Saturday, January 29, 2005

Ancient Lore or Average Play

I managed to put a bit of time into Otogi today, well I managed to play the first 8 levels over twice. Your probably wondering why, well it's one of those I wasn't paying too much attention things. It all started when I got to level 8 in Otogi and had to fight some goddamn boss, that I couldn't beat. I ended up getting the arse with the game and turning off my Xbox thinking that the game had autosave, like most games do these days, you complete a level, it saves, simple! Well Otogi displays a message saying "Saving Map Data", which I simply took that it was also saving the game, it wasn't of course. So later I go to load my game, and the save says "Lv.1", great! Anyway I already knew what to do so I played through the first 8 levels again, and then beat the goddamn boss I was having problems with anyway.

The reason I go so pissed with the game in the first place is because I was quite enjoying Otogi, until that boss. It's such a lame boss as well, one of those where you nearly beat it, then you die, and that keeps happening until you perfect a formula. This game is frustrating at times, and also seems like it can get fairly repetitive.

Anyway onto Otogi itself. The main problem I have with the game is the whole magic/health meters. It's bad enough that you have to monitor you health most of the time, but with Otogi you also have to monitor a magic gauge with depletes over time. It's a real hassle, destroying enemies is supposed to refill the magic gauge, and while for the most part it does, you can still find yourself running out of magic near the end of a level. Also the way the heal gauge works could have been better implemented, it is also quite frustrating. You have so many green orbs of health which are supposed to refill overtime if you are injured, problem is that if an orb is depleted totally then it doesn't refill, so the whole life recharge thing just seems like a total waste.

The destructible environments are great, and it's a nice effect when you smash an enemy through a stone wall or house. The graphics are solid and smooth, with some really nice effects the usual for the Xbox. Though the levels are destructible and quite nice, the can be quite simple and void of life at times. The sound is also quite good, with music that fits the game perfectly and also decent sound effects.

The gameplay elements are interesting. The game has semi RPG elements to it, like character stats and the ability to acquire and purchase new weapons, accessories and magic. It's nice to have these sorts of elements in an 3rd person action game, simply because it adds a little something extra. The game also give you the ability to go back to a stage an complete certain aspects of it, things like destroying everything in the stage. You can also choose to revisit the level in it's "Current State" which is how it was when you were last there, or "Original State" which is the level as it was the first time you played it.

The control in the game is probably best put as ok, it can be clumsy at times. You notice it especially when navigating, or attacking an enemy. The camera can also be quite wild and at times just seems to go where ever it feels like. The main problems arise with aerial moment, as this game allows you to float, but at times with the camera moving around it just becomes a hassle.

I'm more interested in Otogi 2, mainly because sequels of this nature usually improve on aspects of the original game. I don't know if Otogi 2 does, but it does have something like 4 playable characters, that alone makes it seem interesting. From what I've played so far Otogi it a decent action game, but I would say you could probably just pick up Otogi 2 and be just as satisfied.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Gaming On A Budget 7

Because Wednesday was Australia Day and I didn't have a great deal to do (besides playing Lumines) I decided to take a trip to EB. Now I was in the mood to purchase something, but I had no idea what. I remember seeing a game called Gregory Horror Show laying around the shelves for a while, and I had read a few little thing about it being quite good, but that was all, I had no idea what the hell it was about. So I picked it up and looked it over again, contemplating if it was the $29.95 price tag. I decided it was and discovered a very wacky Japanese game.

Gregory Horror Show is first and foremost extremely strange. I played it for a little over and hour and even that was enough to surprise me. At it most simplistic level it's a puzzle solving game. The story is that you are trapped in a hotel and must collect the should of the other guest, give them to Death and then you will be free to leave. It's got a quite interesting style to it, sort of a 3D cartoon look. It's got a great cast of characters and the English voice acting is actually quite good. It's also got a 60Hz mode which surprised me as well.

I'm no sure how hard it is to get hold of, but it's not that old. On a plus side it buy those crazy guys at Capcom, so you pretty much know it's going to be interesting. I'll get into the game some more and see if there is anything else worth mentioning.

