Friday, January 16, 2009

Sonic and the Black Knight (Wii) - New U.S. Trailer

What do you get when you cross Sonic the Hedgehog with Martin Lawrence? Answer: Sonic and the Black Knight, an upcoming title due to hit North American and European shores on March 10th, 2009. We'll see how this title shapes up a little later on this year.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Conduit (Wii) - Two New Videos

Two brand-spanking new videos for The Conduit, the upcoming FPS built ground-up for the Wii, have surfaced. They really show just how far this game has come. I was very impressed by not only the presentation of the game but also some of the more fine-tuned mechanics. I really like the ability to tweak the HUD to my own liking.

- Direct Link

Developer Walkthrough 2 - Direct Link

December NPD Results - DS Shatters Record, Wii Reigns Supreme, and PS3 Needs an I.V. Stat.

December 2008 NPD Results : Hardware and Software

PS2 410K
PS3 726K
PSP 1.02M
X360 1.44M
Wii 2.15M
DS 3.04M

360 GEARS OF WAR 2 745K*
360 LEFT 4 DEAD 629K

*Includes Collector's, Limited, Legendary, and Bundled Editions

Top selling games of 2008

360 GEARS OF WAR 2 2.31M*
360 MADDEN NFL 09 1.87M*

*Includes Collector's, Limited, Legendary, and Bundled Editions

The Wii was thought to break the December record for most units sold, but it appears there wasn't enough supply. Instead, another Nintendo platform, the DS, broke the PS2's December record selling more than three million units total for the last month of 2008. Who would have thunk that an exclusively video game company would lead the industry in America?

GIF created by RagnarokX on NeoGAF

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360) Review

This here is another review that was written by my older brother. This time, he's taking a look at Sonic Unleashed for the PS3 and 360. Be sure to stay tuned for my own review later this month.

A good day, a bad night.

Original Review Here

Sonic. You mention his name, and you're going to get a variety of opinions on what his games should be like. The ones that prefer the Genesis games will say this, the ones that loved the Adventure series will say that, and then you'll get even more opinions on where Sonic games should go, what they should be, what they should do, how they should play. It's become disappointing to see the fastest thing alive spinning in circles as he tries to find the game that will reinvent, or at least return him to his former glory. Sonic Unleashed is Sonic Team's most recent attempt at this, and it appears that while they have Sonic going in the right direction at last, they continue to slow him down with an unnecessary and unwanted gameplay elements.

As said earlier, Sonic Unleashed gets the Sonic part right. His levels, which will switch between the second and third dimensions with little problem have a real sense of speed, meaning you'll have to have good reflexes and memorization skills to get through his levels in one piece. The 2D gameplay borrows elements from both the Rush and Rivals series as you'll collect rings to fill up a boost gauge. As long as you have any ring energy, you can perform a super speed dash that will send you speeding through levels. You'll also come across some timed button sequences as well that will enable you to take shortcuts through levels. These also come into play in the third dimension as you'll be making rail transitions with a tap of the bumper buttons or even just changing lanes while you're on the ground. These will help you avoid any obstacles that impede your progress. Also for the 3D segments are a much more manageable form of the mach speed sections from 2k6. You'll run at blinding, but controllable speeds once you get a hang of the controls. Drifting through turns, dodging obstacles. . . It's a nice combination of speed, reflexes, and platforming. This is the section of the game that you'll enjoy for the most part.

Unfortunately, that's not the only part of the game there is. No, Sonic Team once again feels the need to force another gameplay style on its fanbase. When the sun goes down, and night falls on the world, Sonic transforms into what Sonic Team has decided to call a Werehog. Why? You can't have a Sonic game without some new gimmick being thrown in, of course. The gameplay shifts dramatically here as the game decides it wants to be a God of War knockoff. Whether this explains why the Werehog has arms that stretch for no reason or it's just because of how many directions the blue blur has been pulled in over the last few years is for you to decide.

I wouldn't have a problem with the nighttime sections if they either came close to the game they were trying to emulate or maintained the quality of the daytime stages. Needless to say, they don't even come close, and it's for a variety of reasons that the fanbase is all too familiar with. Bad camera work? Check. Uninspired level design? Check. It's not to say that every Werehog level is an abomination, but these levels can drag on for up to thirty minutes on your first playthrough. Even when you do know the routes and shortcuts you can take in these levels, it doesn't make them all that fun to play. Most levels have a gimmick that is repeated all too often, whether it be combat, platforming via help of enemies, or the absolute worst, tightrope walking on balance beams. Literally, these levels just don't have anything to offer other than a break from the part of the game that you'd rather be playing. There's a little fun to be had here, but there's twice as much, if not more frustration. Just wait until the final stage of the game. You'll be experiencing so many cheap moments in these sections that you'll wonder how this was even approved in the first place.

