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Information on SquareEnix’s next big MMORPG is scarce: even after looking forward to the big reveal for years, the most fans ended up with post-E3 was a cinematic trailer and some generalized interview answers.

Love it or loathe it, this means one thing and one thing alone for the fan community at large:

Loads and loads of speculation.

We already know Final Fantasy XIV has races returning from XI, and it’s fair to assume those won’t be the only similarities; the development team behind the new game is the same one from XI, and even in the brief trailer we have in our hands it’s clear things are already looking rather similar.  To this effect, discussions on what will and won’t be returning are seemingly highly relevant.

Of Manthras and Girlkas

One of the hot topics burning up message boards is on playable races new and old.  The old, in particular, being Mithra and Galka in this case:  It’s already been revealed that races from Final Fantasy XI will be returning, just for familiarity’s sake, but there’s some rumbling from players that these races should be due for a change.

The reason being that in Final Fantasy XI these races were gender limited: the path of the graceful cat was reserved for women, and the way of the bulky, bull-like Galka was solely for the men in the crowd.  While this provided personality for the game, many players also felt like they’d been robbed of choices.  Where were the man-cats?  Where were the strong women?

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Continuing on with the E3 round up, we find our way to Nintendo, who, despite putting up record numbers in console and game sales, came into E3 with something to prove. Accused with having a drought of quality games for the Wii, Nintendo has long had a history of tension with the 20-something gamers who say that they are “too old” for their games, but now even their loyal fans might have found their Wii unused for a few months this past year. Nintendo needed to prove that they still knew how to make the games that made them big, which was the focus of their show.

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This is hardly new news for those most devoted of internet scourers, but as far as I’m concerned the more people know about this the better!  Your faithful poster first heard about this on GameSetWatch, but a number of folks have posted about it since.

Intrepid chip-tuners Pterodactyl Squad describes their tribute album thusly:

“‘The 8-bit Album’ is a collection of Weezer tracks as interpreted by some of the brightest stars of the 8-bit music scene.”

As I’m too much of a noob to chiptunery to really say much about the artists, I’ll just say that, well, I love me some Weezer, and I love me some chiptunes.  And I’ll just let their teaser song for the upcoming album speak for itself.

I’ve listened to that damn thing at least 50 times by now.  Can’t wait to have it in WinAmp, as my clicking finger is getting tired of hitting play on the vid.  In any case, I just know I’m looking forward to Buddy Holly and Island in the Sun like a kid on Christmas.

Read all about the upcoming album, including a tracklist, at the “Weezer 8-bit Tribute” blog, and watch Pterodactyl Squad’s website for the actual release and more from the group!

One of the things I was most looking forward to at E3 was SquareEnix’s new MMO baby (as seen in a previous post about wishes that now, in retrospect, leaves me crying into my ice cream).  They dropped the initial bombshell at Sony’s press conference, and it looked … okay, but it reminded me an awful lot of an existing game.

The trailer was mostly pre-rendered bits with a sprinkle of in-game footage, and though it looked awfully good, it can’t be denied it seemed awfully familiar.  One of my largest preexisting fears was that the game, sharing a large amount of it’s development team with Final Fantasy XI, would be too similar to Square’s original MMORPG.  Unfortunately, the only news to come out of E3 about the game after that was a lackluster Q&A session and an interview on IGN that only added one or two new pieces to the puzzle.

So far we know that the game takes place in a brand new world, with similar races to FFXI to keep fans of that game comfortable.  Here’s hoping there’s new choices, as well.  The game will have a larger focus on pleasing a large variety of players, whether you prefer to solo, party, play for 30 minutes, or play all day.  There will be a number of “new systems” in place to make the game more accessible, and the job system will supposedly work very differently, to boot.  IGN’s interview also revealed that weapons will play a much larger part in the game, and that advancement will not be handled via experience.