I also managed to finally get a copy of Otogi, I've been wanting to play this game for a while now but it's always been quite expensive or hard to find. Anyway I managed to get a copy for a song, so I'll post something about that soon. I know it kind of an old game, but it does seem kind of appropriate since Otogi 2 is coming out soon.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Lumini !

My order from Play-Asia arrived yesterday, it took just over a week which isn't bad.

I picked up Lumines and a Professional Screenguard which is just the name for a PSP screen protector.

First of all the Professional Screenguard is much better than another brand I previously used. The reason being is that this one was much easier to apply. Now if you have ever put screen covers on anything like a PDA you know they are a bitch to apply. The great thing with the Pro Screenguard is that is first of all it has a covering on the front and back. You peel off the backing to expose the adhesive, then align it on the PSP, smooth it down with the soft little thing they give you, then peel of the front. The great thing is you can't even tell it's on there. It's one of the clearest protectors I've seen, I would highly recommend it to anyone with a PSP, plus it's under $10.

Onto Lumines though, this one of those games I can see being launched with the PSP in Western territories and not getting the recognition it deserves, or people will just ignore it like Rez. This is in the same vein as Rez, where really you have to play it to really understand and appreciate it. Every mode in this game is great, from Single Player Challenge, Puzzle Mode and CPU Challenge. One of the best things in the game is unlocking new Skins, which are basically the name for each level, which include a different background and colour scheme and also different soundtrack.

Puzzle mode is quite interesting but also very challenging. You are given a picture of something, like a cross, you have to make it out of the falling blocks in a giving time limit. Sounds easy, but isn't not. Some of them you get first go, others I've spent nearly an hour working out, but it's great fun.

CPU Challenge mode, is basically VS mode against the PC. The screen is split into two, and you go head to head with the PC trying to beat each other. The catch is, the person performing better, and creating more combos make their opponents side of the screen small, making it harder to move and position falling blocks and causing them to pile up faster. It's a lot faster than the main challenge mode, and a lot harder.

There are also some other modes I haven't played, including Time Attack, Human Vs and Single Skin mode, but they are all pretty self explanatory.

The funny thing is I normally don't like these types of games, but the first time I played Lumines I was hooked, if you own a PSP you really must at least try it out. Plus it's quite cheap at only $65.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

PSP Pics

I finally got around to taking some pics of my PSP. These pics are nothing flash or different from the thousands you have already seen on the PSP, I even contemplated not posting pics of my own PSP, because really in all essence what's the point. But hey this is a blog, it's gotta be full of useless crap, right?

PSP Front

PSP Back

Ridge Racers Box

Two cheques arrived in the mail the other day, from Microsoft. I cherished the moment upon seeing them, just knowing this is probably the only time Microsoft in going to give me any sort of currency. They are actually just cash back cheques from some Xbox pack I bought after mine packed up a while ago. You had to buy specific Microsoft Xbox game to get the cash back, which was quite disappointing. But hey two $40 cheques isn't too bad.

That's about all my game related news, I'm really hoping some decent games get released soon. I know Phantom Brave, Otogi 2 and GT4 are out in the new few months, but I need something now. I've nearly completed Ridge Racers, which is a very fine game and a must own for anyone who purchases a PSP. I just hope that Lumines arrives on Monday, I need a fix of it.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More Handheld Nonsense

Since there is very little going on gaming wise at the moment, and there hasn't been any decent release lately, I thought I would post a bit more about the PSP and the DS.

Now that I've had a chance to check out the PSP a lot more I can honestly say that it is an excellent device. The only annoyance that I have with it, is a times the D-Pad can squeak but it's easy to fix that with a little upward push. I can't really find anything I dislike about it. One concern that I do have though is, even though the unit seems fairly solid, I wouldn't want to drop it. Say you happen to find it heading towards hard floor, maybe tiled, you are seriously going to brick it.

I read somewhere that the face of the PSP is supposed to be coated with a substance that is similar to what the new Blue Ray discs will use. It's utter crap, simply because my unit already has a few very small light scratches on the screen, which is what the coating is supposed to prevent. I did have a screen cover but it looked horrid, so I've ordered another from Play Asia, plus a copy of Lumines so that should be here soon.

Onto the Nintendo DS though. I recently got to play this a little more with Mario DS. No matter what, I just can't find anything to like about it. I know it has it fans, and that's fine, but unlike the Nintendo SP it just doesn't do it for me.

