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This post explains the entire Mega Man Legends copyright situation

May 11 // Chris Carter
Oronamin C is a real beverage over in Japan, and is sold in the vending machines in the first Legends game. In addition, there are a few other copyrighted references. Now, here is the problem -- Sony apparently does not allow the modification of source code for a PSN classic. In other words, it needs to be the exact same release. So unless these issues can be solved by Capcom's legal team (or Sony drops the policy), a full-on PSOne Classic release for Legends 1 is not going to happen. Nintendo however, does allow the modification of code. If it was deemed a worth endeavor by both Capcom and Nintendo Mega Man 64 could feasibly be ported. In fact, the original code for 64 already has a few of these changes already. Other options suggested by Protodude include the release of the PSP version (untranslated), a PC port by Capcom, or a full remake -- all of which have a low chance of happening in my book. Whatever the case, I'd love to see it happen. There's plenty of hope for Legends 2, but maybe Capcom wants to deal with everything and release them both at the same time. For now, we wait. Regarding Mega Man Legends and Property Infringement [Rockman Corner] [Art from Walls4Joy] [embed]291931:58501:0[/embed]
Mega Man Legends photo
Wow, it's complicated
For years now people have been clamoring for the release of Mega Man Legends 1 and 2 on the PSN (or the Nintendo 64 version on the eShop, for that matter), but Capcom hasn't budged. We're one step closer with The Mi...

Review: Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure

Apr 24 // Chris Carter
Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure (PC [reviewed], PSP) Developer: Nihon FalcomPublisher: Nihon Falcom (JP), Mastiff (US), 505 Game Street (EU)Released: December 25, 2004 (JP) / March 30, 2015 (US)MSRP: $9.99 From the very moment I booted up Gurumin I fell in love. It's so damn cheery and bright, and that old school retro spirit of adventure is alive and well. With its Dreamcast-style visuals, It brings me back to that whimsical era of gaming where gameplay and fun factor took precedent over all else. You'll play as a young girl named Parin, who sports a giant drill to fight off evil phantoms and help cute "monsters" (yep, monsters are good in Gurumin) who can only been seen by children. Parin is adorable, as she's not only a formidable heroine, but spouts hilarious dialogue at every turn, voiced by an enthusiastic Amber Hood. The entire game including the hub town gives me a big Brave Fencer Musashi vibe, which is a huge bonus for me. At the start of the narrative you'll meet a group of monsters as well as the core phantom group, led by a powerful prince. As the cast starts to fill up you'll find faces voiced by greats like Quinton Flynn, Dee Bradley Baker, and Tara Strong. Every character, good or evil, is memorable, and the campaign plays out in that wonderful storybook kind of way. [embed]290701:58290:0[/embed] Despite its cutesy veneer, Gurumin has a fairly deep combat system. It boasts charge attacks, timed combos, dashes, launchers and aerial raves, and a few more powers as you unlock them. One of the best mechanics is the air dash system, where you can constantly jump off enemies as long as you can lock-on. It's satisfying as hell, and the game gives you an ample amount of open and varied environments in which to test them out. It does have controller support on PC, but I have multiple issues with both the 360 and Xbox One controllers in terms of input lag on the game's menus. It's not a dealbreaker as the emphasis is on action, but it was annoying every so often when I wanted to save my game. It's a good thing Gurumin has a "save anywhere" scheme. It has a lot of the key elements you'd expect from an older JRPG like a world map and equipment system, but it doesn't go overboard. Getting to where you need to be is relatively easy, there's no grinding, and gear nuances begin and end with the head slot. But with these elements in place, it manages to elevate the game above your standard action title, especially when you start getting into some of the gear bonuses that compliment individual styles, like extra defense or leeching health. Gurumin hosts a lengthy 15-to-30-hour campaign, which has plenty of extras predicated on replay value, like multiple difficulty modes, extra sidequests, a new ending, and a hunt for every item. Thankfully, the additional difficulties alter enemy placements and tactics to incentivize multiple playthroughs. I wish there were something a little more out there beyond a few minigames, but it's more than enough to keep you interested for quite a while. I can recommend Gurumin: A Monstrous Adventure to just about every action enthusiast out there. Outside of some antiquated elements dating back to the fact that it is an older game at heart, it dares to be positive at nearly every turn, and you won't be able to play it without a smile on your face. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Gurumin review photo
Monstrously fun
Luckily, growing up I had a lot of friends who were either from Japan or were heavily into eastern games -- so the opportunity to play imports, including the coveted Radiant Silver Gun, was always an option.  Gurumi...

Review: Brandish: The Dark Revenant

Feb 02 // Kyle MacGregor
Brandish: The Dark Revenant (PSP, PS Vita and PS TV compatible)Developer: Nihon FalcomPublisher: XSEED GamesMSRP: $19.99Released: January 13, 2014 Despite having a history spanning decades, Brandish doesn't have much of a tale to tell. The adventure centers on Ares Toraernos, a young warrior who finds himself lost in a labyrinthine spire deep within the subterranean kingdom of Vittoria. His only interests are survival and escape. Brandish isn't without its charms, though. There's an endearing roadrunner and coyote dynamic between the protagonist and his nemesis Dela Delon, a vengeful sorceress who spends most of her time falling into pits. It's a game largely bereft of narrative, almost happily so. Falcom seems more than content to thrust old school dungeon crawling squarely into center stage.  Traipsing through mazes in search of the next staircase is the primary focus. However, the journey to the surface isn't as simple as it sounds. As one might expect, the tower is teeming with monsters, traps, and pitfalls. The treacherous setting is almost the principal character of this yarn. [embed]286365:57119:0[/embed] Brandish is difficult, but unlike the original, it's not challenging for the wrong reasons. While nearly identical in most respects, massive improvements have been made to the camera controls. Both versions share a top-down perspective. The hero is positioned in the center of the screen and can move forward, backward, and side to side using the control pad. Turning to the right or left is handled with the shoulder buttons, which actually pivot the world around the character. The design initially seems clumsy and odd, though it's never as bewildering as it was back in the day. The original game rapidly transitioned from one perspective to the next in a jarring fashion, whereas the remake has a clear twisting animation. This is definitely the version you want to play. Again, Brandish is all about surviving long enough to find your way to the next staircase, and there are a myriad of traps, foes, and puzzles along the way to prevent you from achieving that goal. The action-heavy combat actually reminds me a little of baseball. It has this rhythm, a comforting repetition that gives rise to the unexpected. Ares' shield automatically blocks most attacks, allowing you to focus on when and how to attack. It's a fairly simplistic setup, which is good because you'll frequently be combating more than one enemy at a time while avoiding environmental hazards. Another concern you'll have in battle is weapon degradation. Most arms can only be used a set number of times. This means you'll probably want to keep that powerful sword in reserve in case you come across an imposing adversary, as opposed to needlessly annihilating a common grunt. Yes, there are bosses, but they're rare. These encounters serve to punctuate the journey and test your mettle more than anything. While it can be quite tough, Brandish is rarely unforgiving. Falcom does an admirable job of showing you the ropes, gradually increasing the challenge and adding new elements as soon as you get handle on the old ones. The only major spike in difficulty occurs in the Dark Zone, which seems to have more pitfalls than walkable terrain, a limited field of view, and devastating enemies. Even if you're constantly dying, Brandish isn't discouraging.  It has a save-anywhere feature and checkpoints at every floor. It also backs that up with an item called "retry bread," allowing you to respawn at a particular location should you fall in battle. Taking advantage of these tools will help mitigate most of your frustrations, especially when things get a tad onerous later on. As much as I enjoy Brandish, it probably isn't for everyone. Those looking for a sweeping story about legendary heroes are barking up the wrong tree. This game is about marching through trap-laden mazes and solving puzzles at a deliberate pace. Go in with the right mindset and you will discover a well-crafted role-playing game, one which has aged surprisingly well. It may have taken forever to get here, but Brandish: The Dark Revenant was worth the wait. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Brandish PSP review photo
What's old is new again
Antiques possess a magnetic quality, an appeal to our imaginations, a false nostalgia for a time most of us are too young to remember. There's a comforting allure to these relics. They offer a window into the past, a living h...


How Final Fantasy Type-0 came to PS4 and Xbox One

Sep 04 // Kyle MacGregor
Final Fantasy Type-0 was unveiled at E3 2006. Back in those days, it was going by a different name and aimed to release on a different platform. Type-0 was first introduced to the world as a cell phone game, Final Fantasy Agito XIII. The project expanded in size and scope, and eventually outgrew the capabilities of the hardware. It needed to move to another platform. Tabata told me Square Enix "already had a development team with know how to create a PSP game." They recently had shipped Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII and Sony's portable just "seemed like a natural fit." "At the time we released the Japanese version," Tabata continued, his story jumping ahead to 2011, "the console market was shifting and we were considering whether to bring it overseas or not." The economics just didn't make a lot of sense, and Square Enix thought it was more prudent to wait and see how the situation played out. "Unfortunately, we were unable to release the PSP version overseas," Tabata lamented. "But we still continued thinking about the best way [to localize] it." In early 2013, we caught wind of a report suggesting Square Enix was experimenting with a high-definition version, though little else was revealed -- at least until Square Enix made the official announcement roughly a year later. "The reason why we evolved to the PS4 and Xbox One version was because at the time the PSP market was coming to an end," Tabata explained. "So for our best option we wanted to consider bringing the game to a bigger screen. When found out the PS4 and Xbox One were emerging, we were able to finally realize the HD version of the game and decided to remaster the game itself." Prior to the interview, I asked a Square Enix representative whether the publisher ever considered the PS Vita as a potential platform. He told me the company took a wait and see approach with the portable. It sounded like when became clear the Vita wouldn't be as successful as its predecessor, Square Enix decided to explore other options.
Final Fantasy Type-0  HD photo
Wait until the time is right
Final Fantasy Type-0 HD wasn't on the show floor at PAX last weekend, but Square Enix did show off the action RPG behind closed doors. During our meeting with the publisher, Destructoid touched base with director Hajime ...

