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Review: Kinect Star Wars

Apr 05 // Maurice Tan
Kinect Star Wars (Xbox 360, Kinect required)Developer: Terminal Reality, Good Science, LucasArts, Microsoft StudiosPublisher: LucasArts, Microsoft StudiosReleased: April 3, 2012MSRP: $49.99 Even though it was once billed as a hardcore Kinect experience, Kinect Star Wars is nothing of the kind. It's meant for family entertainment pure and simple, primarily aimed at the audience that bought Kinect for games like Kinectimals or Kinect Sports. In other words, people with children or perhaps groups of friends who like to goof off with motion games in a social setting. That said, there are plenty of issues to be found that even younglings may have trouble overlooking. A lack of responsiveness is the most glaring problem that pervades many of the offerings in Kinect Star Wars, and the impact on gameplay is most evident in the game's most lengthy story mode, titled Jedi Destiny: Dark Side Rising. In this mode, you and a co-op partner star as Padawans as they fight through waves of battle droids and Trandoshans, trying to bring an end to some nonsensical nefarious plot set between Episode I and Episode II which doesn't impact the Clone Wars lore in any meaningful way. [embed]225271:43282[/embed] Your lightsaber swings are controlled by waving either your left or right hand around, depending on which you prefer, or with both hands at the hilt. The translation of movements to in-game actions is sadly far from perfect, making it hard to hit a target's head or slash an opponent on the ground. The motion controls can initially result in a form of Kinect waggle, since all you seemingly have to do is land any kind of hits on a target to incapacitate it -- no chopped-off limbs here. However, pace yourself with slow and articulated swings and the game will allow itself to be enjoyed a lot more than if you insist on wildly flailing your arm around. Nevertheless, lightsaber combat is mediocre at best, and not just because of a lack of feedback on your swings. Some types of enemies will use vibroblade knifes of electrostaffs to block your saber strikes, forcing you to jump over them and strike them from behind, block their attack if you can, or dodge to the side and time a counter-attack. Because dodging is practically never recognized correctly, these enemies lead to a lot of frustration as you try to find an opening to land a few hits. On the second and highest difficulty, this leads to a lot of unnecessary deaths as you are hit or kicked in the face without any way to block or evade properly. Fun, it is not. Despite most of Jedi Destiny being on rails, there is some limited movement available. A Force Dash move is at your disposal if you take one step forward with your arms aimed backwards, while your character of choice will walk automatically from scene to scene. As much as it highlights the on-rails aspect of the mode, it never becomes a big impediment on the action, since it's only a few seconds of walking at a time, at worst. Targeting enemies is far more problematic, since you'll be assigned targets you can dash or jump towards, and it can be annoying if you end up fighting multiple tougher types of enemies who will inevitably deal some damage. If you are unlucky, you'll target a Super Battle Droid three times in a row, who will always find a way to kick or punch you unless you keep vaulting over them. The dodge controls are broken enough to ignore it as a reliable evasive maneuver altogether, and the same is true for Force grabs. It's nearly impossible to target a crate or enemy, and only the weakest of enemies can be grabbed to toss around, rendering the move as useless as a pregnant Ewok in battle. On the other hand, whenever Jedi Destiny allows you to do something other than moving from ground target to ground target, it can actually be quite enjoyable. Speeder bike races through the forests of Kashyyyk and the flora of Felucia are entertaining, controlled by holding your arms forwards and banking left and right to move along a narrow path. Space battles, in which you only have to aim a target reticule, are a blast to play, and even feature some of the better set pieces in the prequel trilogy's history as depicted by its films and television shows. Whether you are blasting droid starfighters or capital ship turrets from the turret seat of a YT-2400 light freighter (e.g., Dash Rendar's Outrider), or from a Delta-6 Republic starfighter, it can be strangely empowering in a space battle nerdlust kind of way. Jedi Destiny also offers some occasional nods to the Original Trilogy for Star Wars fans, such as a protocol droid pointing out a faulty power coupling when Chewbacca can't get a ship's hyperdrive to work. Yet for every attempt at appeasing the fans, it has Obi-Wan reference a Sith Master in the time shortly after the events of The Phantom Menace, or throws two random Dathomirian Nightbrothers with Sith lightsabers into the mix. If LucasArts wanted to provide players with a recognizable enemy like Darth Maul, they should have just gone with Savage Opress instead. Even for the more casual of fans, it's a shame that the majority of Jedi Destiny makes you stand, swing, and jump through extended periods of lightsaber combat, as it's by far the weakest link in the entire package. Thankfully, Jedi Destiny is but one of the available modes in Kinect Star Wars. Podracing