should reward you with more boost for playing well. Maybe using boost can cost rings: no rings means no boost, so collecting more rings would net faster times. Not necessary; just an idea.

Sonic Unleashed already gave us a Sonic that can drift like a racecar and boost, which is reminiscent of nitro from racing games, so competing with your friends for track times shouldn't be a large leap of logic.

Achievements and Customization

Now I don't specifically mean Xbox Achievements, but even Mega Man 9 has a list of faux achievements that the player can do to get a little golden crown. If the game is already keeping track of player stats (which I believe most games do nowadays), then little achievements would be pretty easy to implement, and would greatly help replayability.

(Does anyone happen to know an image upload service that's not as weirdly puritanical as Photobucket?)

But with a little more effort, you could take this even further, and give us useless, aesthetic junk for completing Achievement-style challenges too. Kids love useless, aesthetic junk. Heck, I would probably love an extraneous accessory system tied to some in-game challenges. Maybe if I beat a mission under a certain amount of time, the game could give me a top hat and a monocle. I'd beat a really hard mission to see Sonic run through a level wearing a top hat and a monocle. Or maybe I could get Sonic with a rose in his mouth. That might sound a bit silly, but stop and really think it through.

How about this: Imagine if the prize for getting an S-rank on every mission was the ability to play as black-eyed, pot-bellied Sonic. That would be an insane unlockable for all the retro Sonic fanboys, at the development cost of swapping out a character model. Tell me that's not a great hook for replay.

Or you could unlock a Mecha Sonic or Shadow skin. I'd totally beat a tough challenge to play as Mecha Sonic, and then I could put a top hat and monocle on my Mecha Sonic too.

Local Multiplayer

(Edit: Local multiplayer confirmed?)

It's easy to forget local multiplayer since most self-proclaimed "hardcore gamers" have Xbox Live accounts, but don't forget that Sonic is still targeted at the younger crowd. My sister and I played Sonic together when we were in elementary school, and I haven't forgotten how important it is for kids to have games with local multiplayer.

Sonic 2's special stages are difficult to beat without a second player, which encourages co-op, and Sonic Adventure 2 did versus play in 3D several years ago. Sonic Adventure 2's Radical Highway stage in particular felt like it was designed as a two-player stage, but was used with no environmental modifications for both single-player and multi-player play. I'm not saying that every stage should be designed for multiplayer, but at the very minimum, two players should be able play against each other in a race for time and see ghosts of each other on the track.

Of course, online multiplayer is a "nice to have," but I'm pretty confident that the additional burden of multiplayer netcode simply wouldn't be worth the trouble.

Fun Level Design

And of course, if a level is good enough, we'll probably replay it again just for fun. Sonic Unleashed on Wii had pretty good daytime levels, so SEGA (and Dimps), just keep doing what you're doing and you'll be all right. I can say that I've played the Wii Shamar stage many, many times, just because I really love it.


But even with great levels, you should still try to give us that little push; that extra incentive to play the game again. With some challenges, a low-resistance pick-up-and-keep-playing mode, some collectibles that show up in-game, and leaderboards, maybe—just maybe—reviewers won't slam the game for being too short, and players will be glad to run through the same levels over and over again, just like we did back in the Genesis days.

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