100% Series Retrospective: God of War

Mar 13 // Chris Carter
Why God of War? I've always been a fan of Greek mythology. I almost took up an additional major of Ancient History in college, as a matter of fact. While I played many Roman-themed action games like Rygar (both of them) growing up, God of War was the first game to truly re-create the insanely violent mythos. Game after game, I would be excited to see who Sony would incorporate next. Icarus? Hephaestus? As loose as these adaptations were, it was still interesting to see how characters would be incorporated, and if possible, how they would meet their end. The fantastic set-pieces were also a major factor in the God of War series' appeal. Riding on top of titan's back that comprised an entire level was one of the greatest moments in gaming, among many other jaw-dropping moments in the franchise. I don't think any of the games are that deep from a pure combat perspective. Outside of the occasional parry (which you don't really need) and pinpoint dodge, you can basically use a few select combos and still best the vast majority of confrontations. But that doesn't mean that they aren't extremely fun, and don't offer some of the most entertaining fights and bosses in the entire genre. If you haven't joined me on my Quests before, the way they work is pretty simple. It's kind of like a retrospective, but rather than just give you an overview of a franchise, I'll generally let you know what I thought of the game when it was released, and what I think of it now. If I didn't provide a complete vision of what the game is like before I replay it, I'll provide an "extended thoughts" section below each applicable entry. I'll update my progress in real time through my blog, and after I finish the entire Quest, I'll share it with you guys on the front page.For this particular Quest, I actually finished everything in rapid succession over the course of a few days, so I skipped the c-blog portion and got right into it. God of War - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED God of War kind of came out of nowhere. I had just wrapped up my Master Ninja playthrough of Ninja Gaiden (Xbox), and the Dante Must Die difficulty in Devil May Cry 3, when Kratos came along. Can you believe Devil May Cry 3 and God of War came out in the same month? The game mesmerized me with its amazing set-pieces, breathtaking graphics (at the time), and interesting characters. While it wasn't the deepest story in the world, Kratos' tale of revenge was a good enough motivator to keep me going and tear through fight after fight until I came to the conclusion -- then I played it again, and again. The Hydra fight was one of the biggest "holy shit" moments in all of gaming, and developer Santa Monica managed to stuff a whole lot more into the package that kept you entertained and wanting more. I distinctly remember spending an entire evening in college beating the game on the God Mode difficulty just so I could get the final secret -- an actual phone number to a hotline where you could call Kratos. That's pretty much a clear-cut finalist for the "best extra ever" award. Today, the game doesn't hold up nearly as well as some of the others in the series. But at the same time, it's still worth playing, especially with the HD version on the PlayStation 3. God of War II - PlayStation 2 [Owned], PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED To date, God of War II is my absolute favorite in the franchise, and one of my favorite action games of all time. Somehow, it contains one of the most well-paced campaigns in the history of the genre, in the sense that it constantly keeps you interested at every waking moment. In fact, if God of War II had half of the boss fights it does, it would still be in the running for some of the best single combat experiences of all time. One of the crazy things about the release of God of War II is that it actually came out a few months after the release of the PlayStation 3. It was one of the better swan songs in recent memory for a console, and really helped send off the PlayStation 2 in an amazing way. I generally dislike the claim that a sequel "is better than the original in every way," but that really is the case here. It has a more compelling story, better bosses, better combat, and more unique abilities. I've played this game so many times that many of the locales and fights are burnt into my memory. Tiny nuances like being able to slide down walls quicker, and a much better learning curve helped cement the game as one of the best starter action games for new fans who wanted to learn the ropes without getting too frustrated. The only major flaw of God of War II is that it doesn't truly innovate -- it just does everything better. In that sense, people who absolutely hated the first game probably won't find solace here. But at the same time, if you truly dislike God of War II, I'd have a hard time finding you a more accessible action game. God of War III - PlayStation 3 [Owned]COMPLETED Plain and simple, God of War III is the only weak spot of the entire series for me. Something about it just didn't sit right, even if, mechanically, it's very similar to the quality of the first two games. Part of the reason is because Kratos has progressed from a sympathetic, somewhat justified tragic figure, to a complete asshole. After the strides that Chains of Olympus to humanize Kratos, God of War III pretty much throws all of that out of the window, and then absolutely crumbles at the end with one of the weakest endings in all of gaming. From a pure action standpoint though, III is pretty much one of the most insane games ever made. In an almost senseless effort to top itself and its predecessors at every waking moment, you basically end up fighting everything left on Mount Olympus, and then some. The graphical upgrades are nice, but the set-pieces just don't really measure up to the first two games. But because of how high it aims, the final confrontation is a complete letdown, and the cliffhanging ending that still hasn't been addressed was a terrible way to treat the franchise. If you must see how Kratos predictably gets his final (?) vengeance with cutting-edge graphics, you should still probably play God of War III. God of War: Chains of Olympus - PSP, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED Chains of Olympus is a quaint little side story that blew people away (at the time), considering the sheer fact that it was one of the first portable games to recreate a faithful home console experience. Taking place before the original God of War, Chains of Olympus deals with Persephone, the reluctant Queen of the Underworld, and Atlas, a titan who appears in other God of War games. The plot is a little by the numbers, but make no mistake: this is still very much a solid God of War game that entertains from start to finish, with no real glaring faults. Playing it on the Vita with a remapped second analog stick or on the PS3 with the DualShock is the best way to experience it, but the original PSP controls are by no means poor. God of War: Ghost of Sparta - PSP, PlayStation 3 (HD Collection) [Owned]COMPLETED Ghost of Sparta is one of the better games in the series. From the get-go, things get fairly personal for Kratos, and this adventure actually has a justification, rather than Chains of Olympus, which was mainly a fluff piece. The gist of Ghost is that Kratos finds out what happened to his brother, who is part of the reason why he is who he is during the course of the games, and the person who inspired his trademark red markings on his face. It gives a bit more meaning to the character before he's ruined in III, and the set-pieces are worthy of the franchise, starting things off with a bang in Atlantis. You finally get to deal with Kratos' family, and see him at his most vulnerable since the brief cutscene where he murders his wife and daughter in a fit of rage. It's also a bit more fleshed out than Chains of Olympus gameplay-wise, featuring new weapons and powers, which puts it on par with the console games in terms of a fully featured experience. If you're looking for a good starting point for the series, playing this in between God of War 1 and 2 is a great idea. God of War: Ascension - PlayStation 3 [Owned] COMPLETED Ascension is an interesting game, to say the least. It fluctuates from insanely easy to fairly difficult on a whim, and offers up a hefty balance of backtracking and brand new beautiful set pieces. It doesn't really offer anything new story-wise, and honestly, outside of the experience, it's fairly inconsequential to the franchise as a whole. Ok, so we sort of understand how far Kratos is willing to go to beat the odds -- but we get that in spades in God of War III, so it's not really unexpected, after all. If you aren't a God of War fan, this won't do anything to sway you. Still, Ascension is a fairly solid action game through and through, with decent pacing, and some neat weapon mechanics that let you switch elements on a whim (but not mid-combo, sadly). On the higher difficulty levels, the game is occasionally one of the more challenging entries, which made me extremely happy. Whenever the press at large is addressing its concerns over having trouble beating the game, you know it's going to be good!  Oh, and that part that people had a lot of trouble with? Also known as the Trial of Archimedes? I completed it on my third try. I'll have a guide out soon to help out people who aren't able to do it. It wasn't that bad, so don't think the game is impossible or broken or anything -- just power up your blades first and foremost to maximum and you should be good to go, as always. As a general rule, I'm ok with an added multiplayer component if it doesn't interfere with the single-player experience. Thankfully, it doesn't, and online play offers a fairly enjoyable Power Stone-esque experience. While it doesn't blow me away enough to get me addicted like some recent games, I can see myself jumping back in occasionally to beat up some fellow gladiators. I joined the cult of Hades, which allows me to use some of Ascension's trickier abilities and spells, and had a great time. Ascension needed to do something drastically different, as the formula is starting to wear a bit thin. At its core, the game is a prequel to a prequel (Chains of Olympus), which sounds pretty absurd on paper. Sony Santa Monica has tapped this well fairly dry, but apparently, it was still full of just enough spring water by the time they got to Ascension. Collection Photo: Final thoughts:God of War is one of the most consistent franchises I've ever played. Although it doesn't innovate nearly as much as other action series tend to do, you really can't say there's an outright "bad" game in the series, despite my general disappointment in III. Pretty much all of the games hold up, especially considering that Sony has made the entire franchise available on the PlayStation 3 through HD remakes. If Sony treated most of their franchises half as well as God of War, you'd see a lot less failed Sony IPs and closed studios today. They take great care of the franchise, and for good reason -- they're still system sellers, even to this day.
100% God of War photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every God of War game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2013.] 2013 is an exciting year. Now that I know you guys enjoy reading my Quests, I'm going to make an effort to d...

Sony sues for 'Kevin Butler character' playing Mario Kart

Oct 05 // Jonathan Holmes
Sony Computer Entertainment America filed a lawsuit against Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek, Inc. on September 11. The claims are based on violations of the Lanham Act, misappropriation, breach of contract and tortious interference with a contractual relationship. We invested significant resources in bringing the Kevin Butler character to life and he’s become an iconic personality directly associated with PlayStation products over the years. Use of the Kevin Butler character to sell products other than those from PlayStation misappropriates Sony’s intellectual property, creates confusion in the market, and causes damage to Sony.
Kevin Butler gets sued photo
Well, this is awkward
Art by LoveChin88 [Update: Here is a revised version of the commercial with Jerry Lambert removed.] Sony is in the process of suing Bridgestone and Wildcat Creek Inc over a recent TV commercial where a character pla...

Love and war in the world of PS Minis with FuturLab

Jul 02 // Allistair Pinsof
“As for the quality of Minis, it has a bad rep for a reason,” Marsden, founder and creative director of FuturLab told me over a Skype interview. Though Marsden is grateful for the success it brought to his two games, he doesn’t defend the platform or brush off its shortcomings. To put it bluntly, PS Minis are a dinosaur tied to one of Sony’s biggest gaming failures in recent memory: the PSPgo. Remember that thing? Designed for the platform, PS Minis focus on small, simple games that mirror those of iPhone’s App Store during its early days. The downside? No leaderboards, no online support, no trophies, and a 100 MB upload limit. Developing for the system was a difficult task for Marsden, but there was a clear benefit to the service.“Q&A is much more lenient. On PSN you need to propose a concept and it gets evaluated worldwide, deciding whether it is appropriate for the platform,” Marsden said. “As long as it's not insulting, you can do pretty much anything with Minis.”Like WiiWare, Xbox Live Indie Games, and Nintendo eShop, anything flies on PS Minis. Unlike those, however, Sony actually does a good job of making games accessible with well-placed ads and a useful search feature, Marsden says. “Our programmer made a game for Xbox Live Indie Games called SLAM. It got good reviews and was one of the highest-rated games on the service, but it sold nothing. It’s really hard to find,” Marsden said. “Microsoft does very little to promote indies on that particular platform. We looked for it, a few weeks back, and we couldn’t find it. We even did a search! At least on PSN, you can just browse and find stuff easily. On PC, that’s even harder!” As for Steam, Valve has recently made it more difficult for burgeoning indie developers to get on the service. Unless you’re close to finishing your game, Valve won’t even look at it. Start-ups like FuturLab can’t afford to design a game for a platform without having confidence it will be accepted onto it. So, instead, they settled on PS Minis, where they knew they’d easily be accepted and sell at least a couple hundred copies. “EA picked Coconut Dodge up and published it on iOS, and it was a flop even with all their marketing clout. We sold more on Minis without their marketing!” Marsden said. “If you are an indie, iOS is generally too much of a gamble.” So, Marsden designed according to PS Minis’ limits, spending weeks trying to get the game’s soundtrack to fit. Despite being a soundtrack built upon retro sounds, the music files took up most of the space. Unlike the days of the Super Nintendo, there is no chip in systems now to pull synthesized sounds from. It all comes in giant .WAV files, which can only be compressed so much. Despite these hurdles, Velocity finally came out in 2012 to rave reviews. In my review for Destructoid, I called it an “original, wild, and intense” game. While Velocity found an immediate audience due to its platform, it was an extremely limited one. Even with a 90+ Metascore -- it has since dropped to 86 -- the game couldn’t find an audience and many gaming sites ignored its release. FuturLab’s big break didn’t occur until IGN, which previously gave Velocity a 9 out of 10, ran a story on the developer containing a negative slant on the game's platform. The story had nearly four times the comments of IGN’s review. The story would soon be sourced elsewhere with sites presenting FuturLab in an increasingly negative light -- as if Marsden and company were out for Sony’s blood over PS Minis. “Dev blasts Sony for lack of Minis Trophies, demos” CVG’s headline exclaimed, while Eurogamer said FuturLab “laments” Sony’s reluctance to address PS Mini’s shortcomings. When you take a look at the original interview being sourced in all these stories, it’s easy to see that Marsden’s words are being exaggerated a bit through headlines and lack of context. “If you compare yourself to others in an unfortunate way, it makes you feel good. That’s why people like negative stories,” Marsden said. “IGN picked up the word ‘major problem’ and CVG put that in a quote. I think it was just the fact that there was no mention of Velocity -- we worked quite hard to get coverage and here is a post about us that is getting loads of attention but there is no mention [of the game].” Here’s the weird thing: All this attention helped make people aware of FuturLab and Velocity. Maybe there is truth in that old phrase, “all publicity is good publicity.” Marsden is starting to see things in a new light. Maybe the controversy surrounding the recent Tomb Raider reboot and poorly received nun-punching Hitman trailer will translate to increased sales for Square Enix? In a recent blog post, Marsden contemplates what drives people to negative stories and why they help sell products. Though it took him first-hand experience to believe in the possibility, he can’t un-see it. Some indies get noticed in PAX, while others struggle to get that same amount attention through months of promotional work. Marsden is going to get his game out any way he can. If that means putting it on an obscure platform and having it promoted through negative press, fine. Though Marsden only cares about making the games he loves, he still wonders what all this negativity adds up to in the end. “It is clear to me now that negativity sells, which is just not the way it should be, is it?”
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The choice was simple: Go indie or go big. However, over the past console generation, this changed. Now, some indies make more money than major studios, and “going indie” has become a fair bit more difficult th...