is an interesting distraction, even if it's once again undermined by excessive control features. Holding out your arms powers up the two engines, while pulling one hand back lets you steer in that direction. Nudge both hands to any side, and you can bash into nearby competitors for some damage. It works remarkably well for the racing aspect itself, but unfortunately that's not all you do in this mode. From time to time you need to pump one hand to the sky to activate a repair bot or laser drone, swing a hand to the side to smack a womprat off your podracer, or clean water from your visor if you hit a moisture vaporator. The problem is, you need those hands to actually steer the damn thing, and performing these distracting actions is a sure way to lose the lead in any race. Rancor Rampage is somewhat of a fleshed-out tech demo, more specifically the monster rampage concept demo seen in one of Kinect's earliest announcement trailers. There is some catharsis to be found here, smashing buildings and grabbing things to throw or munch on, but it can get old rather fast. While there are multiple levels to progress through by earning points in each map, it's more of a throwaway mode to let your child roar and act like a monster -- or annoy the downstairs neighbors -- than anything you'll play more than half an hour at a time. Jedi Duel expands on the occasional "boss" encounters from the Jedi Destiny mode, making you block and parry slow-motion moves in order to fill a bar and launch a counter attack with blows of your own. These duels aren't very fun, but the requirement to execute a nearly flawless series of parries and attacks to unlock more iconic opponents, such as Count Dooku and Darth Vader, is simply ridiculous. Very few players will have the patience to sit through repeated attempts just to get under the required time limit for a Duel, let alone impatient children. Which brings us to the Galactic Dance Off mode. The dancing mode is more or less a lite version of Dance Central, with some tweaks. On-screen prompts for moving a hand or limb in perfect conjunction with the dance moves are a nice addition to the formula, even if registration of badly placed body parts can be spotty from time to time and a training mode is strangely absent. Yes, the adaptation of popular song lyrics to the Star Wars universe can make you cringe when you watch a video of it, but playing it is actually rather fun. There's something silly about the parody approach which elicits scoffing smiles and chuckles rather than making you want to choke your Naboo wife with adolescent anger. Not every song features absolutely terrible lyrics, either, as "We No Speak Huttese" simply features Joh Yowza singing Huttese, and Daft Punk's Aerodynamic has no lyrics whatsoever. Of course, any functional dancing game can be a pleasurable experience, but a lot of the fun in Galactic Dance-off comes from moves and poses which reflect things from the Star Wars movies. Performing the "Bantha Rider" or "Jet Pack" moves is ridiculous enough that you can't help but laugh, and the "Han Shot First" and "New Hope Pose" moves are kind of awesome. If you don't like Just Dance or Dance Central, this mode isn't going to change your mind. For anyone who does like dancing, however, the frivolous nature of the dance moves more than makes up for the cringe factor of the lyrics. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if this dance mode spawns an entire series of lyrically adjusted dance games. As an aside, the higher difficulties you unlock offer many different moves that are a lot more varied than what you would ordinarily be exposed to if you would only play each song only once. Alas, Kinect Star Wars as a package is a mixed, if varied bag of motion tricks. For everything that works well, something else ruins the experience. Kids might have fun with Rancor Rampage and with Jedi Destiny on the easiest setting, but any single adult has no reason to bother with it. Podracing would have been better without all the nonsense to distract you from racing, Duels are best ignored altogether, and dancing is such a universally human expression that you can't really go wrong with it. Despite its flaws, it's a mostly inoffensive title and one that you may find yourself hating far less than Anakin hates sand; you might even enjoy it. The franchise didn't die after the prequel trilogy was released, and if it had, we wouldn't have been able to watch Genndy Tartakovsky's Clone Wars cartoon and the later seasons of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars CGI TV series, or play Republic Commando. Kinect Star Wars isn't going to kill the franchise, nor is it the worst videogame ever made; it's just not a very good one. In those areas where Kinect Star Wars does work, it can be a lot of fun to play, and this makes it so disappointing that it so often falters elsewhere. In the end, how much fun you will have with it is going to depend largely on whether or not you have kids to keep occupied while they play with their friends, or how desperately you need something other than Dance Central 2 to play with your own friends.
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Following a few ramshackle E3 presentations, expectations for Kinect Star Wars were tempered at best. After footage of the game's Galactic Dance Off mode, featuring a dancing Han Solo at the carbonite pit, hit YouTube, these ...

