Saturday, February 25, 2006

Activision Forced to Pull Misleading Call of Duty ads

Activision, a very well-known publisher in today’s video game market, is being forced to pull their ads for their latest WWII shooters ‘Call of Duty: Big Red One’ and ‘Call of Duty 2’ because they were misleading according to the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Instead of using actual in-game gameplay, the ads used pre-rendered footage of the games. Activision tried to defend their selves saying that this is ‘common practice’ in the video game industry, but even so, these ads are being considered false advertising as they are not the exact product being shown.

Activision is not the only party guilty of this, however. Open up any video-game related magazine today and take a look at some of the ads or previews, and what you see in the screens are sometimes barely even close to what the actual game looks like in motion. Remember those amazing screen-shots of Halo 2 that previews in video game magazines claimed to be of the “Actual gameplay”? Well, the turned out to be pre-rendered footage or just cinematics, though video game publications may be getting paid to boast these claims to build up hype.

Although Activision said they were in ‘good faith’ when producing these ads, I can’t say they are. Although they are not the only game company guilty of this, they were the first to get caught red handed, and there are thousands of people who buy games based on what the back of the box looks like (though keep in mind I am certainly not one of them), and then when they actually pop the game in, they end up disappointed. Although buying a game based on screen shots is never a good idea, when they see “actual footage” on television commercials and the game itself turns out to be vastly different from what is seen, then you know there is a problem, in which Activision has on their hands now.

The Legend of River King Makes its Long Awaited Return onto the Playstation 2

The Legend of River King, the cult classic GB/GBC RPG series, is finally making its long-awaited return in the form of River King: The Wonderful Journey on the Playstation 2.

Like its handheld predecessors before it, ‘A Wonderful Journey’ is a role-playing game that revolves around fishing. Besides collecting and catching fish, you’ll be able to participate in special events (such as fishing and cooking contests) and interact with other characters ala Harvest Moon.

I think the idea behind the River King series is certainly intriguing, and I might even pull out my dusty copy of River King 2 for the GBC that I never played and bust out my original GameBoy Advance as well (as the DS cant play games and I sold my SP – boo!). I also enjoyed the Harvest Moon series as well, as the elements that were found in HM that take place here make it sound even better to me. Add in fishing and a price tag of $19.99, and I’m officially excited.

Release Date: March 28, 2006 (United States)

Monday, February 20, 2006

What Homer Simpson has to say about President's Day...

"A better thing to do would be getting Washington’s birthday and Lincoln’s birthday back as separate paid holidays! “President’s Day” – what a rip off!” - Homer J. Simpson

Happy President’s Day everyone, and hopefully you got to miss out on school or work because of this holiday!

I’m sure Lincoln or Washington would have read Pro-Gamer if they were still around today.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

What Can be the Cause of Final Fantasy VII's Recent Price Hike?

Am I the only one who finds the recent price inflation for Final Fantasy VII a bit weird? I thought everyone and their brothers had this game, yet it’s been very sought after on online auction sites such as eBay and as of late. A few months ago the average asking price on eBay was a mere $13 for a used Greatest Hits copy, and now it’s around forty dollars! Hmm, maybe it’s because fanboys have been eagerly anticipating the arrival of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children? But shouldn’t they have their copies of this game by now? Hmmm, maybe if I consulted a psychic a few months ago and asked them in the value of Final Fantasy VII would go up in the future, in which they would say ‘Yes’ because they’re, y’know, psychics, then I could have bought a couple sealed copies at Circuit City for $7.50 when they were still clearancing the PSX games out and resold them for a huge gain in profit (sealed Greatest Hits copies are going for $70 on eBay at this time).

The fans buying these games at this time, however, will never be as hardcore as that one person who bought a sealed non-Greatest Hits version in 2004 for a whopping $500 (!!!!) . Now that’s a Final Fantasy fan!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Capcom Unleashes Mutliplayer Goodness on the PSP

The first two Power Stones the ill-fated Dreamcast were two of the most addictive, well-produced multiplayer games of all time. Perfect pick up and play games, you could sit down and play either one for a few minutes or a few hours at a time. It only makes sense that Capcom is releasing both these games in one awesome collection onto the PSP.

Titled ‘Power Stone Collection’, it includes both highly overlooked stones, erm, gems, onto one UMD game disc. Not only that, but both games will include new enchantments, such as the ability to use characters from Power Stone 2 in Power Stone 2. Also, a new camera more fit for the PSP will be another enhancement, and a previously unreleased ‘Bomber Battle’ mini-game will be thrown into the mix as well. Multiplayer action will also play a large role in this version as well. You’ll be able to compete in battles through ad hoc wireless multiplayer using just one copy of the game.