How $250 could still be too much for a Wii U

Jun 13 // Alec Kubas-Meyer
If you are reading this, there is a good chance that you understand the Wii U. You know that it is the next console from Nintendo, a full-fledged follow-up to the Wii. But there are a lot of people who do not know, and this is mostly Nintendo's fault. With the Wii Balance board and WiiMotion+, Nintendo set a precedent that may very well come back to bite them. But it's not just Nintendo this time. The entire industry has moved towards a potentially confusing sense of iteration. Both Sony and Microsoft have put out new peripherals which completely change the way players interact with them and are continuing to do so (which I will delve into more in a bit). Then there is the name. Logically, "Wii U" should denote something entirely different, but that is no longer the way the market works. Peripherals like Kinect and PlayStation Move have pushed basic naming conventions out of the way, replacing them with vague names that are related to but not indicative of any specific console. It's not "PlayStation 3 Move," for example, even though it's only compatible with the PS3. Microsoft did the same thing -- there's no such thing as an "Xbox 360 Kinect." A couple of months ago, I got together with a friend I hadn't seen in a while, and of course we talked about videogames. I told him that I was excited for the Wii U, and he said he was too, though he wondered when Nintendo was going to announce another console. I had essentially the same conversation with another person not too long after. And these are people who play videogames. They aren't parents who are just trying to make their children happy. They actively want a Wii U, but they have a fundamental misunderstanding of what it is. I expect that when shoppers see Wii U GamePads in Target and Walmart this Christmas season, they will wonder why it doesn't work with the Wii that they already have.  [Preface: I don't think that either SmartGlass or the Vita/PS3 connections will be utilized properly in the long run (despite what Ubisoft may think). Of the two companies, I expect more out of Microsoft, because its insistence of forcing Kinect into everything it can shows a level of commitment to its products that Sony simply does not have. I will also not be discussing the price implications of SmartGlass or the Vita either. This is simply about their feature sets, how they could affect public perception, and subsequently, how they could affect the success or failure of the Wii U.] The most compelling PS Vita commercial I have ever seen is the one in which some guy is playing MLB 2K12 on his PS3 when he realizes he has to leave for work. So what does he do? He grabs his Vita and picks up right where he left off. It's a cool ad (even though the narrator is obnoxious), and it highlights a pretty awesome feature. The Wii U has something similar but not quite as good. No one actually knows how far away a GamePad can be from the Wii U base, because no one has played with a wireless GamePad. Nintendo usually does a pretty good job with its range of wireless functionality, so there's a good chance you'll get to the bathroom, but it's not likely you'll make it to your car. Then there's the multi-touch issue. Although Nintendo hasn't come out and said it, it's likely that the GamePad uses a resistive touchscreen versus a capacitive one, and that is a bold move in this day and age. Although resistive touchscreens are inferior (and have been largely removed from the market thanks to smartphones and tablets using capacitive technology), Nintendo has been using the technology for years now (both the DS and 3DS have them), but this is different. People already complain about the forced use of a stylus on a DS or 3DS, but the touch screens are so small that finger use verges on impractical. That is not the case here. The GamePad has a 6.2" screen, which is, in a word, huge. The PS Vita screen is more than a diagonal inch smaller than the GamePad screen, but it is far more functional. There's also SmartGlass, which can be potentially utilized by the majority of smartphones and tablets available on the market today. For example, I have a Droid Razr MAXX. It has a 4.3" screen. It's significantly smaller than the screen on the GamePad, but it still has multi-touch. What of the larger scale? I don't currently have a tablet, but that's mostly because I'm waiting for Google to announce the sub-$200 Nexus tablet at Google I/O later this month. When that happens, I am likely to pick one of those up, and then I will also have a 7" screen which is far more capable than the GamePad's. When compared to the Vita or to smartphones, the GamePad only has the size of its screen to keep it worthwhile. Compared to a tablet, it loses on all counts. Where SmartGlass also wins is with battery life. Nintendo has rated the GamePad's playtime at somewhere between three and five hours of battery life per charge, which is in line with the Vita's, but it pales in comparison to many phones or tablets. SmartGlass is very different from the GamePad because it is purely accessory. It can't be used to control games in the same way that the GamePad can, but it turns out that the GamePad isn't always necessary either. In Chad's preview of Pikmin 3, he used the GamePad solely as a map, controlling the game with a Wiimote/Nunchuck combo. In that scenario, a tablet or smartphone would have been just as effective at conveying the information. Perhaps even more so, because it would have had better touchscreen functionality and would have been purely screen, foregoing the in-this-case-unnecessary buttons and sticks. I want to point out those last two sentences. Not because they're brilliantly written or anything, but because they highlight how the Wii U could easily benefit from multi-touch, despite what Reggie says. In a world where there is a single Wii U controller, I understand and could probably accept arguments in favor of single-touch systems. With your hands on all of the buttons all the time, multi-touch functionality on the the screen in the center isn't quite as necessary. I would still argue that it would be beneficial, but I wouldn't fight so hard. As it stands, though, it's not just the GamePad, so the GamePad is officially an accessory. There is one particular gesture that has always solidified the usefulness of multi-touch to me, and that is the pinch-to-zoom. The ability to resize things on the fly is helpful in pretty much any situation, but it's especially useful when navigating maps. Now imagine you're playing Pikmin 3. With the ability to easily scroll around and pinch-to-zoom, you now have significantly improved control over what you can see offscreen. It wouldn't be the most convenient thing ever, because your hands are taken up by the Wiimote and Nunchuck, but if there were a game that was Wiimote only, then even that problem would disappear, and a multi-touch screen would become the completely usable and a superior option for people who wanted it. On the most basic level, that is what multi-touch could allow that would make it a worthwhile feature and why the GamePad should support it. Does it need it? Not necessarily, but the competition has it, so the GamePad will seem dated by comparison It will be years before we know how capable the Wii U truly is. As of right now, we can assume that it is at least on par with the current generation of consoles, maybe a little worse in some areas and a little better in others. But let's say it is absolutely more powerful than either the Xbox 360 or PS3 (and by the end of its cycle, I have no doubt that it will put visual powerhouses like Uncharted 3 to shame). Whatever it is, it may or may not run the Unreal Engine 4, and although some form of Square Enix's Luminous Studio engine will run on the system, it probably won't be the one that showcased that incredible tech demo. What's more important, though, is that neither of those things, whether the system can take advantage of them or not, will be available at launch. This holiday season will be incredibly important for the Wii U. It is likely to be Nintendo's one shot at being the only "next-gen" console in town. It needs to wow people, and it probably won't. Some of the demos showed off at this year's E3 on high-end PCs were really mind-blowing stuff, and most of that is stuff that the Wii U will never be able to reach. It's possible (though unlikely) that not even the Xbox 720 or the Orbis (or whatever they are called) will reach quite that level of fidelity, given the costs that likely went into building those machines. But the Wii U definitely won't. Even if the Wii U versions of Arkham Asylum, Darksiders II, Assassin's Creed III, etc. look better, it won't be by leaps and bounds. Seeing the games side by side on the demo kiosks in GameStop won't convince anybody who already has an Xbox 360 or PS3 that they need to buy another console, and when the time comes that the difference would be truly noticeable, the Wii U will be up against much more powerful competition. When the Wii came out, $250 was an amazingly low price. The PS3 had come out only two days earlier at twice that or more, and the Xbox 360 was still selling for $400. Visually, it didn't quite compare, but it offered something different and cheap. The Xbox was already dead at the time, and the PlayStation 2, although very cheap, had left the limelight. But Sony and Microsoft are sticking to their guns right now. Microsoft announced SmartGlass and Sony announced that book thing it will have forgotten about by Tokyo Game Show. The companies are going to continue to push their consoles for at least another year, and Nintendo will have to fight against that. When the Xbox 360 released, it ushered in the HD era. Its cost was justified by its promise of visuals beyond anything console gamers had ever dreamed. Nintendo will not have that advantage. Depending on how intensely marketed SmartGlass and the PS3/Vita crossplay are, consumers won't see Nintendo's built-in advantage either. So it comes down to price. And again, the assumption is the Wii U is out at $250! All of that new technology for a low, low price. It sounds perfect, but it doesn't have the momentum, thanks to Microsoft. The $99 Xbox is not a good deal, but it looks like it is. Thanks to cell phone plans, consumers are used to paying more in the long run for something deeply discounted on the front end. They see a $99 Xbox 360 with Kinect and they don't necessarily realize that they will need a larger hard drive or that they could get Xbox Live for much cheaper if they do a little digging. All they see is a $99 Xbox 360. It will be interesting to see if the cellphone-esque payment method works out for Microsoft and whether or not we could be seeing the same thing with its follow-up console. But what's important is that next to $99, everything looks expensive. Even $250. The PlayStation 3, on the other hand, starts at $250 for the 160GB model. But as happens every single holiday season, you can be sure that it will be $250 for the 160GB model and two games, probably both winners of some notable awards. As it stands, Amazon has two 320GB PS3 bundles, one with Uncharted 3 and the other with Modern Warfare 3, each retailing for $300. It's not hard to imagine both games being put in the same box with a smaller hard drive, cementing $250 as a price for a console with multiple games. Nintendo Land has the potential to be a good pack-in (if it is one), but it's not Call of Duty. And since we're finally on the topic of videogames... I don't go to brick-and-mortar game stores very often. I buy most of my console games from Amazon because it's cheaper and I'm lazy. But the other day, I went into one and saw something amazing: a used copy of Crackdown was $2.99. Seriously. Three dollars. For an absolutely awesome experience. Dead Rising and Devil May Cry 4 are now $5. Splinter Cell: Conviction, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Halo 3, and Halo 3: ODST are $10 each. All of those games? $53. Cheaper than the price of basically any new Xbox 360/PS3 game, and likely cheaper than Wii U games, which will probably hit the $60 mark. Even if they stay at $50, though, cut out Devil May Cry 4 and you still get six great games for $48. Yeah, they're old. All of them have sequels out or on the way, but so what? When you get into the $20 category, your options expand dramatically. The same is true for the PS3. People looking to buy a console this holiday season will see a wall of $50-$60 games, and right next to it will be a wall of games as low as $3. There is a grey area, however, thanks to the Wii U's backwards compatibility. Nintendo has the best track record for backwards compatibility of any company out there, and it seems to be continuing the trend. Although the Wii U won't play GameCube games, it will have complete compatibility with all Wii games. That is a really cool feature, but it's not a system-selling feature. A Wii can be had for $150 nowadays, and that's with a game packed in. Plopping down the extra $100 to take advantage of cheap legacy games makes no sense, especially since the Wii U will not upscale Wii games. But even that has some caveats, because Nintendo games practically never drop in price. There is the Nintendo Selects series, which has some amazing games, but then there's New Super Mario Bros. Wii. I bought that game back in November of 2009, but it's still $40 on Amazon and $50 new at GameStop, so that grey area I was talking about becomes a little bit darker. The Wii had some excellent third-party games which can be purchased very cheaply, but they tend not to be the ones that appeal to large audiences. And they certainly aren't games people will buy a Wii U to play. Nintendo has a tough road ahead. What they showed at E3 this year is pretty cool, and I think it has a lot of potential. But so did the Wii, and only a handful of companies ever figured out how to take advantage of it. I, as a member of the Nintendo-relatively-faithful, want nothing more than to see the Wii U succeed and allow Nintendo to continue as both a hardware and software manufacturer. And I think it probably will, at least to some degree. Even though the gaming industry in 2012 is much different than it was in 2006, Nintendo's old-fashioned way of doing things with the 3DS seem to have worked out well enough for them, at least in the wake of the price drop. As far as the market was concerned, $250 was too much for a 3DS but perfect for a Wii. Would it be perfect for a Wii U? Maybe not.
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We learned a lot about the Wii U at E3 this year, but we didn't learn what is likely to be the defining factor in its success or failure: the price. Recent rumors from reliable sources price it in the $400 range, which could ...

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Sony closed out the day with its press conference, and while nothing too crazy was put on display, it was an all-around decent showing. I would've liked to see more Vita titles, personally, but not everything at E3 needs to n...

Review: Resistance: Burning Skies

May 28 // Jim Sterling
Resistance: Burning Skies (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Nihilistic SoftwarePublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: May 29, 2012MSRP: $39.99 Set in 1951, Burning Skies takes us to the Chimera's initial invasion of North America, as firefighter Tom Riley finds himself caught in the vanguard of the twisted mutant menace. Armed with a sturdy axe and whatever firearms he can find, Riley's only concern is reuniting with his wife and child, who went missing during the early civilian evacuations.  The game's poor story, interspersed as it is with vapid attempts at emotional depth, is indicative of what Burning Skies is -- little more than a poor reflection of the original console trilogy, a cheap copy that, had it not been officially licensed by Sony, could be mistaken for some illegal, plagiarizing, knock-off. As Riley fights through five short levels, players will find little more than dull, slow-paced shootouts against small collections of enemies through a range of pointless corridors, utilizing a bland cover system that the opposition will mostly ignore.  Most of the fighting isn't exactly terrible, it's just mediocre and predictable. Every battle feels slow and restricted, as a small number of Chimera regularly show up to shoot and die with little fanfare. Thanks to a scarcity of action onscreen, things feel lackluster and uninspiring, a far cry from the atmospheric and chaotic struggles seen in the highly enjoyable Resistance 3. Much of Burning Skies' campaign simply goes through the motions, providing absolutely nothing we didn't see in the genre years ago while adding none of the thrills and excitement we're used to seeing in many modern titles. In many ways, it feels like quite an old shooter from generations past, but not one of the lasting classics.  [embed]227980:43765[/embed] Touch controls have been forced in wherever possible, but unlike Unit 13's smart use of the screens, Burning Skies doesn't take player comfort into account. Opening doors requires touching a small icon in the center of the screen, while the alternative fire modes for every weapon need enemies to be individually prodded or gun bodies to be slid across, even in the middle of a fight that would require hands to be on the real controls. Being able to touch the grenade  and melee icons at the side of the screen is a smart move, as these virtual buttons are conveniently placed and open up the control scheme, but everything else feels contrived, and included at the expense of usability.  Things get worse toward the end, where it begins to look like the developers just stopped caring. The closing sections are happy to just keep throwing the player into big rooms without cover and spawning larger numbers of Chimera in a rather embarrassing attempt to manufacture a sense of challenge. The last level in particular straddles the line between exasperating and tiresome, culminating in one of the most insipid and pointless boss encounters I've witnessed in quite some time. Game design doesn't get more basic and uninspiring than Burning Skies.  The disappointing campaign could be forgiven if the multiplayer was any good, but once again, it feels like a lifeless shadow of its console brethren. The basics are in place -- three game modes (deathmatch, team deathmatch, and infection), with up to three customizable loadouts and a compulsory experience system -- but basics are where the game begins and ends. Once you get into a match, you're forced to fight in confined, visually unstimulating, ill designed maps, where no care was taken into setting sensible spawn points or providing anything other than a series of rooms in which bored people can shoot at each other.  The online experience is laggy, with a framerate that makes everything feel like it's in slow motion, and scoreboards don't work properly (in one match, the enemy team kept showing up as having zero points, when in fact it was winning). I once died thrice in a row, collapsing dead to the ground as soon as I spawned, with the same player shown as having killed me and no indication as to how. Another time, players were frozen in place, and there have already been problems with people getting booted out of a session.  As far as presentation goes, in both the campaign and multiplayer, Resistance: Burning Skies feels unfinished. Severely unfinished. Don't believe the screenshots attached to this review -- this is an ugly game, and it doesn't look anywhere near as good as several of the Vita's launch titles (tellingly, this game blocks the Vita's screen capture software). Environment textures and features on NPCs are bland, flat, and lacking in color. The only modicum of effort seems to have been put into the guns, which look relatively nice, and there's a pleasant bit of lighting here and there, but the Chimera lack much in the way of detail and human faces are creepily devoid of texture, making them look rubbery and nightmarish. Compared to a game like Uncharted: Golden Abyss, the graphics found here are despicable and embarrassing.  Even worse are those moments where it's just obvious that a feature was left blatantly incomplete. From the mouths of NPCs not moving to environments displaying hideous artifacts along edges and corners, there's a lot missing in Burning Skies that you usually only see left out of obscure budget games. You can sprint, but after a while Riley will stop dead in his tracks. He won't return to a walking pace, he won't slow down before needing a breather, he will literally just stop dead in his tracks and you'll have to take your finger off the stick in order to move him again, since absolutely nothing was added to portray a loss of stamina.  In multiplayer, there is no animation or sound effect for melee kills. If you're killed by a melee attack, you'll abruptly die in silence, and it actually took me a few deaths to work out why I kept falling over for no reason. When enemies die, their frozen corpses will slowly glide along the floor before suddenly and sharply disappearing. Cutscenes play at the start of every level and cannot be skipped, even if you're replaying a stage or loading from a checkpoint halfway through, and they're compressed to a disgusting degree. In short, the whole thing feels like some sort of pre-alpha build mistakenly released as a real game.  Resistance: Burning Skies may hope that its flaws are overlooked due to the novelty of being the Vita's first FPS, but even with nothing on the system to directly compare it to, any fool could see just how pathetic this game is. The best that can be said is that the shooting itself is fairly competent. It works. However, it works in a pedestrian and insignificant little game that seems as if it was desperately rushed in order to meet a deadline.  If, like me, you've been waiting to see how a first-person shooter feels on the Vita, then I can say that this game proves the potential of the genre. However, if you'd like your first Vita FPS to actually be good, then wait for something else, because Resistance: Burning Skies is far from acceptable. It is visually atrocious, interactively vapid and incomplete to a degree that a full retail price is an insult. It's tempting to buy this just to have something new on the system, but good things come to those that wait, and it's hard to imagine anything not being good compared to this mess. 
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For a long time, Sony has wanted to bring the console experience to handheld devices, and the PlayStation Vita represents its most successful attempt to date, armed as it is with impressive visual capabilities and a wealth of...