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The FP, a DDR movie?


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Dance Central 2's February DLC lineup: Cee-Lo, LMFAO


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Whether you're a part of the old school or the new, fresh beats are always something to get excited about. Harmonix has just announced their new tracks for Dance Central 2, kicking it off with Cee-Lo Green's "Forget...
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Dance Central Dance*Cam is available now for free


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All Mega64 wants for Christmas is Just Dance 3


Dec 21
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When game publishers ask Mega64 to make a commercial for one of their upcoming titles, do they go in with any knowledge of Mega64's body of work? Do they just think, "Oh! Funny Internet people! Here's some money. Send us the video by Wednesday"? Anyway, here's the Mega64 Just Dance 3 commercial. I said, "What the fudge?" at the 1:38 mark. Mega64: "DANCEMAS" Just Dance 3 Commercial [YouTube]
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Just Dance 3 boasts some impressive stats


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More Lady Gaga coming to Dance Central 2 tomorrow


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Dance Central 2, now with more Facebook


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Update: This contest ends tonight!  Good luck! News-wise, people are going nuts for Modern Warfare 3, Skyrim's got a bitchin' soundtrack, Sony's cutting down on game sharing, and Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Patriots got a...

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Getting jiggy with Dance Central's Marathon Pack 01


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Zumba Fitness 2: Get sweaty in front of your TV


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Today I have been reminded that some people actually go out of their way to move around, even when playing videogames. If that's your cup of tea, then perhaps Zumba Fitness 2 will be right up your street. Apparently Zumba is...
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Don't forget Country Dance 2 comes out today!


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Behold The Black Eyed Peas Experience!


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Dance: It's Your Stage to dance onto shelves September 30


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Get your dance on with these new Zumba Fitness 2 screens


Sep 16
// Harry Monogenis
Zumbu Fitness 2 has just had its official box cover revealed and released showing a woman facing the opposite direction from that of the first game. Also, more screenshots! Thankfully, these new Zumbu Fitness 2 scre...
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Dance Central 2 nabs 'The Humpty Dance,' more


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Sony's Move party starter Everybody Dance dated


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I literally can't think about Sony's Move dance game, Everybody Dance, without hearing C+C Music Factory's Martha Wash howling "Everybody dance now!" inside my skull. It's a problem. Sony has announced that the game will hit ...
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Ubisoft is releasing another dancing game


Aug 17
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It would seem that Ubisoft has not learned much from the faux pas of other major franchises and is releasing another dancing game, this time with an Abba theme. Abba: You Can Dance will out for the Wii before Christmas. And i...
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A new dance game that is not Just Dance


Aug 16
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With all the titles coming out this holiday, one game in particular rises above the crowd. Country Dance 2 (the slightly less rad, country only, answer to the Just Dance series) will let players sing and dance to top country ...
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Zumba Fitness 2 screens contain bizarre looking hand