What I’m keeping my fingers crossed for is that at least a few things on my beautiful wishlist for the game will be addressed:

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The week is ending, and we gamers are in our post-E3 phase, which of course requires that we all rate the three console-makers on their various line-ups. The practice has often been decried as pointless; that there is no way to provide empirical evidence that one company had a better press conference, and that our opinions are quite simply that: opinion. However, if you are here reading this, you must be looking for what (I hope) you believe to be an educated opinion, so here we go.

I’ll talk about the conferences in reverse order cause I’m feeling cheeky, which starts us with Sony. Sony had the best conference of the show; it was paced well, had lots of information, showed lots of games (including exclusives), and seemed to act somewhat naturally the whole time. First off, the pacing was great; every announcement was quick, concise, and well put. I never felt like anyone onstage droned on about any particular subject, which made the information presented seem that much more exciting. Sony’s info was spot on too, they showed us games we wanted to see. Almost all of the games they talked about had game footage too, which is much nicer than a few pictures or a short video. I was going crazy seeing Uncharted 2, Assassin’s Creed 2, and God of War 3 all in action. ModNation Racers looks great for the kart racing gamer (which I am).  The exclusives really sold me: so many games were only appearing on their systems. I don’t like it when I’m told how great a year a console is going to have when all that’s shown is multi-platform releases. I also loved their motion controller demo; I want to see some full games for it, but it looks like it will support a wide variety of games. There are still questions to be answered, but the gameplay that was on display shows much promise.  Sony showed why you should buy their systems and not the competition’s, and in the end that’s what they want to do.

It wasn’t all good in Sony-land though: they did have some snafus. The main one in my mind was the PSP Go. Sony seemed so obsessed with saying that the old PSP would still be a viable platform, and that it was going to be getting most of the same bonuses that the PSP Go will. I don’t get what the big advantage is going to be to getting this new $250 system (that price is also going to hurt sales in my mind).  I’m interested in a full digital distribution system, but the PSP Go doesn’t seem to have that much more than just a new way to buy  games.

All in all, I thought the Sony conference was far superior to the other two console-makers, but both Nintendo and Microsoft did things that were right and wrong in their conferences.  However I do need to eat,  so check back later for thoughts about Nintendo’s trials and triumphs.

Ding ding ding!  The curtains have now gone done on all three major console developer conferences.  Did you get your fill of motion controllers?  This article is rife with links to videos of games, so if you’re catching up, hopefully this’ll make it a little easier, too!

First up: Nintendo

Nintendo was ready to go, showing off new games from the get-go and keeping the sales talk low.  The first out was New Super Mario Bros. Wii with Little Big Planet-style 4-player coop, not revolutionary but it certainly looked like a lot of fun.  There was talk of number of already acknowledged but nonetheless cool games, including WarioWare DIY (as in Do It Yourself), Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story (effectively Mario & Luigi RPG 3), and Kingdom Hearts 358/3 Days.  It’s also apparent that they’ve put more time in Wii Sports Resort, and it really shows.  While the game did look fun last year, this year’s showing really dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, with a polished intro sequence and what seemed like a more approachable and fun game overall.  There was also an appreciable little remark from the presenter during the archery demo about the skill and challenge behind the activity.  You’ve got to appreciate the guy trying to tell traditionally core gamers “Hey, you can enjoy this too!”

Of course, the bigger announcements from the conference were Super Mario Galaxy 2, which might not be a wholly new game but certainly looks like more of what we already love, and the big shocker: a Team Ninja/Nintendo co-developed handling of a big Nintendo IP in the form of Metroid: Other M.  You ask me?  The trailer looks fantastic, aside from the slightly frightening doll-people in the cutscenes (What’s with Japanese developers and these creepy mannequin people!?).  The action seems frenetic, and there’s something truly fan-servicey about seeing Samus doing bitchin’ ninja moves one after another.