Interview: The music of Retro City Rampage

Apr 27 // Jayson Napolitano
Favorite NES soundtrackNaturally, the soundtracks I heard as a kid will rank among my favourites, but there are hundreds of NES soundtracks I have heard only after becoming an adult (thanks to archives of NSF files) that have become favourites for entirely different reasons, not associated with nostalgia. Do I pick based on nostalgia, or do I pick based on the most technically amazing, or do I pick the uber cool obscure game so I look all hardcore...As bland and obvious (to NES aficionados) as this answer is, I would probably have to say that the soundtrack for Mega Man 3 is my favourite NES soundtrack, and had the largest impact on me as both a child, and an adult. When I was 9 years old or so, I found out you could plug headphones into a microphone jack on a ghetto blaster and they would actually record sound (I must have seen this on Mr. Wizard, or 3 2 1 Contact or something). The first thing I thought to do with this newfound knowledge was to turn on Mega Man 3, start up my favourite stages, and hold the headphone\mic up to the TV speaker so I could record the music by itself (turning the TV volume down for fade outs). Before long, I had an entire tape full of music from Mega Man 3, including the Wily stages later in the game, meaning I had to play the game to get to those levels. As I recall, I played this tape so loud in my downstairs bedroom that my parents actually yelled at me from upstairs to turn it down. To my knowledge, this is the first time in my life I had ever "listened to music."As an adult, and especially as a chiptune artist, my appreciation for Mega Man 3 goes well beyond simple nostalgia too. Mega Man 3 is a non-stop barrage of tricks and techniques that fill out the soundtrack and give the entire thing this razor sharp sheen. It’s possibly the most tell written and technically amazing NES soundtrack. Unfortunately, it's a very hard game to remain objective about. For me though, it's the total package.Honourable mentions would have to go to: Rollergames, Super Dodgeball, Zelda 2, Ninja Gaiden, Castlevania II: Simon's Quest, Double Dragon 2, Double Dragon 3 and Contra.I love the Shatterhand soundtrack. I don't remember how I came across it but I remember listening to it on my lunch breaks for an entire summer a few years ago when I was first seriously getting into composing chiptunes. It strikes that rare balance of technical dexterity that keeps the songs fresh every time they loop but also have great melodies that aren't annoying with repeated plays. I never had an NES as a kid but had a C-64 so most of my memories are built around the Commodore sound. A close second is Super Mario Bros. which has a great sunny calypso feel to it. The Metroid title track is one of my favourite NES tracks as it is a great overture for the game and has a strong dark vibe that really went against the grain of the songs of the time.Overall, it's a toss-up between Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project, and Maniac Mansion. TMNT3 is pure perfection; it flawlessly captures the insane melange of late-80s leather-pantsed, 8000 watt, hard rockin' power-pop that was Konami's sound. Maniac Mansion, on the other hand, is raw, crude, uses a crappy American music driver with dumb-sounding instrumentation, no dynamic control, and abysmal timing (due probably to hasty midi conversions), and... is insanely brilliant and witty and funny and well-written and memorable. Its personality shines through the mediocre sound engine. More than maybe any soundtrack I know of, this is the "holy grail" of OCR-style arrangement for me, and some day I will attempt it. Classic NES character you’d be the best parody of if teleported into the world of Retro City RampageSam from Super Dodgeball! I play real life dodgeball in the Vancouver Dodgeball League three times a week, and I've even given names to some of my secret "special" throws, haha. Slap a green jersey on me and I'd be a dead ringer for Sam.Ha! Leonardo. TMNT was never a game that I played but I watched the original animated series back as a kid - nothing cooler than ninjas back in those days...!A fat, Jewish Golgo 13.(turns around)…Either that or the sub-boss from Double Dragon 2 Mission 1 with the creepy double disintegrating death animation. That guy's rad. I like his mask.Superpower you’d pick from any classic NES franchiseThe Spinwheel/"Jump-N-Slash" move from Ninja Gaiden, without question. That way I could roll around and smoke any boss with one hit. And it only takes five ninja points!I'd definitely want the mushroom power from Super Mario! I like the star power as well since the music change is really cool too but the mushrooms are much more useful overall. I even wrote a reggae-style song for it called "Toadstool Om Nom." If only toadstools where like this in real life… hmm…[embed]226249:43459[/embed]Probably Kirby. When you think about it, he's really the Rogue (X-Men) of Nintendo games, he can absorb any other power he wants. Except Kirby's more my style, because he is large, pink, and loves to swallow.Favorite track you wrote for the game (with lots of detail!)Two tracks. The two that took the longest to finish!The first is the track "Cyborg Mission II" (from the pre-order bonus tracks).Originally, [Brian Provinciano] wanted to use a lot of my older tracks as casual music you could hear on the radio when you are driving around the world map. Some of the tracks date back quite a ways to my first chiptune album (Melodia di Infinita). When I wrote those songs, the idea of ever having my chiptunes in a game was a pipe dream. There were no real retro throwback games, and mobile devices weren't yet used for gaming. I wrote them as a hobby, and I was (in my opinion) pretty bad at it from a technical standpoint. I've had years and years to listen to these old songs, and more and more I found little things I wished I could change. It had become so bad that I couldn't even listen to my old stuff. A couple of these songs, Brian was interested in using for the game! This was kind of a chance for redemption, because I was able to go back in to my original .IT files [Editor’s Note: .IT is a file format native to Impulse Tracker, a DOS-based software used to write music] and fix them up. It took quite a while, but I was actually able to make peace with every single "classic" track Brian wanted to use... Except one. The original "Cyborg Mission."Brian, however, seemed to enjoy the original quite a lot, and even featured it in a cut scene for one of the demo builds he'd sent me. I knew that this track had to be fixed, no matter what. I struggled and struggled with my original file, trying to make it sound up to par, but my methods back then were just too crusty. In the original .IT file, I must have used drum samples from 6 or more NES games, and my drum fills were just a machine gun firing out all of them all over the place. There were also little melodic bits that trailed off and didn't connect anywhere (transitions are so important). It seemed like a lost cause, so, I just decided it was time to rewrite the entire song anew, using my modern templates and techniques. Instead of just recreating the song though, I went somewhere totally new with it, and it came out very epic. I look at it as a triumph over my old careless ways, and I can finally put the original Cyborg Mission to rest. Though, I still have online friends that tell me they prefer the original. Psssht, fanboys.The second is the track "Smut Peddler."[embed]226249:43460[/embed]This all started out so simple... In November of 2010, Brian asked me if I could write a parody track for a mission in the game that would resemble the classic Paper Boy. The original Paper Boy only had one extremely simple song that played during every second of gameplay. One simple song that will forever haunt my dreams.This was the first time I had ever been tasked with parodying a song in chiptune format. Up until this point, I had painstakingly worked at accurately recreating songs in NES format. But making something sound similar, without actually being the original is so much harder (virt makes it look and sound so easy). And since this was not just a project for fun, I learned I could potentially get Brian in some legal trouble. My first draft was a little too close to the original song for Brian's comfort. I basically, directly, referenced portions of the original song, then transitioned into my own unique sections, and back and forth. Brian really liked my sections, and asked me if I could just alter the pieces that referenced the original enough so that it would not be a legal issue, and this was what caused so much trouble. Altering the sections was definitely foreign territory for me, and I didn't really know what was allowed, or how much you needed to change it. Throughout the entire process I kept pestering virt through email, asking him if he thought I had changed it enough. But in the end, the portions of the original song just pervaded, and Brian was quite concerned. The real shame was, the parts that I wrote from scratch were some of Brian’s and my favourite music I had written for the game, and neither Brian or I wanted to see them go. But simply removing the portions that sounded too close to the original and leaving just my parts were not possible due to the way everything was transitioned together.In November of 2011, a year of 'here and there' revisions went by, still with no luck, and it came time to release the soundtrack for Retro City Rampage. “Smut Peddler” was a definite choice to be on the soundtrack, if only it could be finished. Eventually, I think it was Len (FreakyDNA) who came along and peppered my file with some of his own melodies and sent it back to me as a suggestion for how to proceed. I didn't end up using the suggestions, but it was this small collaborative effort that really sparked my creativity again for this track, and over the next couple days, I was able to belt out a finished version that was finally license free! It wasn't until I heard Freaky's ideas and a different perspective that I was finally able to pull myself out of the depths of hell and finish. For any other musicians out there who are simply stuck (both creatively, and systematically), if it is in your means, have a friend offer you some suggestions. It will kick your butt into shape.All said and done, I spent over 100 hours of my life on this song... now go back and listen to the original, hahaha. My nightmare.[embed]226249:43461[/embed]My favourite track for the game is "Bit Happy." I had a listen to the original game and thought I'd try to follow some of the existing song melodies but I ended up not taking anything from the original game at all. I basically just sat down and composed the core of the song in a few hours by figuring out some riffs that I really liked on the acoustic guitar while sitting in the sun at home. I transposed these riffs into OpenMPT and figured out how to arrange them for the NES sounds. Unlike a lot of my other chiptune songs, I really tried to keep the percussion really simple as having a lot of beats tends to make the song heavier and not as happy as I wanted it to be. It was really a good exercise in restraint for me to not add extra notes but to really focus on the transitions between segments of the song. There's a heavy little electro-beat breakdown that happens in the song that I'm really pleased with as I feel I was able to move in and out of this section in a way I hadn't tried before. Basically, this song makes me happy each time I hear it so I'm glad to have been able to include it on the vinyl.[embed]226249:43462[/embed]One of the songs I'm most happy with on the technical side is "Riff Down." It was one of the first songs I came up with for Retro City Rampage and was basically through figuring out an interesting riff on the acoustic guitar. I really enjoy all the breaks that are in there and feel that it has a great funky feel without getting too technically oriented. There're parts that I really have no idea how I came up with which really helps keep the song fresh. The way I worked on the songs for Retro City Ramapge is to come up with strong melodic bits on the guitar, translate them over to the tracker program and then repeatedly polish a group of songs over the course of the two years we spent developing the songs for the game. This song and other songs have basically received days of tweaks by me over the time of the project so it's always important to not get things too "tweaky" and to make the groove the king. I've basically only been doing chiptunes a couple years now and still really like this song so it has a special place in my heart when I'm listening to it.Overall:For those that don't know, making quality chiptunes is really a labour of love, a certain amount of talent and a massive amount of time. I'd say that I can produce conventional electronic music about ten times faster than working on a similar amount of chiptune music. It's really like making music through a microscope and the tricky part is making all the details come together but still have the big picture make sense so that the song conveys the right feeling. I've learned tons by working on Retro City Rampage and the problem is that I've kinda been bit by the chiptune bug so it's hard for me to listen to certain types of music now as I can almost see their notes streaming by in a tracker. I'm really lucky to have been able to work with [Matt “Norrin Radd” Creamer] and “Jake “virt” Kaufman] and hope that people can really enjoy the depth of emotion and detail that we've done our best to put into the songs of Retro City Rampage.[embed]226249:43463[/embed]"Not Nate." The title is, if you don't already know, a reference to the late great Nate Dogg. If you don't know who that is, stop reading this article immediately and go jump in front of a bus, because screw you. You might have noticed that I enjoy trying to imitate the sound and playing technique of various instruments, from guitars to er-hu, in my chip music. Well, the human singing voice is a hard thing to imitate with plain old pulse waves. Nobody can do it nearly as well as the NES legend Chibi-Tech, and I'm not even going to try for that level of articulation (do yourself a favor and track down her chip stuff, it will blow your RAM off) so my vocal-emulation niche is mostly Michael Jackson and various hip hop and soul artists. I have listened countless times to every track Mr. Dogg sang on, so you could say I am familiar with his buttery-smooth vocal stylings. I tried my best to make it sound like he's singing the lead melody, because to my knowledge, no one else had yet given him this dubious honor. May his soul be blessed. Smoke weed every day.As far as tools, since I was a wee lad, I've used an old DOS program called Impulse Tracker to make "sound-alike" NES music, but Retro City Rampage was my last time using it -- I've since moved fully to FamiTracker (famitracker.com) which, rather than being a general-purpose music program, is made specifically for authentic NES music which can play on the real hardware. It's free, and not that hard to learn. You reader dudes and broettes should all download it and mess around, make some Nintendo music! Assuming you didn't already jump in front of the bus from before.
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We've been talking a lot about Retro City Rampage and its soundtrack dating all the way back to 2010. The game's finally due out on nearly every platform in May, and after our favorable review of the soundtrack and a look at ...

Silent Hell: the rage-fueled tale of Book of Memories

Mar 01 // Jim Sterling
[embed]223011:42880[/embed] But..But what about the old silent hill the good one!! We love horror not fucking shit! Please make another game but on something scary, that will make silent hill interesting again! :( Konami hasn't fostered much love for the Silent Hill series over the years. Opinions are divided over the quality of recent efforts such as Homecoming and Shattered Memories, but the general consensus among fans is that everything went downhill after Team Silent disbanded. This upcoming PS Vita game appears to have been a very grave misstep in the eyes of fans who just want the series to go back to its roots.  THEY DO NOT LEARN THEY DO NOT LEARN. And the worst part is that I just know this is going to sell somehow. Truly horrifying. Look, if you're going to desecrate SH's atmosphere then you might as well give me pornographic material with the nurses and "the guy with a gigantic knife" since you love them so much. Fans aren't just angry at Book of Memories. They're thoroughly confused.  This actually doesnt make any sense. It looks like a title that would end up on IOS not the vita! While others simply see this as a slap in the face, and the latest bit of proof that Konami does not give a damn anymore. Even those who aren't very angry still don't understand why the game is so vastly different. I love silent hill and cant wait for downpour,really think it looks great,but this! this is wrong! its like them announcing the next cod to be a platform with no guns in it,or the next fifa to be an fps where u gun down all the divas that take a fall for being tapped lightly,actualy that sounds quite good,but this looks awful! Of course, every devil has an advocate, and while many fans are furious, some are holding out hope. It dosent look like that bad of a game! i think if they made it a diffrent title it would be better. im not a diehard silent hill fan but i love the games. You need to face it its not a consol game so stop bitching. its for the vita which only like 15% of americans bought. i think its going to be a great game and i support it. im gonna prob hatted on but idk i respect there wishes making this game! im going to buy first day and play it through! While others are simply enjoying the show. The amount of raging fans here makes me laugh. It looks alright, but It doesn't interest me. Survival Horror games, more than any other genre, struggle with the pressures of modernization. Many will argue that old fashioned game mechanics and outdated design ideas are what made horror games so scary. They limited the player, made things more awkward and thus more frantic. Of course, we're in an age where games aren't supposed to be inconvenient anymore, so some element of refinement is necessary. Finding the delicate balance between scaring a player and providing a satisfactory user experience is incredibly difficult.  [embed]223011:42881[/embed] This, however, seems to be something totally out of left field, and not what anybody could have expected. I love Silent Hill, and while I am prepared to give this game a chance, I really have to wonder who Konami thought it would appeal to. Even in Book of Memories' gameplay video above, the producer introducing the footage is noticeably awkward as he addresses fans. Just watch him when he tries to persuade us not to worry about the game's survival horror elements. That's a man with fear in his eyes. A man who knew he'd be the face of resentment.  If you know people are going to hate something ... why are you making it? Silent Hill: Origins on the PSP may not have been the best Silent Hill game, but I still maintain it was one of the creepiest releases in a long time, and surprisingly effective at providing some portable scares. It shocks me that Konami would not want to replicate that on the Vita, instead going for something that looks like it could have easily been on a less advanced system. As the comment above says, it looks like an iOS game. It's like Dungeon Hunter. Why isn't it taking advantage of what the Vita can do? Konami is a confusing company that makes many bizarre decisions. This latest is one that the fans have most certainly noticed, and the message they've taken away is that Konami does not understand why its customers ever supported it.  That's not a message I think Konami wants out there.
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Silent Hill: Book of Memories is to be the series' first foray into the PlayStation Vita, and its dramatic departure from traditional survival horror is proving to be quite controversial. You see, Book of Memories is a top-do...

