Sunday, September 28, 2008

New Reviews of Old Games

Yeah, I'm almost positive that no one's gonna care one bit about these ancient 360 and Wii launch titles. But, just because I feel like writing about them, here's some mini-reviews of old games that you can buy dirt cheap now.

Kameo Elements of Power (Xbox 360)

As soon as you jump into Kameo you are right in the climax of the title. Unfortunately, it sets you up with a bit of a let down, as the rest of the experience is slower paced and not nearly as interesting as the beginning of the title. Once you get beyond the gorgeous next-gen visual “wow” factor you will discover a title crammed with puzzles a three-year old could solve and some rather laughable character design. Sure, the beautiful environments are a sight to behold and some of the bosses are rather enjoyable to take down, but if you missed Kameo during the Xbox 360’s launch years ago then there’s no reason to give it a try today, especially now that the console’s library has blossomed.

Project Gotham Racing 3 (Xbox 360)

Sure, it fails to break any new ground in the genre, but the racing engine is so solid that you’ll fail to care. Microsoft’s third entry in their premier racing series is the most refined version yet. Sure, it’s not leaps and bounds above its predecessors, but if you want a solid online racer then you should look no further than Project Gotham Racing 3. Hell, it still has a healthy online community, even in 2008!

Elebits (Wii)
I’m a sucker for originality, but Elebits is one of those instances where it’s unique to a fault. The game play revolves around catching hidden Elebits throughout a home, and the concept is just as boring as it sounds. The storyline is another issue… it’s so kid-oriented that your younger brother would probably be embarrassed to play it. The impressive, lighthearted soundtrack is Elebits’ only redeeming quality.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Rock Revolution: Konami's Big Holiday Bust

Prior to Guitar Hero even being a concept, Konami’s Guitar Freaks was a major hit in Japanese arcades. Highly innovative for it’s time period, it influenced the popular rock music games we enjoy in the West today.

Konami will finally be infiltrating the Western music world with a new effort titled Rock Revolution. Alright, so the preceding is not news to anyone who’s been following the game market for the past year – it’s been announced months ago. However, it’s only been recently that Konami has actually unveiled new footage of what is supposed to be their huge hit this year and… well… it looks pathetic, to be blunt.

Not only does Rock Revolution fail to offer anything new in a crowded genre (Guitar Hero and Rock Band do the job well enough, thank you), it looks far worse than those two established titles. The soundtrack will be strictly covers (no master tracks – for shame!), the visuals look hardly next-gen, and there’s absolutely nothing intriguing about the peripheral included. Instead of trying to appeal to a niche, hardcore market and releasing a rock title with Japanese flair, they’ve decided to go down the generic route and create a game that will appeal to… well, absolutely no one, considering the fact that the bigger and badder competetion has either already arrived (in the form of Rock Band 2) or will be here soon (Guitar Hero: World Tour, anyone?).

If you want to pity Konami even more for making such a shameful move in the musical game market, try watching this video. It’s absolutely embarrassing; one of the PR reps for Konami fails a song during the showcase of the game for crying out loud! Oh, Konami: your third-rate Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater clone didn’t sell (Evolution Skateboarding, a forgotten release from 2002), and your third-rate Guitar Hero rip-off won’t, either.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Troubling Times Are Ahead for the Xbox 360 Core Gamer

It’s no secret that – despite the overall low quality of many of the shovelware “casual” releases clogging up the Wii’s current library – these games sell well regardless. When half-hearted affairs like Carnival Games and Deca Sports outsell original, critically acclaimed software such as Zack and Wicki and Fire Emblem, you know there’s a problem.

Microsoft, sadly enough, seems to want a bite out of this casual market as well. During the summer they announced that Xbox Live will be given a visual downgrade in order to make it more user friendly. Also, they blatantly ripped off Nintendo’s Mii idea with “Avatars”, which, um, are basically the same as Mii’s (cute little people that you use as your online persona).

Not only that, the big M recently announced that they’re going to be closing up Ensemble Studios after their upcoming RTS, Halo Wars, is released. It’s rumored that the reason for this is to focus more on kid and mass market-oriented affair ala the Nintendo Wii. Could Lionhead Studios (of Fable fame) get the boot next?

Add this to the fact that Microsoft is also rumored to have a motion sensor controller (again, not unlike the Wii) prepared right in time for this year’s holiday season, and you have a reason to be worried. Could the core Xbox 360 gamers be forgotten about in favor of a mass-market “casual” audience? You know, the kind that eat up any software that requires no effort whatsoever?

The game market is going down a frightening path right now, and I don’t see the situation improving anytime soon. I’m already feeling nostalgic for the Playstation 2-generation…


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Sunday, September 07, 2008

Neo Contra and the Empty Game Case Blues

Back in 2002 I rented Contra: Shattered Soldier for the PS2. Besides the swanky new visuals, the game play was a pure blast from the past: an excruciatingly hard difficultly level and nothing but pure action. I never made it through the entire game (I’m not overstating anything when I say it’s difficult).

So I was thrilled when I found a copy of Neo Contra for the PS2 in the bargain bin at a local electronics store. Although I’m aware that they changed the game play up a bit for this version, I was still rather excited to play it.

So I get in the mood to play, set up my Playstation 2, and then proceed to tear the shrink wrap off of the game case.

“Hmm, it feels a little lighter than most cases”, I though to myself.

And then I stare in horror at what I find inside. A bloody tampon!

Oh, wait. Never mind. No, that’s not it. That might have actually been preferable to what ultimately was in there. Nothing but the manual and a spot for where the disc should have been. Yep, that’s right – there was no disc inside.

Oh well. Maybe someone out there doesn’t want me to play this. The funny thing was that it was brand new and factory sealed – even with the old style plastic strip on top.

At least it was only a few bucks. And I now have a very nice case to look at.

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