Aug 11
// Brett Zeidler
New screens for Zumba Fitness 2 were released today, and if the sales of the first game are any indication, there is a good chance that a few of you out there are clamoring to get your dance on again. Now, the screenshots the...
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Just Dance 3 video wants you to Just Create


Aug 01
// Jordan Devore
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New modes and songs confirmed for Just Dance 3


Jul 22
// Jordan Devore
There's no escaping the sights and sounds of Just Dance -- not even at San Diego Comic-Con. Ubisoft has announced Just Create for Just Dance 3, a mode in which you record your own dance choreography by way of Kinect, and then...
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Just Dance 2: the best selling third party Wii game ever


Jul 16
// Maurice Tan
According to NPD figures, Just Dance 2 has now sold more copies in nine months than any other third party game on the Wii ever released. These games sell like hotcakes, especially in Europe where seemingly everyone among the ...
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Shut up! The Black Eyed Peas Experience is happening?


Jun 26
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E3: Details on Just Dance 3 for Xbox 360, Wii, and PS3


Jun 08
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Just Dance 3 is set to repeat the franchise's success on not just the Wii, but also on the PS3 and Xbox 360 this time around. You'll need PlayStation Move and Kinect for it, respectively. The game contains 40+ tracks, some o...
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E3: Ubisoft's Just Dance 3 coming to Wii, Kinect, Move


Jun 06
// Samit Sarkar
Ubisoft struck gold with its Just Dance franchise, which, according to the publisher, has now reached 30 million gamers around the world. A third installment is launching on October 11, 2011, and this time, it will be availab...
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E3: 505 Games announces Blackwater and more for Kinect


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505 Games has announced Blackwater, a new first-person shooter by Blacklight: Tango Down makers Zombie Studios. What's different here is that it is controlled entirely by Kinect, though there will be an option for traditional...