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The day is finally here! Today is the day that North Americans and Europeans get their PlayStation Vita game systems. Today is the day that my bragging rights (two Vitas, all the games) end. Today is the day that I get a bill...

Ten whining PlayStation Vita nitpicks

Feb 16 // Jim Sterling
USB Charging is a Hassle: The PlayStation Vita can be charged by connecting it to a USB port on a computer or other electronic device, but it's not very convenient. Firstly, you have to manually set your Vita to accept a charge on an electronic device, rather than having it just work like USB devices are supposed to.  Not only that, the Vita cannot charge via a USB device while remaining switched on. You cannot charge it while playing a game (slightly understandable), but you can't even get any juice when it's in standby mode. As someone who likes to hook his devices up to a computer and intermittently check up on them, it's a bit annoying to not have it charge while remaining in standby. Instead, it needs to be powered completely down before it'll regain any battery life, which defeats the object of hooking it up to a computer in the first place. I gave up and just started using wall sockets, which I don't want to do. So, you can charge via a USB port, but there's not much point. So ... what's the point?  Lengthy Boot Time and Standby Recovery If there's one thing a Sony device loves to do, it's make users wait around. The Vita is no exception, taking its sweet time to switch on after being powered down. Not only that, but reactivating the system after placing it in standby mode takes far longer than it should.  When you press the home button to recover the system, there's an irritating delay between your interaction and the system's response. It's not exactly an eon of waiting, but it's just long enough to make you wonder whether or not you pressed the button. This is definitely a massive deal! Double Tapping Apps Whenever opening an app, you have to first click on its bubble icon to open up a specially designed splash page. You then have to click "Start" on that page to actually access the software. I don't quite mind that for games, where there are useful links to the manual and extra content, but why do I need to click through two screens just to access the Vita's settings page, or the PlayStation Store? It's yet another example of Sony's tendency to introduce minor little inconveniences with absolutely no justifiable cause. The only reason you have to double tap is because Sony didn't implement a way for the Vita to differentiate from a game and another piece of software. After all, why should Sony put a little extra time in when it can just waste the consumer's?  Connections and Notifications The Vita loves to spam its user with constant messages. Every time you put a new game in, you have to sit through a "please wait" pop-up and watch the icon bounce up and down annoyingly. Various games disable the network capabilities of the Vita during gameplay, and warn the player every single time it happens. As if that wasn't enough, the Wi-Fi Vita adds an extra annoyance by needing to manually connect every time it opens an app with online features.  Not being a technical expert, I don't know how necessary any of these notifications are, but I've decided none of them are required because they get on my nerves. So, get rid of them. All of them. Forever.  New Apps Installing in Dumb Places You can fit ten apps on a single PS Vita home screen, and you can use multiple screens. I currently set up my system to have functional apps on the first page, games on the second page, and crap I don't want to touch on the third page. On any other mobile device, a new app would fill the first open slot available on the system. On the Vita, every game I install currently opens up on its own new page, even though the first two pages have open spaces.  This makes for a bit of extra fuss when personalizing the page, constantly having to shift apps from one page to another to get them where I need. All those empty spaces, and the Vita keeps ignoring them because it insists on doing silly things.  Lack of Multitasking I'm definitely not among those silly critics who bash the Vita for not being a smartphone, but come on. If you're going to have a system with multiple features, it's a little embarrassing to not allow multitasking. I should be able to pause a game and go on to check some emails without having my game shut down. I should be able to do that, but I can't.  The bloody thing has a 3G-enabled SKU to appeal to the iPhone market, but it can't even let users check their Twitter in between game levels. That just seems self-defeating to me. Users are easily distracted and want to do more than one thing at once. The Vita doesn't cater to modern demands in that regard. The Shittiest Browser In The World The PS Vita web browser is one of the worst I've ever used. I'd take Netscape Navigator over that crap any day of the week. Dale didn't seem to think it was quite so bad, but I absolutely despise the thing. I don't know how it got so difficult to do something that other machines got right years ago. Hell, even the PSP has a better browser.  Slow, unresponsive, laggy, and unable to make even the most basic sites look right and function properly, the Vita's browser makes the Internet a sad and frightening place. I couldn't get the thing to open my emails correctly -- it would load up the email, but only render as far as the subject line before freezing.  Rambo thinks he had it bad in Vietnam, but he didn't have to use the PS Vita's web browser.  That Fucking Music I've barely had the PS Vita for a week and I can't get the bloody music out of my head. When you're navigating on the home screen, this depressing mall music drones on and on, never stopping, never changing, just chirping and warbling for ten million years.  It'd be nice to set your own music, but instead you'll need to go to your settings and find the mute option in Sound/Display. Your choice is cold silence, or a repetitive drone that'll have you jamming knitting needles in your ears after fifteen minutes.  What is it about game consoles that think the cool, cutting edge thing to do is use cheesy muzak? It'd be like Skrillex wearing a flowery dress on stage ... though to be honest, he'd probably look a bit more sensible.  App and Data Management I can't say I'm impressed with the PS Vita's ability to let you manage your application data -- or rather, how it doesn't. There's no way to check up on PS Vita save game data without opening the game itself, as only PSP save data has a menu item in the settings. If I want to check whether something has data saved to the memory card or the internal memory, either I can't do it, or the option is hidden away in some infernal corner of the console.  I also don't like how certain apps have to remain on the home screen. I don't think many of us need to keep Welcome Park on display forever, and some folk might not want to deal with photos, or use music, or fiddle around with Near. These items cannot be deleted, but they also cannot be hidden away. There's no folder or sub-menu to store away those apps one isn't interested in, so they have to stay there forever. BAH! Needless Separation of Apps There really is no need for Trophies, friends, party chat and even Near to be stored on the Vita as separate applications. They're all social and networking features, and they should all be used together in a unified social networking app. Having to open several apps to access several related features is pretty damn stupid.  This is indicative of Sony's larger problem of being unable to provide any sense of synergy in its software. Everything is so gated and fails to gel together properly. I want to feel like the PS Vita is a fluid and unified experience, not simply a dull conduit for a bunch of unrelated applications. This "close one door to open another" approach is lame.  Lame, but no deal-breaker. In fact, nothing here is a deal-breaker. The PlayStation Vita is a fine system and I really enjoy using it, but there are still all these little gripes with the thing. That is what Sony does -- it never really has one, big, all-encompassing problem. It just has a lot of minor issues that pile on top of each other.  Still, compared to the potential of the Vita and the fun already on offer, these issues are nitpicks that many can ignore. Just be prepared for them and enjoy your expensive new toy!
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We recently reviewed the PlayStation Vita and had quite a few positive words to say about it. All things considered, the Vita is a great handheld gaming device that hopefully does very well and gets the software support it de...

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We have our faces buried in our PlayStation Vita systems, working to bring you reviews of all the launch games set to hit shelves early next week. There are so many of them, and we are trying to play them all at once! Bear wi...

Review: PlayStation Vita

Feb 13 // Jim Sterling
Holding the PS Vita for the first time, one may be shocked by quite how much it resembles a PSP. Photographs don't do a good job of communicating the similarity in form factor, as it wasn't until I finally caught a Vita in the "flesh" that I was able to note its resemblance to a PSP-1000 -- only much bigger, of course.  The Vita feels more robust than its predecessor. While larger, the whole package feels tighter and tougher, which is what I like to see in a system designed to be touted around town. In ages past, I feared that an adequately strong wind might take my PSP apart, but I feel like I could drop a Vita and have good odds of escaping total destruction.  The biggest change to the Vita is the addition of a second analog stick, which actually does resemble a stick, rather than the PSP's stumpy little nub. Surprisingly, both sticks feel quite resistant to damage, despite their flimsy and delicate appearance. I have a minor issue with the way they're shaped, since the surfaces curve outward rather than inward, which is an odd design for something a thumb is supposed to rest upon. As a result, playing a third-person action game can feel a little odd -- like one's thumb is at constant risk of slipping off, even if it isn't, thanks to the friction of the rubber grip. It can be gotten used to, but it's certainly strange, especially with the rest of the exterior being designed to hug the form as closely as possible. Speaking of which, I'd have appreciated the Start and Select buttons being raised, rather than sit at the same level as the Vita's surface.  Buttons are placed quite comfortably, with the Vita's larger size making extended play more comfortable. Games that make use of the shoulder buttons can cramp the fingers a little, but this is by far one of the least painful handhelds released, especially for folks like me with large gammon hands. The face buttons and D-pad are situated perfectly above the movement sticks, keeping everything within easy reach. I have noticed, however, that these buttons like to make annoying noises. My triangle button in particular has already become very squeaky, which is off-putting.  The Vita may resemble a PSP physically, but there's a lot more going on inside. When starting it up for the first time, one will note just how much the interface resembles a smartphone's. Gone is the PS3/PSP XMB setup, replaced instead by circular icons that wobble on the screen and beg for attention. These icons can be customized across multiple screens that stack on top of each other, and can be accessed by flicking the screen up and down. Each background can be customized, allowing a user to create his or her own themed screens for easy sorting. Open applications are stored horizontally, and can be reached by flicking left or right. It's intuitive and simple, which makes it a vast improvement over previous Sony game systems. What I love most about the Vita so far is its superior speed when compared to the PSP, and even the PS3! Something as simple as accepting a friend request can take too long on a PS3, thanks to its sluggish interface. Not only is it quicker and more convenient to access one's friends on a Vita, interacting with them is considerably faster. The only thing holding the Vita back, at least on the Wi-Fi model, is the need to constantly communicate with servers before opening any applications. That, and Trophies still need to sync up, which I still find absolutely mind-boggling. Those two grievances aside, navigating a Vita is an active pleasure rather than a dragging chore, which is most appreciated.  The Vita is designed to be much more socially oriented. Tapping the bubble in the top right corner of the screen will relay all sorts of information about the recent activities of your friends and yourself, while a number of apps are geared toward turning gaming more social. This is all done in an unobtrusive, optional, passive way, and I have to say that stalking one's friends is more fun than ever before. Dale will have even more details for you a little further down.  Games slot into the top through tiny little memory cards, and they can also be downloaded directly via the PSN. Again, the Vita makes the downloading and installation of titles faster and more enjoyable than before, and each game also gets its own hub page that opens like any other application. These hubs allow you to jump in and out of the game, open official websites, browse DLC, or perform other actions of the publisher's choosing. Little touches like these are what truly enhance the Vita experience and turn it into something just a little bit more involved and dynamic.  As far as the games themselves go, there's a good deal to choose from at launch, and those worth picking up are really worth picking up. Although most of the games so far use the Vita's multiple interfaces in a gimmicky way, those gimmicks work pretty damn well. The way the front touchscreen and rear touchpad can be made to work together is most impressive, and I am surprised by how intuitive two touch interfaces can be -- at least in a game that uses them well, like Uncharted: Golden Abyss. The gyroscope controls pretty damn well, although some of the games I've played have felt a bit "twitchy," as if the motion controls are a little too overzealous for subtle movements. The front and rear cameras won't exactly produce award-winning photographs, but they're adequate for "augmented reality" games, and there's a rather powerful microphone built in that can be used for game interaction.  Load times have been a bit disconcerting in the run-up to launch, but I have to say that most of them haven't bothered me. Yes, it can take a bit of time to load up a game, but nothing too egregious -- usually not more bothersome than a few seconds. Only one game has considerably lengthy loading times, and considering it's a ModNation Racers spin-off, one can hardly be surprised. The battery life ... is what it is. You'll be able to get a few hours of play from it: no more than a 3DS, but not much less. So far, I've not found the battery life inadequate for the amount of time a comfortable play session lasts, so I don't expect too many users to find it unbearable.  As far as memory sticks go, my biggest issue with them is just how small they are compared to the size of the games on offer. I've already eaten into a weighty chunk of mine with a handful of games, and it won't be long until I'm forced to decide between buying a new card or deleting some titles. For a game system that tries to push digital distribution, this is a real issue. If you've got cash to throw around and don't mind swapping memory cards, it might not be an issue, though it would defeat part of the purpose of downloading a title digitally in the first place. Again, time will tell just how big a deal this is, but it's among my larger concerns.  Oh, and THAT SCREEN! It's massive (for a handheld, obviously), bright and utterly beautiful. It's almost painful to use it for touch purposes, as it feels rather criminal getting one's filthy mitts all over that lovely thing. It does a wonderful job making games look even better, especially the bright and colorful ones. Color is incredibly rich on the system, and makes everything pop.  In trying to provide almost everything a gamer could want, the PlayStation Vita could be a successful jack-of-all-trades or a convoluted mess. I feel quite safe in saying that the Vita looks like it'll more closely resemble the former, provided that talented developers use the interfaces correctly. None of the features of the Vita are deficient in any way; all are up to their appointed tasks. Whether using the touch screen, the touchpad, the gyroscope or the traditional buttons, everything does its job, and does it pretty well. I think even the most demanding portable gamer will find themselves wanting for little.  Add to that the fact that the Vita's capable of running some utterly gorgeous games that control really well, and you've got a damn fine system in your hands. Playing Uncharted for the first time is nothing short of a revelation. It's a sign of just how far we've come that we've got beautiful, fully-fledged console experiences sitting in our hands. The bells, the whistles, and the gimmicks are all great, but the PlayStation Vita succeeds where it matters most -- it can play awesome games, and it already has a number of them prepared for launch. That's what counts, and the Vita is off to a good start in that area.  The Vita's Near application serves as a social hub, giving you a really neat way to see who is playing near you and interact with them. It uses Wi-Fi and/or 3G to determine your location, and then connects to the network to find others online, giving you a sort of bulls-eye view of your location and how far away other gamers are from you. From the app, you can see what other people are playing and what they think of their most recently played games. The software also asks you to vote on your recently played games, letting you pick emoticons to represent your feelings. This gives everyone around you the ability to see the most played and liked games in the area. You can also issue and accept challenges, share content, and send friend invites from Near. A friends list lets you scroll through your friends' newest Trophies and status messages, and just as in any other good social networking app, you can give an activity a thumbs-up or leave a comment. All in all, Near is a really nice way to find new friends to play with, as well as keep up with the happenings of your current friends. Sony finally got friends management, chat, and partying right with the Vita. The Friends app is a simple, easy-to-use list that gives you an overview of which friends are online, what they're playing, their play history, and a quick overview of their Trophies. You'll also manage friend requests and updates from here. In each friend's expanded view, you can invite them to Near or initiate a chat.  The Group Messaging app serves as a chat program, giving you a mobile phone-style tool to message your friends. It looks just like a texting application from an iPhone or Android device, with its continually running log of sent messages and a text box. Hell, it even has a button to add a photo to a message. You'll feel right at home with it. And, as the name implies, you can send a blast out to a group by selecting more than one friend or PSN ID for a message. Cross-game chat finally comes to a Sony system with Vita's Party app. Up to eight people can communicate via either voice or text in Party, even while playing different games. From here, you can also join in other party members' games, and the Vita will even beam you to the PlayStation Store if you don't own the game that everyone else is playing. Congratulations to Sony for finally getting this right. As with any hardware, it's impossible to say for certain just how rewarding an experience the Vita will provide over coming months. That depends upon the consistent release of new features and games. Both Sony and third parties will need to support it a lot more than they did the PSP, and that means doing more than releasing updated SKUs and firmware.  Still, Sony's new handheld has come out of the gate strong, with a hearty, varied selection of launch titles and some genuinely cool applications to play with. Not only that, but the fact it fixes a lot of long-standing issues suffered by both the PSP and PS3 suggests that Sony understands not everything it does is perfect, and it's working hard on making a handheld that is fun to use and gives consumers a compelling experience outside of the game library, as well as within it.  Whether it can follow through remains to be seen, but I feel good about the Vita right now. Fans of Sony products will absolutely fall in love with it, while the more cynical among us should give it a chance. It may very well impress even your hardline skeptics. 
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The PlayStation Portable is quite possibly the greatest electronic device that I ever resented. I hated so much about the PSP, and not because I disliked the system -- I absolutely loved it. However, the lack of support from ...