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For the unaware, Microsoft’s 2009 E3 conference ended not half an hour ago.  Major announcements included more sequels, such as: Left 4 Dead 2, Crackdown 2, and a new Halo…thing called Halo: Reach.  Of course, the show-stealer was a confirmation of Microsoft’s working with the “zcam” technology in the form of “Project Natal.”

Basically a camera that can read full body movements and also read on the Z-axis (meaning it detects movements in 3D space,) it was shown being used for a full-body Breakout-style game, and a painting program.  Most curious was a tech-demo video from Lionhead Studios, featuring a Seaman-like idea wherein the demonstrator interacted with a virtual boy by talking and showing him…stuff.

It looks really interesting, to be honest.  It’s obviously a more complex device, but the comparisons with the Playstation EyeToy and the Wii are inevitable.  My own thoughts, hopes, and grievances?

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Well, my E3 wishes, in any case.  It’s true the festivities have kind of already started.  The Microsoft conference is coming up in about a half an hour from writing this!  But that doesn’t mean I don’t still have hopes.

So, before things really heat up,

“Dear E3 Santa, I’ve been pretty freaking cool all year, so please stop calling me gay when we play Team Fortress 2 together.”

  • A few new awesome looking “normal” games from Nintendo.  They don’t need to impress the “hardcore” gamer (scoff) crowd.  Just something to look forward to.
  • Along that vein, anything having to do with Earthbound or Mother would make me happier than a clam in clam sauce.  (Like that’s gonna happen.)
  • Zone of the Enders!  MOAR.
  • Please make Square Enix’s next MMORPG entirely awesome.  A dash of all the things I liked about FFXI on top of a brand new, modernized Massively Multiplayer cake would be delish.

Well, there’s more than that, but I want to keep things short and sweet.  Let’s all keep our fingers crossed, though.

So, what’s the deal with this?  Why are there so many critically acclaimed game franchises, ingenious ideas that carved out their own niche in their hay-day, that have waned from mistreatment or out and out negligence?  Whatever leads creative individuals to drive their babies into the ground, these are usually franchises that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Harvest Moon was one of the first surprisingly new ideas that I got strongly attached to.  The franchise wasn’t left out to die, but it has certainly waned.  After the Nintendo 64 sequel, we’ve seen recycled ideas, assets, and even characters.  New ideas have been in short supply and the most successful version, the Rune Factory series, has an RPG system attached.  The base concept of an immersive farming life has long gone uncultivated, with small additions being the best fans have been able to hope for.

Monster Rancher combined a few existing genres, including the virtual-pet phenomenon, simulation, and action-RPG battles, with robust inter-species combining and the eye catching system that made your CD collection come alive with beasts.  While the first two or three games arguably stayed on track, as the series continued onward new features became less cohesive and interfered with the basics.  The latest core iteration, the PS2 Monster Rancher EVO, combined the established monster raising gameplay with circus life mini-games.  No major sequels are planned as-of-now.

Animal Crossing is a surprisingly successful franchise, but it’s not hard to see it in the same category: When the franchise first hit American shores on the Nintendo Gamecube, an immersive and friendly country-life “simulator” was a welcome and refreshing new idea.  It was professional, well written, and fun.  But with every subsequent iteration, Animal Crossing is becoming more and more tired and neglected.  The series has stalled when it comes to real expansion of the base concept, and even real graphical updating, beyond small extraneous features.

These are just a few of the franchises close to me that are disappointing in their lack of devotion.  It’s a disappointing trend, especially for long time gamers.  But at least we can get it out in the open.  Look forward to more in this vein in the future.

These are just some franchises that have been important to me, but if there’s anything big you’d like to see covered in the future, or something I missed, feel free to leave me a comment.


The Other Castle is a blog by video games, for video games. Wait, let me try that again. The Other Castle is a blog by a few nerd friends, about video games. As long as we're entertaining ourselves, there's a good chance somewhere out there, you might be getting a little kick out of reading this, too!



June 2009
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