Of course, many would argue that a full-blown Power Stone onto the PSP would be better (including me), but after months of mediocre software and lame UMD movies on the PSP, this should be a time for people who dropped $250 big ones on Sony’s black handheld to rejoice. Power Stone Collection for the PSP is set for a Fall 2006 North American release.

Now, where’s Power Stone DS, Capcom?! The DS’s two screens would make for some exciting and unique battle, and Wi-Fi play would be icing on the cake. Maybe sometime down the road Capcom will consider this, but for now, nothings been announced.

Nintendo Trying to Appeal to a Larger Range of Gamers

When a game is usually released with “the casual gamer in mind”, it’s usually nothing but a poor excuse for developers to cover up simple and shoddy gameplay with a tag line that might make some more people interested. Don’t get me started on the games created solely for females, either. I think they pull more girls out of gaming than they do in. However, Nintendo is looking to change the definitions of games for the “casual” or female gamers, creating quality games that appeal to their respective subjects in who they are targeted to, while even pulling non-gamers into the fold.

Nintendo has always been one of the leaders in innovation in the gaming industry. Now Nintendo is once again innovating, and targeting new types of gamers. Nintendo has been releasing tons of great software throughout the months that would appeal to both casual gamers and hardcore gamers alike, such as Nintendogs and Animal Crossing. Anyone can pick up and play these games and have a good time, and no gameplay was sacrificed in creating these games. These are perfect examples of casual games, and they will appeal to a larger range of gamers.

However, casual gamers aren’t the only ones Nintendo’s trying to target. When you think of games for females, you usually think of garbage like Barbie Horse Racing. While lots of hardcore female gamers exist, with an image like this, there’s no wonder why there’s not more girls who play games. Simply put most games that target females are trash, plain and simple. However, the newly released Super Princess Peach combines tried and true gameplay with new features, along with a simplicity that will appeal to more females who want to have a good time but aren’t too hardcore into gaming. Also, look at the spelling of the DS LITE. ‘Lite’ is spelled like one of those diet drinks. Tell me they’re not trying to appeal to females with a title like that.

Nintendo is also trying to get non-gamers into the fold. Look at the unique controller for the Revolution and a quote from Shigeru Miyamoto, the father of Nintendo

“Not everyone will pick up a controller, but anyone would pick up a remote”.

It’s obvious that Nintendo’s trying to appeal to gamers in brand-new ways similar to when they entered their first game system in the market with the NES in the 1980s. Combining great gameplay along with new ways of playing, simplicity, and plain fun, Nintendo is appealing to a much larger range of gamers than ever before. And I salute them for attempting to get more gamers in into the fold without sacrificing quality gameplay.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Review: Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors' Dreams

Platform: Playstation
Publisher: Capcom
Developer: Capcom
Release Date: December 1995
Genre: Fighting

Street Fighter Alpha will serve as an interesting history lesson to Street Fighter Purists, but will offer little else.

I enjoy 2D Capcom fighters more than any other fighting games. However, the original Street Fighter Alpha (known as Street Fighter Zero in Japan) came off as a disappointment to me. Much of what made most of the Street Fighter games so well-known in the first place (addictive gameplay, a varied and interesting cast of characters, memorable music, awe-inspiring backgrounds) is missing here, resulting in a mediocore experience that only a true Street Fighter fan could get any enjoyment out of at all.

While the gameplay found in the various versions of Street Fighters are easily distinguishable (who can get Street Fighter II mixed up with Street Fighter Third Strike, or any of the later games in the Alpha series?), Street Fighter Alpha’s seems like a mixture of Street Fighter II’s and Street Fighter Alpha 3’s. While this may sound good in theory (two of the best fighting games of all times gameplay into one package?), in reality it’s prevents Street Fighter Alpha from having a true flavor of its own, and it’ll come off as a disappointment to anyone expecting something new from the series.

One of the key factors in what made Street Fighter II so popular was its well-balanced, varied and colorful cast of characters. That is a huge flaw in Street Fighter Alpha: this game’s characters simply seem too boring and generic for their own good. While there are some new faces appearing in Street Fighter Alpha for the first time, they will forever be remembered in later version of the series as the characters no one ever picks.

Street Fighter Alpha does not impress in the visuals department, either. One of the best things about the Street Fighter series are the game’s exciting backgrounds that add personality to the game. Sadly, the backgrounds are sub-par here, and the pixilated character models are nothing to write home about, either.

Street Fighter Alpha was obviously rushed to the market as a quick cash-in. As it stands, it’s just a mediocre beginning to a series that would go on to greatness in later ill iterations. Street Fighter Alpha will serve as an interesting history lesson to Street Fighter Alpha purists who haven’t already given this game a try, but it won’t really appeal to anyone else other than them.

Rating: 5.8 (out of 10)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Xbox 360 - Where's the Power?