Review: Uncharted: Golden Abyss

Feb 13 // Dale North
[Review Note: We used the Japanese release of Uncharted: Golden Abyss for this review. This release features the same English voices and text that we'll see in the domestic release. If any features change upon domestic release, we'll update this review.]  Uncharted: Golden Abyss (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Sony Bend StudiosPublisher: Sony Computer EntertainmentReleased: February 22, 2012MSRP: $49.99 For those following the series, Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a prequel story, though it doesn't seem to establish much in the way of backstory. Nathan Drake may have a few less cuts and bruises in this game, but he's basically the same protagonist you've come to know and love. The rest of the cast is new, save for an old friend that series fans will immediately recognize. This old friend may have less gray hair, but he still has the same terrible shirts and jokes.  Golden Abyss has Drake working for a somewhat shady old friend named Jason Dante. He reports for duty as a historical expert for Dante in the deep forests of Central America. During their work they meet Marisa Chase, the granddaughter of a famous archaeologist. Chase is looking for her grandfather, who has gone missing during his an expedition. The group gets mixed up with a retired general from the region that is on the hunt for treasure. It seems that everyone is looking for the same ruins, but for different reasons. The story is great, and there's some really nice plot twists and lore to be enjoyed and explored. Golden Abyss may not have quite the character depth that Naughty Dog pumped into previous series games' characters, but that not to say that the characters are bad in any way. You'll still totally hate the bad guys, sympathize with the heroine, and laugh heartily at Drake's snarky interjections. No corners were cut as far as the characters are concerned, mind you. It's just that, while good, they're not quite to the impossibly high level that Naughty Dog has set with previous games. That said, the voice acting is exactly on par with what you've experienced with the console games. Nolan North is at his best, wisecracking like a champ as Drake. Voice actress Christine Lakin also does a fine job as Marisa Chase and when Drake and his old friend meet up in the second half of the game, the wisecracks come non-stop. In the latter half of the game there's a hilarious run of "...that's what she said" jokes between the pair. I think that most players will be surprised at how much dialogue is in this game. Everything is fully voiced, making you wonder how they fit it all on that tiny little Vita cartridge. Drake has learned several new tricks with this first portable outing. The various new input controls of the Vita are all used in Golden Abyss, making the game a perfect showcase for the system. And while just about all of the touch and motion controls are optional, they're implemented so well that I'm sure most players will end up using them and enjoying them.  The front touch screen and back touch panel are used extensively. Basic commands, like picking up items and weapons, can now be done by simply touching them on the screen. This way you won't have to walk over to it and hit a button. Flinging grenades is a joy now, as you literally flick them in the direction you want them to go with the front screen. Fist fighting also uses the touch screen, and it's much better than you'd think, with swipey cinematic attacks and dodges mixing up the standard punching and kicking. I love that the sniper rifle's zoom can be controlled by either a slider on the front screen, or by running a finger up and down across the back touch panel. The touch control even extends to exploration. You can jump from ledge to ledge with buttons and the analog stick, just as you always have, or you can simply touch a ledge to have Drake jump to it. In fact, he will follow a line you've traced across the screen with your finger to do things like move across ledges and over or under obstacles. Again, the touch controls in these cases are totally optional, but they're pretty slick, and trying them once will likely sell you on them. My favorite new addition to Uncharted's control is the motion control-enabled aiming assist. You'll still use the right analog stick to aim your weapons, but the Vita's motion sensors let you tilt the system to fine tune your aim. While larger gestures let you move the reticle from enemy to enemy, I used it more for correcting my aim, and quickly fell in love with the feature. Being able to tilt to fine tune aim is so intuitive that I don't know how I ever lived without it. The only touch control that is not optional is found in the game's cutscenes. You'll swipe your way through fist fights and narrow escapes. These "quick time events" start out as pretty standard, but get really creative toward the end. I don't want to spoil any of the situations, so just know that you'll be furiously swiping in all directions as quick as you can, gritting your teeth all the while. It seems like Bend had a lot of fun putting these events together, and I'm sure you will, too.  Sure, there's a lot of new tricks with this outing, but the game's core is classic Uncharted. This means you'll get more of that perfect mix of tense platforming and climbing and epic gunfights, all presented with cinematic flair. The first time things get hairy and you find yourself hanging from a rope with shooters firing from above and snipers aiming from below, you'll feel right at home. There's no way the game's creators could have been more true to Uncharted's gameplay. They nailed it. I'm glad to say that series fans will also feel right at home with the controls. The exemplary dual joysticks of the Vita do a lot to blur that line between portable and home console. There's absolutely no learning curve here for anyone that has played any of the previous games. Nothing is lost in translation. The Uncharted series has always incorporated puzzles, and you'll find plenty in Golden Abyss. In fact, I'd bet there are more puzzle-like instances in this latest title than in any of the other ones. While enjoyable, the majority of them are pretty shallow, and rely on the the front and rear touch panels. Your hands will be all over the screen doing things like making charcoal rubbings of ancient carvings, or rubbing dirt and/or rust off artifacts to uncover clues. The game's makers are absolutely unapologetic in their excitement for rubbing things, so much so that their studio logo is presented with a charcoal rub graphics.  There are a few other more interesting types of touch puzzles in the mix. You'll have to use your fingers to spin combination locks to gain access to treasures, and re-assembling ripped up maps, posters and other papers is pretty fun, though you'll do it so often that you'll wonder why so many things are ripped up in the forests of Central America. Fortunately, these iPhone game-like diversions give way to some really neat puzzles near the end of the game. These are more like your classic puzzles from treasure hunting games, and they're all pretty enjoyable.  Fans of item hunting will be glad to hear that Golden Abyss has more hidden items, treasures and other artifacts to find than any other of the series titles. Maybe too many! I found that I was almost tripping over collectable gems and coins during the adventure, and found a few more by accident. It's almost unbelievable how many findable items are in this game. Drake's in-game journal contains several pages of empty "slots" for all of these items, and it's a bit daunting going through them. I'd dare say that only the most hardcore will even attempt to collect them all, and that they'll probably need multiple playthroughs to do so. As an amateur photographer I really enjoyed the new camera-based quests in Golden Abyss. Drake is free to bring up his camera at any time to shoot any of the game's lovely scenery to be kept in his journal, but there are also several requested pictures to collect. You're given examples to try to match with your own photos, and the game grades you on them, with collection requiring a 100 percent match. Photography uses the Vita's tilt function to aim and the rear touchscreen to zoom.  Uncharted: Golden Abyss is a beautiful game. From a visual standpoint, it's quite easily the most impressive portable game I've seen. So much of the polished presentation and cinematic style of the PS3 games can be found in this Vita title, which is especially impressive when you consider that this is a launch title. Seeing is believing, as online footage and screenshots do this game no justice. Bend's outstanding work on this game makes it easy to forget that you're playing a portable game. At announcement, Sony kept saying that the Vita is capable of PS3-like experiences, and Golden Abyss serves as proof. The Uncharted series is known for its beautiful backdrops, and Golden Abyss is no exception. While treasure hunting adventure games all have similar settings, Bend cranked the pretty up to 11 in this one. Some of the texture art is positively eye-popping; I found myself doing double takes many times in my first playthrough. Lush, green forests give way to sun-drenched temple ruins in the game's first hours. Beyond that explore vast underground caves that lead to gaming eye candy that's so dazzling that I'd hate to ruin it for you. You'll see everything from dumpy lean-tos to impossibly scenic waterfalls on your journey, wondering how the game system isn't overheating from rendering them. This game is also lovely in motion. The same high quality motion capture you enjoyed in the console games is present in Golden Abyss. Even moving water is stunningly realistic in this game. And despite some reports, I never experienced any kind of slow down or stuttering. Golden Abyss ran smoothly from beginning to end for me. Talk about coming out strong! From launch day Sony has a flagship title and a potential system seller with Uncharted: Golden Abyss -- it's that good. It's everything you'd expect from an Uncharted title as a graphical powerhouse, and it serves as a technical showcase for Sony's newest hardware. It does such a good job of taking advantage of all of Vita's capabilities. It's as if Sony knew that this had to be amazing, and then spared no expense to make it so. As far as single-player gaming goes, franchise fans will not be disappointed with the series' first portable game. Though smaller, Golden Abyss is still the deep, varied and highly entertaining adventure they've come to expect, with almost nothing lost in the move. And with more than 30 game chapters and about 12 hours of gameplay, this is a full Uncharted experience. There's no multiplayer, though, so some followers of the series may miss that.  With Uncharted: Golden Abyss we have the first must-buy for Sony's PlayStation Vita. It takes the series' much-loved gameplay, storytelling and presentation, and adds on innovative touch and tilt features to make a game that fits perfectly alongside its predecessors. Prepare to be amazed by a portable videogame.
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You may have had enough of hanging from glowing ledges, jumping from crumbling floors and narrow escapes from massive explosions, but I can't get enough of the adventures of "Dude Raider" Nathan Drake. I loved all of the PS3 ...

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For those wondering if PlayStation Vita owners in the US will get a discounted price for purchasing the digital releases of their games as compared to boxed retail copies (as in Japan), it looks as though that may indeed be t...

Man up! Pac-Man and Mega Man in Street Fighter X Tekken

Jan 26 // Jonathan Holmes
Pac-Man and Mega Man are clearly meant to represent Namco and Capcom and their efforts to come together to create Street Fighter X Tekken. Pac-Man, riding a giant version of Tekken's Mokujin, represents Namco's current philosophy towards working to simultaneously appeal to fans of their classic arcade days (with titles like Galaga Legions and Pac-Man Championship Edition DX) and fans of their more modern offerings (like Tekken and Katamari) at the same time. Bad Box Art Mega Man does something else entirely. The character is old and out of shape. His costume has clearly taken a beating over the years. It shows multiple signs of damage (just look at that messed up helmet!). This is a man who has been through a lot. He's seen better days. That's not going to stop him though. Despite being a bit long in the tooth, he's still clearly trying to win over the beauty-and-youth obsessed Western market, just as he did on the box of the original Mega Man when it was first released in the United States. Man, he's not going to have an easy time of that, is he? Not with that face. Not with those clothes. He has all the makings of a failure: a fat, funny looking goofball desperately trying to look cool in the eyes of American teenagers, and failing hard at that goal. Yet, there is a fire in his eyes that makes him a charmer. He's got the spirit and the determination that only comes from having true passion for your work. He may be making an ass of himself, but he's a genuine ass, and that's to be respected. How could he not be genuine? Nobody looks, acts, and dresses like that because they think it's going to help them get ahead in life. If you look like Bad Box Art Mega Man, it's because you want to look that way for you. In short, Bad Box Art Mega Man is legit. People may make fun of him for not being as cool and sexy as Western super heroes and Japanese anime characters, but he isn't going to let that stop him from giving it everything he's got in his efforts to win both our hearts, and the Street Fighter X Tekken tournament.  If that's not the best representation of modern day Capcom, I don't know what is. Kudos to Capcom for making such an unexpected and interesting creative decision by using this version of Mega Man to represent them in what may be one of their biggest games of 2012. They could have gone the safe, predictable route and just included the standard "Mega Man" in this game, the one who is proven to be a crowd-pleaser, the one who has already appeared in multiple crossover titles. Instead, they went ahead and did something that not only has me wanting to shake their hands, but play the crap out of their game. Mega Man and Poison are definitely going to be my mains. Great job, Capcom. You've made at least one Mega Man fan very happy this day.
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Previously hinted at company mascots Pac-Man and Mega Man have been confirmed as PS3/PSV exclusive characters for Street Fighter X Tekken, joining Cole from inFamous, and Sony Japan mascots Toro and Kuro. Unless the 360 vers...

