Monday, May 28, 2007

Tenchu Is Back! Wait... Where Did Everyone Go? Anyone Care?

Tenchu Z, the next title in the Japanese-developed stealth-action franchise is soon to be released. Published by Microsoft Game Studios and developed by From Software, this could be another attempt by Microsoft to try to get the Eastern market interested in the Xbox 360. However, save for a few Xbox-exclusive hits with Japanese flavor (The cult-classic Phantom Dust on the original Xbox, for example), Microsoft’s attempts to get the Japanese market to plunk down the cash for their systems have failed.

It’s not to see why, either. Although some of the Japanese games published by them were decent, titles like Blinx: The Time Sweeper aren’t exactly what most would consider system sellers (let’s also forget about half-baked released like Whacked! and the ill-fated Kakuto Chojin, shall we?). Titles like Blue Dragon, which recently helped move some 360’s from Japanese shelves are a step in the right direction, but are people really excited about a new Tenchu?

While I’m actually moderately eager to play it (I have fond memories of the original game back on the Playstation), the Tenchu games haven’t exactly made great strides to modernize themselves. Although this may have been acceptable for the last two generations, now that we’re in the next-gen people aren’t going to overlook many of the problems the series has had in the past, such as the dim-witted A.I. and clunky controls. Sadly, it seems as if the developers have not bothered fixing these problems, because a Japanese demo was recently found on Xbox Live Marketplace and it has been garnering much criticism for problems that the series should have fixed long ago.

To add injury to insult, the Tenchu series has been receiving worse and worse reviews every title, with last year’s DS-exclusive title Tenchu: Dark Secret earning an abominable 39.2% average from GameRankings. Well, Tenchu Z will be hitting U.S. shores shortly (June 12th, to be exact), and while I hope it turns out decent I have my doubts. In the meantime, here’s a breakdown of how the Tenchu games have been rated through the years (look at how the ratings have progressively slid downhill)

Tenchu: Stealth Assassins - 83%

Tenchu 2: Birth of the Stealth Assassins - 79%

Tenchu: Wrath of Heaven - 79%

Tenchu: Return From Darkness - 70%

Tenchu: Fatal Shadows - 60%

Tenchu: Dark Secret - 39%

Ratings are based off of GameRankings. The source for the Tenchu ratings can be found here

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Poor Play Testing + A Rushed Product = A Broken Game

There is a growing trend in the industry that seems to be affecting all types of games, regardless of genre, size, or console. Despite the leaps and bounds we’ve made in technology through the years, numerous “glitchy”, barely-tested games are hitting the market. In fact, this seems to be becoming more and more acceptable with game publishers who just want to make a quick buck by putting their title on the market without thoroughly testing it.

Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about this problem besides voting with our wallets. If you have heard about a game being filled with bugs then simply DO NOT purchase it. If you would try to return a bug-ridden game to the store you would only be provided with the same copy, and most of the time game publishers could care less about these bugs. A popular and well-known game publisher, Activision, provides walk-throughs and tips on how to get past known bugs in their products, but this is rare and if they didn’t’ have these rushed products filled with bugs in the first place it would not even be necessary. Many PC games provide patches for these problems, but on consoles it is not too often that a patch is released to fix some known-issues in a game (the only title I could think of is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion for the Xbox 360).

One recent occurrence of a major glitch is SNK vs Capcom: Card Fighter’s Clash for the Nintendo DS, and this one is a doozy. This huge glitch prevents you from progressing through the game at a certain point, and the sad thing about this is that it wasn’t found in the original Japanese release. That’s a sign of piss-poor play-testing, and so far the official word from SNK on this issue is, simply,

"We're looking into it".

Um, thanks for that response, guys, but some people blew $30 on this broken game. Sadly, this occurrence is happening more and more often in games and needs to be stopped before it becomes even more of a problem.

Update: SNK is offering replacement cartridges for those who have received the initial broken version of the game, but the growing trend of glitch-ridden games continues...

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Creator of Final Fantasy Speaks!

Hironobu Sakaguchi, the mastermind behind the creation of the remarkably popular Final Fantasy series, has recently had some stern things to say about many subjects in today’s gaming industry. Not all of it was positive, either – he blasts Sony and the Playstation 3, but besides these personal things he touches us up with some information on his newest projects.

When asked about how he feels about the Playstation 3 in the recent Electronic Gaming Monthly interview [EGM, June 2007 issue], Sakaguchi responded by saying

“I’m not interested in the Playstation 3. The machine’s architecture is tricky, and I don’t’ like Kutaragi”.

Ouch. Despite this, he still believes in the Wii and especially the Xbox 360. While he has several plans for new Xbox 360 games (which I will get to in a moment), he said that

“The [Wii] is intriguing, but right now I have no plans on making a game for the Wii”.

With the enormous popularity of the Wii, you could probably expect him to make something unique for it down the road. Hell, even beyond this, Sukaguchi even talks about the recent global warming phenomenon by saying that he’d like to make a game about it based on the bizarre changes in climates he experiences where he’s current living (Hawaii).

You can read the article in it’s entirety in the June 2007 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, on newsstands now.

In the mean time, here are some looks at his future Xbox 360 projects:

Blue Dragon

Already released in Japan, Blue Dragon was one of the few Xbox 360 games to gain popularity on the other side of the pond. It helped sell some 360’s over in the Land of the Rising Sun, and even though it didn’t significantly help out the struggling system over there it became a bit of a hit nonetheless. With great reception from the important version and a talented team working on it, you can expect Blue Dragon to be received warmly when it hits the U.S. this fall.

Lost Odyssey

Not much information has been revealed about this intriguing title yet, except that it will have a rather complex storyline and be powered by the same engine found in last year’s tech-powerhouse Gears of War.

Cry On

Appropriately titled, Cry On will feature a story line that Sakaguchi hopes makes you cry every 15 minutest (yep, he actually said that).

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