First of all it just doesn't look that great, it's a grey slab. It's just not impressive to look at, but I guess it's robust and suited for it's intended market. The D-Pad on it is awful, and much too shallow, it doesn't feel right and a little more travel would have been much better, it feels like it should go further.

The unit has two screens, which seems like a good idea, but they both seem too small. Maybe it's from using the PSP so much but the DS's screens just seem smaller than even the SP. The other thing, rehashing something like Mario 64, adding a few minigames, and the touch thing just isn't cool. It doesn't look too bad considering, but I really wouldn't get worked up about it, it's still very pixelated and the control for it is loose and uncomfortable.

I know I said I would post pics of my PSP, and I will soon.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Dragon Uppercut with Ease

I just noticed this over at EuroGamer. I remember when these pads got a US release and I thought it would be nice to seem then available in the Aus and the UK. Well now it looks like they are going to be. I'm unsure of the Australian release but you can bet that if a UK release is going to happen, someone like EB will release them here.

Friday, January 14, 2005

More PSP Love

After spending a bit more time with the PSP, you really do get what all the fuss is about. When you hold the PSP, apart from the screen, the first thing I noticed was the weight. It's has a great feel too it, and the weight it just right, giving it a quality feel. The build quality of the unit is great and I've yet to notice anything I dislike about it, besides the D-Pad squeaks sometimes when you push it too the right, but I'm sure it will ware in. For the price of the unit, it is a quality piece of kit, from the look, the feel and the build it's fantastic.

The screen on the unit is simply beautiful, it's bright, sharp and vivid, everything just looks fantastic on it from the menu, to games and movies.

Sound from the unit isn't great, it's ok and you can play games on it, but it's just tinny. Likewise are the headphones from the Value Pack, which I am sort of disappointed in. They are very light and don't seem to be of a great quality, there ok but they just have no bass to them. I've just been using some Sony headphones that came with a quite expensive walkman and they work a treat. However I would recommend something like Sony's Fontopia Headphones which are pretty affordable.

Wireless play works a treat. The first day I had the unit, I tried it out with a friend of mine and after setting up a game in Ridge Racers we were set. Wanting to see how far it would work, he walked off to another part of the office, which was good few meters away, and there was no signal drop at all. Though were yet to really test how far it's will go, but I'm sure we will soon enough.

With regards to MP3 playback and movies it's great. I've seen people going on about the process of putting movies on the PSP, trying to make it seem all complex, it's not! All you need it something like DVD Shrink or DVD Decrypted to rip the part of the DVD you want, once you have the VOB file from the DVD you use the 3GP to convert that to an MPEG4 then put it on the PSP. It's only 2 steps, it's not that hard. It's easy and video playback looks great.

I'll post some pics of the unit soon, and also write up some impressions of Ridge Racers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

PSP, In My Hands!

I know I said I was going to wait for an Australian release of the Sony PSP, but when your offered one at the Japanese retail price, it's kinda hard to resist, and I folded faster than a house of cards.

This is all due to one of the guys I work with going to Japan, who then decided to purchase a PSP for himself. This just pushed me over the edge and I had to have one. So I now have a PSP Value Pack and copy of Ridge Racers.

I spent most of tonight fiddling with the unit, putting video and MP3's onto it and just messing around. Video looks great and the sounds awesome. I ripped some footage from the Ministry of Sound 2003 DVD Annual and it works a treat. Also spend some time on Ridge Racers, and I also borrowed a copy of Lumines from my mate. Jesus that game is insane, I just kept playing it, trying to get to the next level. I'd played it for an hour before even knowing it. But it's a great game and definitely worth picking up. So I'll consider grabbing that later.

I'll post some more impressions of it in the next few days as well as some pics.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Ridge Racers Exclusive Extras???

More Ridge Racers/PSP news (I know, I love it too). Just read this article over at GameInformer and saw this interesting piece of info.

GIO: What sort of features are you planning on adding for the US release?

RT: There are going to be some new gameplay elements, but I can’t go into detail about them. It’ll be soon when we can talk about them. But, they’ll elements that will add to the overall gameplay as well as replay value. They’ll also be exclusive to both the US and European versions.

