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.

Or “An account of why I love this game” in a 3 part journal entry.

I’ve been Pokke village’s main hunter for a few weeks now.  That pretty much means I serve the snow covered, mountain top community by terminating pesky velociraptors and dragons.  I’m really starting to get into the role by this point, and some parts of the joy of the hunt are becoming second nature to me.  In any case, it’s high noon and I’m in the blazing hot desert.  I’d taken a contract the previous day to bring down a massive enemy hermit crab, known officially as the Daimyo Hermitaur.

The village has set up my base camp in a nice, shaded area surrounded by cavern walls, so I’m safe from the sun for now.  My make-shift armor, a patchwork of wyvern scales, monstrous ape fur, rare plant fibers, and experiences, fits like a glove.  The mid-day sky is as blue as it gets.  I check the village supply box for gear picked personally by the elder: someone who surely knows more about the fight ahead than I do.  There’s the normal desert care pack, the standard kit for dealing with particularly large critters, and…a box simply labeled “Bouncing Bombs.”  I’ll have to hold my breath on that one.

I should note that this isn’t my first attempt at bringing down this particular crustacean; once when I was a much less experienced hunter, I took a similar mission despite having never bested anything larger than a Giadrome.  At the time I ran headlong into the fray and got a sound thrashing thanks to my inexperience.  I’m determined to see this mission go differently.

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Valve‘s multiplayer darling Team Fortress 2 got yet another class update this Thursday, and I can quite honestly say this is the first time I’ve ever had the urge to throw a jar of my own waste at someone.

I might have to backpedal momentarily, though, for the unaware: it’s not outrage that’s brought me to this juncture, but instead the fact that Valve has now allowed us to do just that.  After unlocking* Saxton Hale’s patented “Jar-based karate”, players battling teams in fortresses as the sniper class now have the classy option to fling a marmalade jar full of urine at their advesaries.

Dreams do come true!

Player reactions have been kinda varied thus far, from mic hogs getting a good belly laugh about their “piss jars” to bemonocled socialites decrying “Crass humor?  In my Team Fortress!?”  In any case, it’s a bang-up update, and aside from the predictable deluge of spies (notably, they also recieved an update in the patch, but nothing as eyecatching as man-lemonade grenades)  and snipers clogging the pipes of gameplay like so many urine jars, the game is only better for it.  Valve also used the update as an excuse to get a free-to-play weekend out there, so we’ve seen many new and guest players doing the TF two step.

I can’t say having so many cloak-loving spies around for the time being is a such a bad thing anyway.  This weekend marked the first time I’ve donned an eyepatch and fired a grenade at a completely vacant room corner to be subsequently greeted, like a party popper full of people parts, with a shower of spy-limbs and blood.  Happy New Year, you invisible French bastard.  I love you.

In any case, I’m sure as hell looking forward to the day when the Valve weapon-unlocking fairy puts a jar of pee in my stocking.  Now back to pushing tiny carts.

* Valve’s new meaning for the word unlock now encompasses something more along the lines of “you get a random doodad for playing the game for a while“, and not so much, “you get a reward for snagging reasonable/unreasonable achievements, likely on a server for farming them up like so many potatoes.”  The best way out there to get your hands on Saxton Hale’s warm jars for the time being is to get to playing and cross your fingers!  More updates on the new system, which will include trading to facilitate a better spread of items, will hopefully come soon.

To those who are not indoctrinated, Prince of Persian Rug is a game about a fairly lazy tomb raider, and his all powerful female friend who does every bit of the work. Well, at least, that’s how I enjoy playing it.

Using a body-mapped system not too dissimilar to Assassin’s Creed, your four face buttons each correspond to some sort of action, and the context defines what action is performed in combat. Those options are Physical attack, Grab, Acrobatics, and Elika the Destroyer.  See, to make the game accessible, there are no punishments for anything, really. Thus you are capable of spectacularly taking that plunge into corruption, fully confident that your chiseled jaw will live to spout another quip. Your Deus ex Girlfriend machine saves you from everything, from falling, to crushed organs, to hepatitis… without even offering you the option of paying for your folly.

Lets just paint this one out

Shoots lasers
Can purge the holy lands of their destructive corruption

Has a mule, but he can’t find it
Is very good at misjudging distance and falling to his death
Slows down the woman who can teleport
Good moral support

No, wait, he’s also occasionally charming! Plus he gives piggy backs to Elika when she’s tired from saving him. Never the less, in honor of Elika, warrior princess, I have decided to play through the entire game with only the bare, bare, bare base number of times the prince is actually needed in combat. In my game, every boss is felled by me mashing the command Elika, light’s soldier. This becomes a point of comedy, since the prince will yell out “Okay, your turn,” or “now, attack it!”  What a lazy F%#k!


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!



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