The ten worst (best?) E3 disasters of all time

Jun 05 // Allistair Pinsof
10. “BAM! There it is!” It’s odd to think back to the days when people were skeptical about Kinect.  Okay, so we are still skeptical that the hardware will have any worthwhile games in 2011-2012, but back in the summer of 2009 many doubted if the Kinect (then called Natal) would work at all. Microsoft’s E3 2009 press conference was its proving ground for the device. After Steven Spielberg waxed ecstatic about the hardware and a flashy video was shown, our attention was captured. Then, Kinect creative director Kudo Tsunoda takes the stage and gives a demonstration of the device’s ability to match body movement with his on-screen avatar. It looked pretty damn great, until Kudo got cocky.  “You ever wonder what the bottom of an avatar’s shoe looks like?” Kudo turns around for dramatic effect and suddenly kicks out his leg.  “BAM! There it is!” [embed]202843:39017[/embed] Virtual Kudo suddenly flips out, bending backward, throwing his arms crosswise and contorting his legs in a way one can only imagine would elicit an unbearable amount of pain. Someone must have hit the “OH SHIT!” button backstage, because the avatar suddenly suffered a spell of narcolepsy – the unexpected shift to the avatar standing, hunched over in a sleep-state only added to the hilarity. Or, perhaps, Virtual Kudo was some sort of soothsayer, predicting gamers’ collective apathy toward Kinect’s showing at E3 2009. 9. Sega Saturn’s announcement and imminent failure During Sega’s 1995 E3 conference – the first E3 ever – the company’s president dropped a bomb on retailers, developers and consumers: he announced the Saturn is out in U.S. store shelves the day of the presentation, four months before the scheduled U.S. release. It hurts to put this here, because, in all honesty, Saturn’s U.S. stealth launch was kind of awesome – at least, in theory. It’s a classic E3 moment. It’s the moment everyone waits for: The sort of huge announcement that takes everyone by surprise and gets everyone talking. The problem is that Sega didn’t think things through.  There were only six launch games, since most developers were depending on having four more months before sending their games out to retailers. Not to mention most retailers were out of the loop and had trouble stocking the systems.  The lack of games along with a high price tag ($399) made the console unpopular with consumers who instead chose the graphically superior and $100 cheaper PlayStation the following September. The real shame is that the Dreamcast’s 1999 launch got everything right, but it was too late for Sega.  8. Rock Revolution: It’s the notes that you don’t play, man! [embed]202843:39016[/embed] During Konami’s demonstration of Rock Revolution, its uninspired Rock Band clone, the on-stage (virtual) bassist failed so hard that the game canceled out of the song. Maybe it was due to on-stage jitters or faulty hardware -- although, she said it was her fault afterward.  A YouTube commenter said it best: “There's nothing worse than being booed by a real crowd and a virtual crowd at the same time.” Watching this virtual bassist miss nearly every note to the most basic song (The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”), as her drummer companion nailed is it, is incredibly awkward and hilarious. At least it got everyone’s attention on the game, if for only a short while and for all the wrong reasons. 7. Battle Tag: the future of overpriced crap Despite the naysayers who said Ubisoft would never be able to outdo their 2009 snorefest, featuring Pelé and James Cameron, the publisher came out swinging in 2010. After presenting Child of Eden and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the audience was loosened up and expectations were lowered. “Oh, more video games. Whatever,” we all thought. Then, things got real.  All of a sudden girls ran through the auditorium, doing cartwheels and firing infrared laser weapons of the future. What is this bizarre technology that was totally never on sale at Walmart six years ago for $40? Why, it’s Battle Tag of course and you can experience the game that “gamers have been waiting for” at the insanely reasonable price of $130! Even Innergy, Ubisoft’s state-of-the-art breathing simulator couldn’t get the audience excited afterward. Then again, maybe they were still baffled from what they just witnessed prior. 6. Mortal Kombat steps up 2 the streets [embed]202843:39019[/embed] Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct always had a grudge. Which game had the best combos? Which one had the best promotional dance soundtrack? At E3 1995, the games settled the score once for all with their floor show unveils that involved … choreographed dance? To be fair, Mortal Kombat’s showing was more of a sexy ninja fight between Jax, Sonya and Kung Lao. If you, distinguished reader, can appreciate tight-latex pants and bad 80's hair like I do, then you will find much to love in this clip.  What really makes this a contender is the press representative who gives the most ridiculous speech, laden with embarrassing buzz words and marketing nonsense. “To make sure this MEGA event is also a MEGA success for retailers, Williams is tagging up this product release with the most comprehensive, fully integrated marketing program in the industry’s history.”  