GIO: So you’re basically talking about things like unlockables?

RT: Yes, that’s the idea.

Very interesting, it's nice to see that the US and Euro releases are getting some extra goodies.

Nintendo DS Hands On

Just this morning I was down at my local EB, and one of the guys there asked if I had seen their DS. With a cappuccino (plus extra shot) in hand I was fairly shocked to seem him being out a Nintendo DS with a copy of Metroid running on it, especially since it's not released here till March.

I put down my coffee, took hold on the DS and looked it over. The first thing I noticed is that the thumb stylus which you put on your thumb to touch the screen is horrid. All it is, is a loop of material with an oval shaped piece of plastic in it. It's just uncomfortable and difficult to use.

Trying to play Metroid is like trying to goddamn juggle, it's an unnecessary mess. Now I'm sure people who are interested in the DS have read reviews on Metroid and know all about it, I haven't so it's all new to me. In Metroid you use the thumb stylus on the bottom screen (with an image of a map) to look around. The D-Pad you use to move around, and then the shoulder buttons to fire your weapon. Now maybe if I had a little longer to get used to the unit it might have been fine, but it's just too goddamn hard to hold this unit and try to play something like a FPS.

I know before that I said the DS with it's two screens and touch feature seemed like a gimmick, and that was kind of unfounded since I hadn't used the unit. Now after seeming and using the unit, I know it's a gimmick. Graphic wise Metroid looks ok, but Jesus I thought that Nintendo might make an effort hardware wise and give the unit a bit more power. The whole touch thing in interesting, but it just seems to me that the DS is an SP with an extra screen and a touch feature. It's not really an advancement in the handheld realm, the screens are too small and the graphics on the unit and uninspiring. I might seem a little towards Nintendo, but the just don't give me anything to like at times.

Another thing which strikes me as strange is that handhelds are supposed to be portable units designed for a quick game when your out of the house, the DS with this whole touch thing just doesn't gel with me there, it's too much effort, playing Metroid is just too hard. I don't think it's just me either I remember Gabe from Penny Arcade saying something similar and he's a fairly big Gameboy fan.

I've seen a few people mention that the face of the Sony PSP gets marked with fingerprints easily, well the bottom screen on the DS is worse. The unit I used today was already in a bit of a state, and I can't see it not happening to most units when you are constantly touching the bottom screen. The build quality of the DS also isn't as hot as the SP, it feels loose and a bit cheap. It's just not as solid.

Maybe if I had more time with a unit I might change me mind, but as it stands now with first impressions I wouldn't buy one or recommend it too anyone.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Interesting Info

I was just checking out Eurogamer and noticed some interesting info.

Firstly, in this article Sony has apparently confirmed the Euro release date for Gran Turismo 4, and it is to be 25th of February. Which seems reasonable, and if holds true is great because it's not too far away.

Secondly, this article says that Otogi 2 is apparently getting a European release. For some reason I didn't think this was going to get released but is great new and a title definitely worth checking out. Now we just have to wait for confirmation and a release date.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Please Sit Patiently ?

With Sony's recent CES presentation I like everyone else feel a little disappointed at the lack of any solid information on the PSP. If the rumours hold true that a US and European release are to be in March, I would have thought that they would let people know now what's going on, because to be honest March isn't that far away.

Maybe it's not a big deal with the PSP, localisation wise. They don't have to change the hardware at all, or any of the OS because it's already multilingual. The only thing that needs to be altered is the language in the PSP games, and maybe the manual for the unit itself. Maybe Sony don't need that long to get it ready for launch, and they'll let people know when they think it's nearly time.

One of the titles I'm most looking forward to on the PSP is GT4 Mobile, since there has been such little info on this title I really can't wait to see how it's going to turn out. Hopefully it will have some decent interaction with GT4, where unlocking something in one game opens up other items in the other.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

The FragDolls

After reading this great interview with the girls that make up the gaming team FragDolls, I can't believe some of the bullshit that they have had to put up with from people, people who might consider themselves gamers. I can't see any problem with girls/women becoming gamers and taking up the hobby of gaming, in fact I think it's fucking great. I am so sick an tired of all these "kiddies" who think that they are the proverbial "bizomb", getting online and just talking trash to other people. When girls game, they do just that, they game! They take it seriously, it's so goddamn refreshing.