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While the PlayStation Vita will support PSP games, it does not have a UMD drive. For this reason Sony came up with their UMD Passport program. Through this, you'll be able to register UMD games to get a discounted digital cop...

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We kind of thought that the Vita would be region-free, and at E3 we heard some positive news, but now we know for sure. According to 1UP, Sony Computer Entertainment's president of Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida confirmed ...

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Zone of the Enders is coming back in glorious HD format! Both Zone of the Enders games are being remastered in HD and is hitting the PlayStation 3 AND Xbox 360. Zone of the Enders will be out in 2012. As for the Metal Gear So...

PlayStation Store is back with a stampede of updates

Jun 02 // Hamza CTZ Aziz
PSN & PSP games: Alien Crush - $5.99 (PSN, PSP) Bonk's Adventure - $5.99  (PSN, PSP) Wizardry: Labyrinth Of Lost Souls - $14.99 (PSN) Sega Rally Online Arcade - $9.99 (PSN) Star Raiders -  $9.99 (PSN) Red Johnson’s Chronicles  - $12.99 (PSN) Under Siege -  $19.99 (PSN) Back To The Future: The Game – Episode 3 - Free With Season Pass (PSN) Dragon’s Lair II: Time Warp - $9.99 (PSN) Bomberman ’94 - $5.99 (PSN) Learning With The Pooyoos – Episode 1 - $8.99 (PSN) Lego Pirates Of The Caribbean - $29.99 (PSP) Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars - $29.99 (PSP) PSone Classics: Missile Command - $5.99 PSP minis: Star Hammer Tactics - $1.99 Best Of Solitaire - $4.99 Block Cascade Fusion - $1.49 Sky Force - $4.99 Card Shark - $1.49 Days Of Thunder - $4.99 Top Gun - $4.99
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Good news: The PlayStation Store is back online in North America! Bad news: There's so much new content that was put out all at once that it's simply overwhelming. Not saying it's bad news for the consumer, but it's just a sh...

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We're a week out from E3, but that doesn't mean the rumors have to stop just yet. According to a supposed E3 fact sheet, Sony's PSP successor, codenamed NGP, is going to be known as the PS Vita.  Yes, it sounds like some...

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We already told you a bit about Sony's upcoming PSP Remaster ports for PS3 in our Monster Hunter Portable 3rd news item, but we wanted to pass along a few more details on this series of games. Remasters will be PSP titles cus...

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Sony Computer Entertainment has just come out and said it: it thinks it's possible that all of your private data may have been obtained. In a recent PlayStation Blog update, Sony says that while its "still investigating the d...

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Back when the PSPgo came out it felt like I was the only one excited about it. It was small and sexy. It sold...some. At $250 for what really was a lesser game system that what it was supposed to stand in for, the PSPgo was a...

Counterpoint: Why Sony's PSP2 (NGP) will succeed

Feb 08 // Josh Tolentino
I'm going to start by saying that I will be the last person to call the PSP (or its intentions) a "failure." I don't believe that selling less than the DS automatically branded Sony the "loser" in this perceived race. I'm no business person. I don't have access to all the numbers, and as such I can't say whether Sony made enough off the PSP to write it off for themselves. What I can say, however, is that current estimates place the PSP's numbers at somewhere around sixty million. And currently, the PSP has been leading sales charts in Japan, and is on track to becoming the fifth best-selling platform of all time. That includes the numbers for the homebound "HD" consoles. Clearly, they're doing something right. That said, the PSP definitely has its faults, ones that ultimately undermine its ability to back up Sony's promises of taking the home console experience on the go. Most notable is the lack of that second analog stick, something integral to "big boy" gameplay of all kinds since the days of the first PlayStation. There's no denying that the PSP does provide some great, deep experiences, but most of them are hamstrung, leading most players to just wish they were sitting in a couch, staring at a big screen with two sticks at thumbpoint. Obviously, the NGP solves that particular issue. It's got proper analog sticks, and two of them to boot. But where does that leave us? Didn't the weaker, more "creative" DS prove that "concept-driven" (read: gimmicky) games triumph over ones that attempt to port "traditional" homebound gameplay? Why isn't Sony realizing that and instead producing a cheap-and-cheerful machine that does that kind of stuff, stuff that a PS3 or an Xbox 360 can't do? That's where the sea change comes in. What change am I talking about, you ask? I'm talking about the fact that gimmicky games are everywhere now. Now any platform, be it plugged in at home or on batteries in your hand, can employ a creative trick to support unique, special little games. We can actually thank the Wii and DS for that. Nintendo blazed the trail, and everyone else followed. Kinect for Xbox 360 and PlayStation Move would likely have never seen the light of day had the Wii Remote not started the trend. Put plainly, every platform is (generally speaking) now capable of the same level of gimmickry and concept-driven design as the DS and Wii. They've joined the party. That's not all, though. High-end games are more expensive to make than ever. About the last thing most publishers and developers want is for Sony and Microsoft (and Nintendo, eventually) to announce the PlayStation 4 or Xbox 720 or...whatever Nintendo decides to call its next money-printer. Even the platform holders themselves know this, and have been working feverishly to extend the lifespan of this generation. From diversifying development opportunities (read: new gimmicks for devs to play with) to beefing up their own collections of cheap-and-cheerful downloadable games, there's never been a better time for gamers to find something that can do anything or everything. That's where the NGP comes in. From a hardware perspective (and in theory), it really is a "do anything and everything" machine. Not only does it pack in every gimmick the DSi ever had (and more), it's got the controls and power to deliver a home console experience. Those demos of developers happily demonstrating their HD graphics engines running smoothly on the NGP are far more significant than you might realize, because now I can pull out an NGP and expect to play both "big boy" games (like Killzone) and quirky, gimmicky experiences (like Little Deviants or the inevitable Angry Birds iteration). All while I'm mobile. In retrospect, even the PSP could do that, hampered as it was. Games like Patapon and LocoRoco proved that the system could do more than ape its heavier, power-hungry cousins. And even then, the millions of people who buy Monster Hunter or the many lengthy JRPGs that made their home on the handheld prove that there is a market out there that wants a console-sized experience on the go, something that the current generation of smartphones and slate computers can't do for lack of "proper" console accoutrements. Now, with the front and rear touch screens, tilt sensors, cameras, and a level of online integration that in some ways even exceeds the capabilities of the PS3, so much more is possible. What about 3D, then? The 3DS can do that, and the NGP can't. That's true, but to be perfectly honest, I don't see 3D, glasses-free or not, being as important to new, innovative design. The 3DS simply isn't as much of a game-changer as the DS was. Take away the 3D (and tilt sensor), and the 3DS is basically a more powerful DS. In fact, I'm of the opinion that we're actually reaching the limits of what the basic DS setup can do in terms of new design opportunities, and I doubt the addition of 3D or a single analog thingamabob (that I still won't be able to play a proper shooter with) will push the envelope that much. I'd love to be proven wrong, though, and Nintendo has a history of doing that. Of course, this comes down to what developers actually do with the tech at their disposal. It always does, no matter the platform. The NGP might be perfectly capable of getting me some sweet time with Lost Planet 2, but in that case, it would be up to Capcom to make it work right. Then again, with that second stick it'd be way easier, yeah? And of course, there's the price. Sony hasn't announced one yet, and in all likelihood that versatility and power will come at an appropriately hefty cost. But then again, as I mentioned, I don't measure the NGP's success based on whether or not it will surpass the 3DS. For that matter, given the tech, the NGP could measure up to an iPad, which, fully loaded, costs significantly more than even the wildest NGP price point expectations. And Sony can likely guarantee that the NGP will be able to provide more in terms of hardcore gaming than Apple's glass behemoth. It's true, Sony has once again bet on hardware. But this time it didn't just put everything down on power. It's thrown some chips in with flexibility, too. Everyone else has, for that matter, because no one can afford not to. Now, what the NGP has that's unique is, in fact, the extra power. It can do all the weird, quirky things that the other handhelds can, but when you're bored or have some time, you can throw in a proper hardcore game. With the NGP, Sony's managed to (theoretically) straddle that space between concept and convention, and that's how it will succeed.
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[Note: We’re not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that they may not jibe with the opinions of Destructoid as a whole, or ...

Why Sony's PSP2 (NGP) will fail

Feb 07 // Samit Sarkar
As a company, Sony is adept at building sleek devices laden with bleeding-edge technology. But they have proven themselves less skilled at selling the mass market on those high-tech gadgets, especially in the gaming space since the last console generation. Of course, those issues are related: filling gaming devices with the latest and greatest tech ensures that they will be prohibitively expensive at launch and for many months thereafter, which, in turn, limits the potential market to technolust-afflicted early adopters. That was how the early years of the original PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3 played out, which is to be expected when you price your hardware at $249 and $499/$599, respectively. Nintendo -- with both the DS and Wii -- provided the right mix of relatively cheap hardware with a gimmick and software with mass-market appeal. It remains to be seen whether the gimmick of glasses-free 3D will be enough to draw customers to the 3DS, especially in light of its $249 price tag and weak software lineup at launch. Still, I see a greater sales potential right now for the 3DS than for the NGP -- even at $249, $50 more than the Wii -- because the 3DS and Wii offer completely different experiences. Is it possible, even likely, that we’ll see spin-offs of Wii games on the 3DS? Sure, but they’ll still have to be designed specifically for the portable hardware. On the other hand, Sony is once again producing a high-powered handheld with the ostensible goal of replicating console games as closely as possible. Pack the power of a PS3 in your pocket, Sony whispers in your ear (where “PS2” stood in place of “PS3” at the launch of the PSP). That seems appealing -- at least, it appears tremendously impressive from a gosh-how-did-they-do-that standpoint. But upon closer inspection, the enthralling allure of “console-quality” graphics on a portable device gives way to a host of concerns, each more distressing than the last. Sony is touting the NGP as a handheld device capable of “console-quality” games. At PlayStation Meeting 2011, a cavalcade of publishers pledged their support for the NGP, trotting out their heavy-hitting console IPs: Uncharted, Lost Planet, Yakuza, Call of Duty. Sony presumably brought those companies on stage in the hopes that their presence would instill confidence in the NGP (since the PSP has always suffered from a lack of third-party support), and would impress the millions of fans of those franchises. Hideo Kojima came out and showed a cutscene from Metal Gear Solid 4 rendered natively on the NGP, running at 20 frames per second, as if to say, “Look at what this baby can do!” Were you impressed? I wasn’t. Sorry, but the prospect of console-quality games on a handheld doesn’t really excite me. If I want a console-quality experience, well, I’ll just play a console game, thankyouverymuch. Big-budget console titles are designed to immerse you within their finely crafted environments, and on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, an HDTV and surround sound go a long way toward that end. If I’m playing something like Uncharted or Killzone, I want to be sitting in front of a big-screen TV so I can really be drawn into the world, not hunched over and squinting at a five-inch screen while I’m on the subway. The idea that playing that kind of game on a small screen can resemble the console experience is almost as absurd as thinking you can truly experience a film on your “fucking telephone.” Yet many of the publisher representatives who presented games at the NGP unveiling seemed delighted by the ease with which they were able to produce NGP ports of PS3 engines. I don’t see much appeal in playing a console game that a developer has ported to a portable (because, again, I’d simply prefer to play it on a console, even if the NGP’s second analog stick makes console-to-portable ports more feasible). I’d much rather play games that have been built from the ground up for the NGP. Consider that the very best Wii games have been exclusives; they were developed with the unique characteristics of the console in mind. The same applies for any gaming system, but it is doubly true for distinctive devices like the 3DS and NGP. I expect to eventually see a handful of great non-ported, NGP-exclusive games like Little Deviants -- especially since the hardware offers a diverse array of inputs (e.g., rear touchpad, two cameras) -- but Sony’s initial emphasis on reproducing the graphical horsepower of console games is worrisome. Another argument against console-type experiences on a handheld device is the current state of the handheld gaming market, which has undergone a transformation since the PSP first launched six years ago. That sea change is, of course, the intrusion of smartphones. The future is obviously trending toward convergence -- toward a world where we carry around one pocket-size gadget that serves as a mobile phone, music and game player, and Web access device. I think there’s still a place for dedicated portable gaming systems -- at least for now -- since most of the games currently available on iOS and Android simply aren’t as deep or fulfilling as the experiences that devices such as the DS and PSP offer. But it seems to me that the market is trending toward convergence on the hardware side, and on the software side toward games that are designed to be played in bite-size chunks. The way in which people play portable games is already changing; more and more, the games that achieve success on the level of phenomena like Angry Birds or Brain Age can be experienced a few stages or puzzles at a time -- five minutes while standing in line at Chipotle, ten minutes while waiting for the bus. What was the last console game you played in that manner? I don’t know about you, but I completed Uncharted 2 in a few multiple-hour sittings. Those games just aren’t meant to be enjoyed like that, and if they’re going to work on the NGP, their developers will have to rework them completely. But if you ask me, it’s a moot point. I think that smartphone gaming will eventually grow to encompass the kinds of extensive portable experiences that currently exist only on the DS and PSP, in addition to today’s slate of mostly pithy games, which will pave the way for next-generation smartphones to make dedicated mobile gaming devices obsolete as the consumer desire for convergence skyrockets. The early-adopter types who are considering an NGP purchase probably already own smartphones, which are fairly expensive devices that are the current pinnacle of portable convergence. Whatever Sony ends up charging for the NGP -- and let’s face it, with all that wizardry under the hood, it’ll be a surprise if it comes in at less than $349 -- will you be willing to pay the price for something that is, at best, a (large) secondary portable device that you have to lug around in addition to your smartphone? Especially when many of the games aren’t meant to be played on the go? Sony is a hardware company first and foremost, and the NGP looks to be a beautifully designed handheld. The PSP was also a good-looking device -- and at the time, it contained all the bells and whistles a technophile could have wanted -- but it was hamstrung by its software: as if its game library weren’t enough of an issue, its endless stream of firmware updates frustrated users. On that note, Sony’s announcement of PlayStation Suite seems like a sensible contingency plan if the NGP doesn’t work out. I don’t expect the NGP to succeed, because it’s apparent that Sony hasn’t learned a vital lesson from the tough competition that the PSP and PS3 faced: a device may tick off every box on a gadget hound’s wish list, but that alone doesn’t make it future-proof.“NGP” may only be a codename at this point, but there’s really no more accurate name for the system than “PSP2.” It is very much a successor to the PSP, which boasted of being able to reproduce the console experience on portable hardware. The NGP is an evolution of the PSP -- Sony clearly believes that doubling down on raw power is the way to go. They might as well come out and say it.
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[Editor’s note: We’re not just a (rad) news site -- we also publish opinions/editorials from our community & employees like this one, though be aware that they may not jibe with the opinions of Destructoid as ...