When you open up your shiny, brand-new, spotless-white Xbox 360 out of its box, you’re possibly going to expect something amazing. Unreal gameplay, top-notch visuals beyond compare, and some amazing launch games to go along with your brand new hardware. At least that’s what Microsoft VP, Peter Moore, wants you to think with a quote like this:

“Next-generation games will combine unprecedented audio and visual experiences, create worlds that are beyond real, and they’ll deliver story lines and gameplay so compelling that I’ll feel like a lucid dream”.

So far I’ve seen nothing on the Xbox 360 of that nature. In fact, all of the games I’ve played thus far have under whelmed me. Not only that, the visuals aren’t what I would expect from a brand new next-gen system, either.

If there’s anything Tomobu Itagaki, creator of the Dead or Alive games and head of Team Ninja, is known for, it’s creating games with graphics that make your jaw drop. So when I first tried his newest title, Dead or Alive 4, I was expecting a great gameplay experience and all, but mostly just incredibly visuals beyond anything else. I was disappointed on both counts.

Not only is the gameplay not much different from a formula that hasn’t changed much since 1999 (When Dead or Alive 2 hit the arcades in the U.S.), but the visuals weren’t that great either. This was all on HDTV as well

There have been countless other Xbox 360 games that have disappointed me in the visuals and gameplay departments – King Kong, Gun, Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland, etc. What these games also share in common is that they’re really not much different from the versions already on the original Xbox. They also cost a full ten bucks more to purchase.

The Playstation 2 was a huge jump in graphics compared to the Playstation. I just don’t see that big of an improvement with the Xbox 360. Not only that, I also haven’t spotted a true launch killer-app that truly shows what the hardware can do. SSX, Tekken Tag Tournament, and DOA 2: Hardcore showed what the Playstation 2 was capable of – where’s that 360 title that does the same?

Finally, I’m also not too excited about Rare playing a major role in the Xbox 360 – I’m not a big fan of Rare’s games, and last generation they haven’t released anything memorable. Their best title was an update of a four year old N64 game (Conker’s Bad Fur Day). Also, who really wants to play as a fairy in Kameo? Certainly not me….

The Xbox 360 isn’t the first console I thought was a disappointment within the first few months of release – I felt the same way about the Gamecube and even the original Xbox. The thing is, at least those consoles amazed me with their hardware (my jaw dropped when I first saw Dead or Alive 3 and Luigi’s Mansion in action). I really can’t say the same about the 360.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

eBay User Lives up to His Name

Yeah, I know this is a gaming blog, but every so often I'll share something interesting that goes off-topic with the rest of you knuckle-heads who read Pro-Gamer.

I found this hilarious. Someone on eBay with the user name “Iaintpayinyou’ has negative feedback for, you guessed it, not paying someone money for the item they bought. Well, with a name like that, would you expect him to?

See the user's feedback here.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Game Publishers Finally Feeling the Hurt of Used Games?

If you’ve been following the video game market lately, then you may have heard about how game sales for the fall haven’t been as strong as they were in previous years. Three of the largest game publishers in the United States – THQ, Activision, and the infamous Electronic Arts – have reported disappointing game sales for the recent holiday quarter.

Meanwhile, Gamestop, one of the most popular game store-chains in North America, has announced that used products have made up nearly 32 percent of their total sales for last year, and the NY Times predicts that Gamestop is on track to generate $3 billion in sales this year with about $500 million - $1 billion of those sales from used products.

I think that it’s obvious what is happening here. Gamestop’s method of pushing used products is finally hurting game publishers and the game industry as a whole. Any time I go to Gamestop (or EBGames for that matter), an employee is trying to push a second hand, used copy of a game before a new one. From what I’ve seen, Gamestop even tries to pressure younger customers into buying a used game over a new one. A few weeks ago I saw a young kid about eights years old go into the store to buy a copy of Dragonball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi. Even though the kid clearly asked for a new copy, the employee kept telling him how great it was to save five dollars by buying a used one, and every time the kid said he didn’t want a used one, the employee double-talked and basically pressured the kid. Eventually the kid just gave in and bought the used copy.

I personally like the used game market to a certain extent. . Where else are you going to find a copy of a game that was out of print for several years? Certainly not at a major retail chain that only sells new games (such as Best Buy or Circuit City). However, I am not too fond of some of Gamestop’s and EBGame’s practices, such when the stores try to pressure certain customers into buying used copies of games. To me that’s a bit shady.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Shamefully Bad Game Boxart of the Moment

Every so often I’ll start posting an image of some of the worst box art to ever grace a cover of a video game. Our (un)honorable first offender is Phalanx, a space-shooter from the ancient days of Super NES.

I mean, what other way to market a generic space-shooter than wid-a good ol’ hillybilly man wid’a banjo? Or perhaps this game is really a banjo-playing simulation where every five minutes a banjo player gets hit by a shooting space ship because, you know, that always happens in good ol’ rural Alabama? I guess we’ll never know.

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