Also thrown in to the mix are town hubs and missions. At first, I despised these, as they reminded me of why Sonic 2k6 was so bad. As I actually played through them though, I noticed that they were harder versions of levels I had played. These actually became a fun challenge to try and go through these. It's not required to beat the game, but you'll find that if you can perfect these, you'll do all the more better in the actual levels should you choose to repeat them. Hot dog missions are basically the ultimate challenge in this game. Vendors will give you the option of trying to go through levels quickly, collecting rings, beating up a certain number of enemies to pass, and so on. The thing is you have to do an entire stage in one life. You die, you fail. Simple as that. Again, the Sonic challenges are in the fun category. The Werehog ones will make you shake nervously as you hope the camera won't swerve on you at just the wrong time. Thankfully, these are again optional.

Why would you want to do these missions in the first place then? Well, Sonic and his alter ego have an experience meter and every special hot dog you can get is worth quite a bit of experience. That's not to say it's the only way to earn experience as you also earn this from smashing, bashing, or dashing through enemies in your way, and let's just say that if you thought Sonic was fast at the start of the game, wait until you've cranked up his speed to eleven. The Werehog stages also become considerably more manageable should you level up his five categories ranging from strength to a larger health bar.

All in all, Sonic Unleashed does a good job of reminding people what makes Sonic games so fun in the first place. It's just a shame that it also does a good job of showcasing the series' shortcomings in full detail. It's a tale of two games. If you can stomach the Werehog levels, you can get back to enjoying the Sonic sections. If you can't, then Unleashed is better left untouched.

Gameplay: 5
Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Entertainment: 4

Overall: 5.75/10

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Casual/Hardcore Debate: Are You Tired of It, Too?

Then allow me to broach about it some more. I'd like to take this opportunity to give my take on the whole discussion in as rational a way as possible. This all started with a blog entry about the Wii destroying hardcore gaming or something like that. I will refrain from linking to it as it just came off as hit-bait. Several regular (myself included) and not-so-regular (but still apt at discussion as sometimes I fail to be) GoNintendo users had a nice chat about this ongoing casual/hardcore porn-- I mean-- gamer debate. I've taken some of my comments and edited them into the following editorial. Most of my thoughts here are completely exclusive to this story though, so no worries if you feel you'll be retreading ground.

First, I'd like to talk about the definitions of a hardcore and a casual gamer. Let's start with a casual gamer. I honestly don't see this wave of Wii owners as casual gamers-- and of course, not all Wii owners are buying the Wii just to play Wii Sports as much as some would like us to believe. I just see new Wii owners as just that-- new gamers. It is way too soon to distinguish a new gamer with a casual gamer. Who knows if a given person will stay with gaming as their full-time hobby or not? I don't have a crystal ball... yet. Now if a person-- yes, a person-- not the collective casual group in general-- they don't share a hive mind-- exits the gaming scene before the Wii 2, the next Xbox, and the PS4 arrive, then sure, I would call them casual. I just think it's too soon to see.

I know what you might be thinking. You're going, "SuperPhillip" or "Phil" or "^$%^$" depending who you are-- "What exactly is a casual gamer then?" Now there isn't just ONE definition for a casual gamer. There are several types I've picked up on. I always equated a casual gamer as someone who has a feigning interest in our hobby. Perhaps they just play to be part of the in-crowd, because they perceive it as cool because MTV tells them it is, or just to see what the buzz is all about. Additionally, I associate the typical male casual gamer as the type of person the annual Spike TV VGA show is marketed to, drinking their Mountain Dew airplane fuel, hooting and hollering, calling you and me racial AND sexual slurs online (they're ambitious people, y'know), and the type that goes to hip Guitar Hero parties with their drunk cousin. I'm using extremely exaggerated examples of archetypes, but I hope that my point is at least seen. Furthermore, I really don't care if your cousin's distant relative's kid stopped playing his Wii after a week. Such anecdotal evidence is not acceptable proof. Not only is there no way to verify such a claim, but there's no way to verify whether or not it is an isolated incident. And judging by software sales, it's difficult to believe such.

Another point I'd like to make is that casual gaming is not new. Is there anyway to determine which gamers from the 80s are still gamers in the new millenium? Not that I know of. We really can’t draw any statistical information on that. Yes, there are some who have gamed from then all the way to now. There’s also probably some who got burnt out on games, stopped, and have rejoined the industry or haven’t yet at all since then. Then there’s the casual gamer of the 80s, too.

By just comparing sales of consoles from then to now, you can see the number is astounding in comparison. What does this mean? We can hypothesize that a lot of new gamers have come into the industry-- these new gamers I was referring to earlier. There’s really no way to honestly classify them. I think the terms “casual” and “hardcore” are stereotypes. There is no one concrete way to be a casual or to be a hardcore gamer. Most of those that proclaim they're hardcore-- the most vocal and admittedly most obnoxious group-- are just being elitist as if saying they're hardcore somehow makes them better than every other gamer around. No, it makes them come off as merely insecure.

I also say that this population of game-blooded people are but a small niche compared to the hundreds of millions who play games as a not-as-often hobby. These insecure hardcore people were lucky last gen that their tastes aligned with the tastes of the casual gamer (NOTE: not new gamer. Casual gamer. The Spike TV VGA crowd). These are games like Halo, GTA, Madden, and Guitar Hero.