Destructoid discusses Codename: NGP, the PSP successor

Jan 27 // Jim Sterling
Nick Chester: Yeah. So... about that new PlayStation handheld?  Jim Sterling: Hooboy, it sure is handheld! Matthew Razak: That fancy Portable Next Generation is pretty big. Does it remind anyone else of a Game Gear? Chester: I don't know what it reminds me of, because I'm still trying to wade through all of the bullshit buzzwords Sony dropped in its press release on the thing. Seriously, it was just a bunch of nonsense. Also, call me when Sony announces that there will be two or three models, and the least expensive of them will cost $400. And they'll try to convince us that's a good deal.  Conrad Zimmerman: I expect it'll have the same battery life as the Game Gear. With the quad-core processor draining shit, people aren't going to be able to use all of those newfangled wireless capabilities for very long. Sterling: It's cool, and if they did a proper Killzone FPS on it, I'd spunk up. But Sony burned me several times with the first PSP so I am going to go into this very warily.  Right now, it's the PlayStation Suite that I'm most excited for. Sony content on my Android? Yes plz! Zimmerman: Yeah, that's what I've been saying is going to be the real coup of this event. The behemoth that is Sony finally lumbering into the mobile space not only with hardware but a platform-agnostic software framework? That's the story that will have far greater impact than the PSP2. Chester: If you expect any of that shit to run properly on your device, you're out of your mind. Also, good luck playing any PS1 game with a touch screen. Sterling: "Rawr rawr I'm Nick Chester!" That's my impression of you in this discussion, Nick Chester. Chester: Whatever. You have to be realistic. It looks impressive, but so did the PSP when it was announced six years ago or whatever. And look where that landed us. It's clear there's a lot of high end tech in this thing, but what does that mean for games outside of "Hey, it's a PS3 in your hand!" That's great, but coming from someone who plays his handhelds on his couch or in bed... who cares? If you want a new Killzone, you've got it -- it's on your TV. I know how much you travel and commute, Jim: you don't. Why do you care?  This thing is also going to cost a million dollars, and we all know it. Sony can't reasonably price hardware. On the Android thing -- seriously, let's get real here. The hardware wasn't designed for games. I have what's considered a "high end" Android phone with the EVO 4G, and the motherfucker CHUGS when I'm playing Fruit Ninja sometimes. FRUIT NINJA. Sterling: I'm fucking around, Nick. I actually agree with you on a lot of points. Even when I do commute, I usually listen to music more than I play games. But I do like handheld games, so I don't know what's up there.  In any case, I am tentatively eager to see what this thing can do, but I am definitely staying realistic. The PSPgo and PlayStation Move killed my faith in Sony products, at least from an early adoption standpoint. I don't want to drop another several hundred dollars on something that won't be supported, or have a terrible infrastructure. I'm adopting a wait-and-see approach, but I don't want to be bratty and dump on what does look like a cool bit of tech. As far as PS Suite goes, I'm still waiting to see. I am excited about that. I understand touch screens aren't great for traditional games, but some notable innovations have come from it. Gameloft have made games work on the iOS that I would've thought impossible, so we'll see. Sure, controls will be compromised, but I anticipate that at least a few Suite games will work surprisingly well. Jonathan Holmes: That's why I think the PS Phone (or Xpedia, or whatever it's called) will be a lot of fun. Good controls on phone games. I wanted that. That might be my first smart phone. Razak: I feel like Sony is making the exact same mistakes it made with the PS3 and PSP here. Over powered, but nothing that catches people's attention. It'll sit on shelves much the same way, I fear.However, the Suite and Phone could mean big things. I could see those taking off much faster as long as they work. Sterling: Oh yeah Matt, I agree there. What we have with the 3DS vs. NGP is almost an exact rehash of the DS vs. PSP battle. The technically inferior system at a cheap price with a quirky, attention-grabbing gimmick versus raw, expensive power. With the mass market, cheap n' quirky beats expensive and powerful. That's one area where Sony is totally out of touch. It doesn't take an analyst to predict that the 3DS will trounce the NGP. Chester: My biggest issue with the PS Suite stuff is simply hardware. I'd say that a large percentage of Android phones out there can't even handle some of the games and content being pushed out there right now. Look at the release of Trendy's Dungeon Defenders, the Unreal Engine-powered game -- most folks are having trouble playing that on their hardware because it wasn't designed to support something that powerful. I can't play it on my EVO, and I haven't even tried because of the poor comments from EVO users the game has been getting. I don't expect most phones on the market right now to be able to play PS One games, and I put myself in that camp of users. Holmes: So wait, the NGP has a "rear" touch pad? Am I missing something here?Isn't that like having your ass where your face should be? Chester: See, I didn't even know that, that's how bogged down with specs and features this thing is. It's like everything and the kitchen sink was put into this handheld, and it's just completely overwhelming to the point where I can't seem to care. WTF am I going to do with a rear touch pad? Sterling: Rub your dick against it while playing. Zimmerman: The rear touchpad thing has been in the rumors since there were rumors. It's so you can operate the touchpad without blocking your screen, or something.  Sounds awkward to me, but I can see possible applications. Holmes: They should have just copied the DS feature-for-feature, but improved on them. Sony has never had good original ideas hardware and interface-wise, but they are awesome at taking other people's ideas and making the better. Razak: People aren't going to "get" the rear touch-pad either. I mean, gamers will, but you run out to the general public and go look at this cool rear touch pad and they're going to look at you quizzically and then start tapping their stylus on their 3DS some more. It feels to me like the kind of tech that's cool and innovative, but no one picks up on because it just doesn't catch. It could also suck very easily for many, many reasons. Zimmerman: But, like I was saying the other day, I don't know that the processing capability is going to be as much of a concern as time goes on. 4G is some pretty fast shit, though it needs standardization. With the rate at which mobile broadband is improving, combined with cloud computing, I don't think it's unrealistic to expect a service like OnLive could become a distribution venue for more powerful mobile game. PS Suite therefore allows Sony to lay the groundwork for a long-term strategy in mobile gaming. If it works as a platform-agnostic system and allows Sony to develop for any of the platforms, that's highly valuable and could pull the rug out from under everybody in the end. Sterling: Regarding the touchpad, it seems more for showing off than for anything practical. I *am* a gamer and I don't get it. I don't know if my brain will comprehend anything more complicated than "rub the back of the system randomly to make stuff happen." Anything more complicated and I don't think I'll be able to retain it.  Not to mention, it's a handheld -- my hands are back there, holding the system up. I hope that won't screw a game up. Chester: I'm firmly in the camp that over the next ten years, we'll be playing everything from the cloud, OnLive or Gaikai style. But that has nothing to do with Sony's current Android offerings, which rely on hardware. Whether it lays the foundation for Sony's future plans in the space remains to be seen, but PS Suite as it stands doesn't do anything for me, because I'm positive my hardware won't play nice with it. Colette Bennett: I don't care what it does. I'm not paying $400 for a portable gaming device no matter what. Josh Tolentino: I'm with Colette in that I won't pay $400, but if I heard the event correctly, didn't they say that NGP would be backwards-compatible with the downloadable PSP games?  I know a lot of you don't care about the PSP's software lineup, but that's good news to me. The PSP has some amazing games, and if I can have at least some level of access to those at some point, it's big plus for me. Bennett: That is a plus for me too -- I like the PSP library a lot, esp RPGs....but I don't need a portable PS3 with shitty battery life, cause I already own a PS3 that I can plug in =/ Razak: The power of the PS3 bragging point does absolutely nothing for me, nor will it for most consumers who pick up a portable gaming system to have quick fun. I play my DS and PSP as serious gaming systems, but the entire design around this seems to ignore the fact that most people don't. Then again, if they're hoping to corner some iPad market with the larger screen and more social networking then maybe that could work. However, the marketing would have to go in a completely different direction to hook in that crowd. Holmes: Josh, I like Backwards compatibility too, but I own a crap load of UMDs. No UMD compatibility means no real backwards compatibility, at least for me. I'm sure that the Japanese audience will be thinking the same thing. UMDs sell by the truckloads there. I'm not so sure they huge Japanese PSP audience is going to be too keen on dropping their huge library of UMD games just to jump ship to the NGP. In a way, I think it all depends on who gets the first new portable Monster Hunter. If it's the 3DS, then the NGP is screwed in Japan, at least initially. If it's the NGP, they'll probably do alright. My bet is on the 3DS though. I don't see 3rd parties supporting the NGP right away, largely due to development costs. That's just me guessing that the NGP game development will cost like PS3/360 games, and not Wii/PSP/3DS games. Chester: I agree -- the fact that it can push PlayStation 3 visuals or whatever is impressive, and in action I'm sure I'll appreciate it, but that's not something that factors in for me when playing portable games. If Plants vs. Zombies were rendered using the Unreal Engine and looked as impressive technically as Infinity Blade, I don't think that would change how I felt about the game. If I'm going to have to sacrifice things like my hard-earned dollars, battery life, and load times -- things that are really important to me in portable games -- then I'm not interested in a portable PS3.  Also on that note, if simply having that kind of power just means folks are going to try to make console experiences on a handheld, that's disappointing. I'm interested in playing a new Uncharted adventure, regardless of what platform its on, this is true. But if it's just a game that tries to mimic the look and feel of its console big brothers on a handheld, I'd much prefer to be playing that game sitting on my couch. Tolentino: Price point concerns aside, I like to look at the PSP platform from the perspective of your average Japanese Monster Hunter player, even if it's not necessarily relevant to what I do every day as a person with near-constant access to a powerful gaming PC and PS3. That's important because Monster Hunter and their ilk are basically what saved the platform years ago and continue to prop it up today. So what does the NGP have to offer the Monster Hunter player? It offers the Monster Hunter player the promise that they can play the next Monster Hunter game and feel like they're not missing out on what the game might be if it were on a home console. Basically, what I see is a handheld that, gets handheld gaming out of its technological ghetto. We're always talking about the whole graphical arms race and how gamers are too obsessed with it, and one of the results of that obsession is a disregard of handheld games because of their technical inferiority, like the way a lot of people dismissed Valkyria Chronicles II because it was on the PSP, and couldn't handle the beautiful art style. With the NGP we're closer than ever to being able to emulate a home console gameplay experience in a handheld. True, that was kind of the supposed situation with the PSP way back when, but with the extra analog stick, the (apparently) better integrated online stuff, and so on, the transition is closer to 1:1 than it was then. So to offer a point on Jonathan's that who-gets-the-first-Monster-Hunter-game-idea, I would much rather play a Monster Hunter game where I can control the camera with the right stick. Wait, does the 3DS have a right stick? Oops. And as for doing something different, who knows what they can do with those touchpads. I imagine with some (not inconsiderable) reworking, a game with the 3DS gimmick (sans 3D) could be made to work with the NGP. It's all up in the air for me at this point. Holmes: No, you're right Josh, the 3DS doesn't have a right stick. Monster Hunter would definitely control better on the NGP. That said, my bet is still on the next Monster Hunter coming to the 3DS, for the 3D, for the nearly-guaranteed massive global install base, and because I'm guessing 3DS games will be cheaper to develop for. To speak to Nick and Matt's points, the 3DS is looking to offer something different than just "a home console experience in your hand", while the NGP that seems to be exactly what the NGP is going for. I know that personally, I want to own them both, but I'm not guessing most people will feel that way. Chester: What I got from what you just said, Josh, is that it comes down to games. And that's very true, to a point. It comes down to games like Monster Hunter in Japan, for sure. The PSP had a lot of great software for gamers like yourself, like Colette, like Dale... it was a very RPG, Japanese-centric platform, and that's great. Not great for me, and not great for North American gamers (which is maybe why it never truly seemed to take off in the states). It's going to come down to software, but not only that, it's going to come down to unique software. At least for me.  The the idea of Call of Duty on a handheld really isn't doing anything for me, honestly. But let's think about something that might... a portable Team Ico game. That sounds great, right? But what about this particular game is going to make me want to play it on a portable, over something like the PS3? Is it just going to be Shadow of the Colossus on a portable? People would go nuts over that idea, but when you stop and think about it, what's the point?  Right now, it's too early to say what developers have in store for this thing. I feel like I'm too hung up on the thing's power and its specs -- Sony is pushing that a lot. It's the "arms race," like you said, Josh. Sony always gets into this game, coming out of the gate with untouchable hardware that it hopes will wow everyone into throwing dollars their way. It's easy to get excited about what a platform CAN do, and this NGP certainly looks capable of doing everything other portables can do and maybe even better. But what it comes down to, for me, is what it WILL do. Bennett: I just don't think gamers that want the cutting edge of what's new in games want to play it on a small screen, no matter how big said screen may be for its size. I think they'd rather play that game on a big screen. Maybe I am wrong, I don't know, but I think of my handheld gaming experiences and my console ones in completely different terms. Julio Capote: Our image server seems to have gone down, it's back up now. Chester: I can't believe we hijacked a tech issue thread with game discussion. Bennett: I can.
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In the dead of night, Sony lifted the lid on the long-awaited PSP successor, a system codenamed Next Generation Portable. In addition to this, it also revealed a cross-platform mobile gaming service, the PlayStation Suite.&nb...


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