She then runs through the goods: Mortal Kombat movie, cartoon series, live tour (!) action figures, and the Mortal Kombat: SUPER book (!!!!) That’s MEGA impressive but … 5. Killer Instinct beats it [embed]202843:39018[/embed] With double the tight, latex pants and one of the most killer dance routines to ever hit E3’s floor, how could Killer Instinct not win? Gamers and press waited all day to see Rare’s arcade fighter demoed on the Ultra 64, but that wouldn’t come to fruition until a year later. Nevertheless, minds were blown and asses were shook as six bodacious dancers got down to a Killer Cut. Behind the dancers, screens displayed the game’s characters dancing, while a giant animatronic tiger, between the screens, hypnotized anyone watching the debacle. Its red eyes glaring, a voice echoed in the mind of everyone standing before it: “Best E3 presentation ever. Must buy Killer Cuts.” 4. Wii Music drum solo  [embed]202843:39026[/embed] Nintendo’s presentation of Wii Music was a low point during its uneventful 2008 E3 presentation, for several reasons. The game sounded terrible. It was as if Nintendo recycled midi sounds from Mario Paint’s music composer.  It was bad enough seeing Miyamoto play virtual sax, but things sunk to new lows when DJ Ravi Drums (actual name) performed a minute long drum solo that left the audience dumbfounded. The game’s lifeless, emulated drum sounds paired with Ravi’s gestures and faux-hawk lent an unprecedented air of douchebagginess at Nintendo press conferences. Attendees looked on in horror, as Ravi soldiered forward and put on his “Slyvster-Stalone-pre-ejaculation” face. Those outside the auditorium, fretted something awful must have happened. “Perhaps, someone is having a seizure on a bargain bin drum machine and there is no one around to help,” they may have thought.  3. Sony’s historically accurate crab battle [embed]202843:39025[/embed] The best jokes are all about perfect timing.  While many walked away from Sony’s E3 2006 conference snickering over Kazuo Hirai’s “RIIIIIDGE RACER!” or in disbelief of the PS3’s $599 introductory price, it’s the Giant Enemy Crab spotting that pops up the most Google results, five years later. During a demonstration of PS3 launch title Genji: Days of the Blade, a timeless internet meme was born. Producer Bill Ritch, demoing the game on stage, introduced it as being historically accurate. Before the level loads up, he says the battles in the game “actually took place in Ancient Japan.”  “Sure, dude,” we thought, impressed enough with a HD Dynasty Warriors look-a-like. Without missing a beat, the level starts up and a giant crustacean fucker leaps across the screen, toward the player.  “So, here is this giant enemy crab,” the producer says nonchalantly.  He then goes on to talk about flipping over the crab in order to “attack its weak point for massive damage.” Text doesn’t do the clip justice, as so much of the hilarity comes from Ritch’s oblivious, dead-pan delivery. In 2006, he carried the promise of being the next Bill Murray. 2. Jamie Kennedy’s E3 meltdown [embed]202843:39027[/embed] Many doubted whether Jamie Kennedy would ever be able to top his flawless, incendiary performances in Son of the Mask and Malibu’s Most Wanted, but in 2007 Kennedy made his comeback in a way no one expected: drunk and high as hell, hosting Activision’s E3 press conference. It’s amazing to think Activision would let Kennedy emcee the event. Rather than focusing on Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, the attention was put on Kennedy himself and his drunken banter. His jokes weren’t as much jokes as they were half-assed musings that focused on three topics: sex, drugs and not having sex. Maybe this would appeal to Call of Duty’s demographic, but the fact remains that this was supposed to be a press conference.  Not only does Kennedy embarrass the developers on stage and Tony Hawk, he starts calling the audience a bunch of virgins: “There are so many virgins in here that Richard Branson is doing this event.” The amount of awkwardness on display makes the clip hard to watch, yet it’s impossible to look away. At this time, Activision has neither confirmed nor denied whether Jamie Kennedy will be able to get out of jail in time to host its conference this week. Keep up with our E3 coverage for updates! 1. Konami's 2010 press conference: All of it! [embed]202843:39028[/embed] Konami’s 2010 press conference, when dissected part by part, could fill in a top ten list of its own.  Traditionally, Konami’s press conferences are rather dry, focusing on Hideo Kojima’s latest Metal Gear Solid projects and running through trailers of upcoming titles. My guess is that Konami was tired of being overlooked at E3 – due to their time spot that takes place during show floor hours – so they decided to make the show more eventful, in the hope that people would talk about it. Mission accomplished, Konami. Between Dance Masters producer Naoki Maeda and Ninety-Nine Nights II producer Tak Fujii, there is an abundance of quotes that came from this conference. Fujii even has his own soundboard! My favorite Maeda quote:“Now you can move your fat body freely." My favorite Fujii quote: “If you just continue to press the same button like the X, X, X, and Y, Y, Y, and X, X, and Y, Y, Y again, you will be sucked." If only it were that easy, Tak Fujii … ----- Are there any E3 disasters I left out that you would have included?  Since Konami's press conference this year was pretty tame -- beyond the bizarre "transferring" segment -- which press conference do you think will hold the most talked-about embarrassment?  Post your prediction of who will have this year's biggest E3 disaster, along with how you think it will happen. Whoever posts the best reply will be sent an utterly useless, to-be-announced item of E3 swag.  E3 unofficially starts tomorrow. Let's hope for the best ... er ... worst?
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The worst is always the best at E3.  Cutting edge technology becomes dated. Memorable demos are quickly forgotten. An impressive trailer means nothing when the game attached comes out and bombs.  But CEOs talking ab...







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