Then we have the matter of Wii/casuals killing gaming. The new/casual market does not destroy. Every generation this faction has helped expand the industry. And what of the Wii? How we can say only bad software sells when almost all signs point that is the complete opposite? If every title that did not make it onto the NPD's Top 10 sold horribly, then a lot more companies would be out of business. Speaking of being out of business, EGM. How can you not say that this hardcore group isn't in the minority? The magazine was tailored to this very group. Who else would care how many polygons are in Old Snake's moustache? Heck, I'm a severe game addict, and I don't care! How is such content supposed to draw those on the outside in? This is the hardcore gamer. They're resourceful like MacGyver but without the mullet (unless they play a lot of Gears of War). Why settle on information that is old as soon as it hits the press when you can have instant access to games YOU want to know about, and not just what an editor chooses?

There's a problem with stereotyping these new gamers-- all of them-- as completely inept. Yes, there are a lot of stories that come around such as a woman not knowing that she can't put her charge card directly into her Wii for online purchases, but at the same time I seldom see articles about new owners who GET it. And there are a lot of people who get it. Go outside. There's stupid people, of course, but there's also bright ones, too. Then again, a mother who did research to see if she got everything for her kids is much less interesting than a father who didn't know he had to hold on tight to the Wii remote when playing.

Regardless, there honestly will be no getting through to some people. I have to be truthful that I side with the new generation on this for the simple reason that I don't see them crying on internet forums like spoiled children who think they are no longer the center of attention (or were ever the center of attention for that matter), damning the "casuals", damning Nintendo, damning the Wii, damning that woman in those Progressive commercials "It's RESOLUTION season!"-- oh wait, that last one is just me), and damning anyone who dares have different tastes than them. Thusly, I sympathize with people just getting into gaming. I hope that there will be plenty who stick around and find that they really like what they leaped into. Hopefully, this read has been enjoyable, and hopefully, this will be the one and only time I've spoken about this subject on SPC in a long time. All I know is that topics like this that want to segregate gaming into groups only help support popular opinion that video games are still a very immature industry.

Special Thanks to Castro, dandancc, thedreadpirateguy, gstarr, and Walo of GoNintendo for a great discussion, talking points, and inspiration for this piece.

Monday, January 12, 2009

January's New Reviews - What do YOU want to read?

I've been very bad about doing reviews since November. I didn't do ANY during December at all! I think I had review burnout. Nonetheless, it's a new year, so I shall turn over a new leaf... which is basically my leaf two leaves ago. I'm not going to list so many games. I believe that just gives me more pressure than needed. I'm going to list several games I have completed or am going to complete (NOTE: they can't possibly be reviewed in one month by SlowperPhillip), and I'd like you guys to vote for which ones you'd like to see first. The winning titles will get priority over the rest. Does that sound more interesting?

January's Pool of Reviewable Games

Sonic Unleashed (PS3, 360)
Resistance 2 (PS3)
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (PS2)
Dragon Ball Origins (DS)
Dead Space (PS3, 360)
Call of Duty: World at War (Wii)
Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip (Wii)

There we go. Feel free to list the games that'd you love to see covered. Perhaps you'd like an opinion on a popular title or one that didn't get as much coverage in the mainstream media!

SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs - "Guns Don't Kill People-- Guns Kill A.I." Edition

This is another themed week of videos here on SuperPhillip's Favorite VGMs. This week we have games with guns! Aw, yeaaaaah, buddy! We've got music from Halo 3, Resistance 2, and Metroid Prime 1, to name a few, so sit back, reload that weapon, put it on safety, and relax with this week's series of tunes!


We go from one spy (007 from last week) to another with Joanna Dark's return performance in Perfect Dark Zero. This Arabian-themed level takes place in the early morning hours and is the second-to-last full mission in the game. I don't get the hate for PDZ. I mean, these are the same people loving Gears of War, right?

This song comes from one of the best titles for the Gamecube and one of my personal favorite games period, Metroid Prime. This theme plays during Samus Aran's excursions into the subterranean Magmoor Caverns full of fire and flame.

This song comes from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Since then, it's appeared in two 2008 releases (as far as I know): Super Smash Bros. Brawl and most recently in the Metal Gear Solid level pack of LittleBigPlanet. Gives me great memories of taking down Fatman, and that was just kicking my older brother's ass! No, no. That was funny but untrue.

This beautiful and engaging track comes from Halo 3 for the Xbox 360. I actually found the game to be quite enjoyable, but I could do without the community if you know what I mean. One Final Effort plays during the final mission where Master Chief finishes the fight. Well, THIS fight at least. There's more fights ahead apparently. When you got a good thing, why not milk it till people are sick of it?

If it's not already obvious which game this song title is alluding to, then allow me to clarify that this is the main theme of Resistance 2 for the Playstation 3. I was very surprised as to how much I like this game. It's refreshing to have a shooter that doesn't seem overly generic to me.

Direct Linkage:

Outpost Rescue - Main Theme
Lava Caverns
Yell "Dead Cell"
The Covenant (One Final Effort)
Main Theme (Resistance 2)

My favorite VGMs will see you next Monday for the beginning of a very special series of videos! You don't want to miss that!