I don't want it too seem like I've got it in for other people who game online, because there are many guys out there that take gaming online a bit more seriously and have some fun. But there are some people who have to ruin it for others, I've been in online games that are more like a fucking chatroom that a game.

The other thing that got me was that they were castigated for being sponsored by UbiSoft?! So what! A team of gamers has a sponsor, what the hell is wrong there! Maybe I've got it wrong, but if it was a team of guys who had just gotten a sponsor they would be praised and congratulated.

Anyway, I hope that we see more female gamers in the future and that people start to take them seriously and give them the respect that they deserve. Because to be honest it can't be easy when your trying to get noticed in a predominantly male dominated hobby.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Gaming On A Budget 6

After checking out the sale at a couple of EB stores and finding nothing of real interest, I decided to pick up Crimson Sea 2 for the PS2, $25 and I thought what the hell. I had no idea what it's like at all. It's a sequel to the original that was relapsed on the Xbox, which incidentally I've never played. I don't really know what it is with sales in game stores, I always want to buy something but I'll be buggered if the stuff on sale either doesn't really interest me or I already own it. Sure EB had a few good titles going and at some decent prices, but shit I've already got them. Not many other stores were any better, with Target actually having a sale but still not reducing the 15, yes 15 copies of Ridge Racer V. Now recently I've been wanting to buy a copy of RRV, but there is no way I'm paying $69.95 for it. Sure maybe $30, but damn it's a 5 year old game. Another Targe had 5 copies of it, so it's sure to be reduced at some point.

The thing is with Crimson Sea 2, is that it could probably be a great game if for one it wasn't so god damn hard, and two the camera was batter.

I found out about the difficulty only after finally getting passed the fist stage, and getting owned on the second. Now I like a game that is a challenge, shit I play Ninja Gaiden, but this game is just way too intense at times. Even on the first stage which has the easiest rating, is goddamn hard. I decided after that I didn't want to spend half my time replaying the same goddamn stage and decided to restart the game on Easy. The game is much more playable and fun on Easy, which is how it should be. Having to replay the same goddamn level over and over because you die right at the end just pisses me off and ends up making game more frustrating that enjoyable.

I'll play through a little more of the game and see how it works out, some of the combat isn't bad but at times with the awkward camera you find yourself in a position which is less than advantages. The weapon upgrade system is ok, I'll see how that pans out.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Initial D

Since there is nothing going on in the game industry at the moment, making there nothing worthwhile commenting about, I thought I would write up a little about one of my favourite anime shows, Initial D.

I think most people have heard of this anime by now, especially since Toykopop managed to get the US rights to it and Madman are releasing it in Australia. I myself have been picking it up from Madman, mainly because it's easier and there really isn't any difference to the US release. The only thing is, since it's 14 DVDs, with 3 episodes on each DVD, and Tokyopop deciding they wanted to do some stupid crap with the Dub and change the visuals and music, the could just do the dub and release the DVDs quicker, at the moment it's taking 2 months per DVD, which just isn't right.

Anyway it's getting a local release which is all that matters. I think Madman also have the rights to the Second Stage as well, though I really want to see the movie, Third Stage. Plus there is the new Forth stage to look forward to also. I guess the only reason I am so impatient is that I have already seen all of the First Stage, and want to see some new storyline, which is my own fault. Though I don't mind watching the First Stage again, I just wish I could get hold of the DVDs quicker, having to wait 2 months in between fixes is just painful.

The thing with Initial D is, it's getting quite old now. The animation is pretty rough, and the 3D animation looks a bit dated. But the music, storyline and action in this series is just awesome. A while ago I saw some of what I think was the Second Stage or might have been Forth I'm unsure, on a winamp videostream and I go excited just to see something new. Once you get into the storyline with Initial D it just hooks you. It's strange in that way, I've heard people say that they have no interest in cars at all, but really liked Initial D. Though it is a bonus if you are into cars, or have some knowledge, I think it just helps. Like playing Gran Turismo if your into cars, it's that much more enjoyable.

Avex Trax Initil D Site