Join the Rag-NERD-rok crew for an in-depth discussion of this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo! We cover the major announcements of the show, such as the hotly anticipated new gaming platforms from Nintendo and Sony, as well as the new titles you can expect to see in the upcoming year. In addition, we touch upon the current state of portable gaming, Microsoft’s emphasis on new Kinect games, and the practice of franchise milking. Finally, we each reveal our Game of the Show, and talk about why we’re so excited.
Show notes after the break.
-Out in 2012
-1.8 inches tall, 6.8 inches wide, 10.5 inches long – lays horizontal
(Wii comparison: 6.18 in. tall, 1.73 in. wide, 8.48 in. long — stands vertical)
-1080p HD graphics (first for Nintendo)
-Fully backwards compatible with Wii games
-Wii-U games support compatibility with Wii peripherals (Wii Remote, Balance Board, etc.)
-Internal flash memory, SD memory cards, or USB hard disk drives (two at front, two at rear)
-Only one new controller can be used with the system
-6.2 inch screen, 16:9 touch screen
-Two Circle Pads, one D-pad
-ABXY face buttons, LR bumper buttons, Zl/Zr trigger buttons
-Built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, front-facing camera, microphone
-Gameplay with just the new controller (no TV required)
-Gameplay using both the TV and the new controller
-Gameplay using the new controller’s motion controller
-Use the stylus to control software
-Gameplay using new controller and Wii Remote Plus controllers together
-Use the new controller and many Wii Remote Plus controllers for large multiplayer groups (Nintendo gallery shows four remotes plus new controller)
-Use the new controller to zoom in on websites or other content displayed on the tv.
-Lego City Stories (sandbox game)
-New Super Smash Bros game
-New Super Mario Bros Mii
-New Pikmin title
-Third party titles, including:
Aliens: Colonial Marines
Ghost Recon Online
Metro Last Light
Ninja Gaiden 3
Rundown and Thoughts on the PlayStation Vita (00:23:45)
It seems to me that the PlayStation Vita, Sony’s next generation portable, represents the company’s attempts to rally its forces in response to losing a battle on two fronts. In the arena of portable gaming, the PSP was nowhere near as successful as Nintendo’s DS, a testament to the fact that today’s serious gamers do their thing on a console or a PC. The PSP also found itself in competition with smartphones, many of which offered similar multimedia and web capabilities, even if they couldn’t match its performance as a gaming platform. With the Vita, Sony hopes to outperform its chief competitor, the Nintendo 3DS, by bringing some of the processing power of console gaming to the portable world, as well as to match the versatility of the current generation of smartphones.
If I had to choose a word to describe the Sony Vita, that word would be “beast,” and I mean that in several different ways. First off, the Vita’s hardware specs read like it’s a smartphone on steroids: 1.5 Ghz quad core ARM processor, 200 MHz GPU, five inch multi-touch HD display. It’s got a Six Axis motion sensing system and accelerometer, an SD card slot for expandable storage, and two built-in SD cameras, one on the front, one on the back. To top it all off, the Vita is WiFi and Bluetooth capable; Sony even plans to offer a model with 3G connectivity through AT&T, a point of derision for many who attended the Vita’s stateside unveiling at E3. Second, aside from being a powerful piece of hardware, the Vita is also quite large – nearly two inches wider than the 3DS. That may not seem like a huge difference, but it means the Vita probably won’t fit into your pocket or in your bag as easily as your 3DS or iPhone. Finally, the Vita is tricked out with just about every type of input known to modern gaming: a D-pad, two thumbsticks, two multi-touch pads, twelve buttons, the accelerometer and gyroscope, the cameras, and a built-in microphone. They might as well have called it the Sony Leviathan.
The Vita will launch in time for the 2011 holiday season with an estimated retail price of around $250 for the WiFi only model; those who wish to add an AT&T data plan to their list of monthly expenses will have to shell out an extra $50 in order to purchase the 3G model. In addition, Sony has chosen a lineup of twelve lackluster titles — along with “Little Big Planet” — to launch with the Vita, and has announced that a mix of new and recycled titles from a variety of familiar franchises — such as ‘Bioshock,’ ‘Dynasty Warriors,’ ‘Call of Duty,’ ‘Street Fighter,’ ‘Mortal Kombat’ and ‘Silent Hill’ — will eventually be released.
While this talk of high performance hardware and portable, high-def ports of console titles may pique an interest for some, as a casual gamer, I find myself relatively unaffected. In my opinion, a portable system, no matter how pimped its hardware may be, can never match the experience of gaming on a PC or console. Playing ‘Bioshock’ in front of an HDTV with surround sound and the lights dimmed was fun, exhilarating, and goddamn terrifying at times, and I find myself hard pressed to imagine that a Big Daddy would be half as scary when displayed on a five inch screen. The other huge drawback for me is that I already have a smartphone, a robust, versatile platform from which I can stream music, surf the web, watch videos, check my email, and yes, even play some games. The days when you’d load up your pockets with your cell phone, GBA and brick-sized mp3 player are long over, and I personally don’t see the need to spend $250 and carry another gadget around all day solely for the benefit of playing games I’d rather just play at home. I can definitely see the potential appeal for others, but when I’m gaming on the go, I’d rather play something simple, like a Sudoku puzzle, ‘Angry Birds’ or Solitaire, any of which I could buy for my HTC Incredible.
Microsoft Kinect (00:44:30)
-The “Kinect Core Six”
-Mass Effect 3
-Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
-Fable: The Journey
-Ryse (First-person melee)
-Blackwater Kinect FPX (FPS)
-Binary Domain (FPS)
-Kinect Fun Labs
-Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster
-Kinect Sports Season 2
-Dance Central 2
-Kinect Star Wars
-Fruit Ninja Kinect
-Hole In The Wall
-Child of Eden (Rail shooter)
-Rise of Nightmares (Survival Horror)
-Just Dance 3
-Madden NFL Kinect
-Hulk Hogan’s Main Event
-Microsoft supporting their gadgets and the people who buy them
-Appealing to lots of different types of customers with different types of games
-XBLA support for Kinect
-Adding unnecessary Kinect features to non-Kinect games
-Leaving out gamers that don’t have Kinect
-A few too many child-oriented games
Franchise Milking (01:02:20)
Fable: The Journey
No connection to the hero, no connection to the storyline. It does take place in Albion, Theresa does make an appearance, still by Lionhead but not by fable team.
Overly reliant on Kinect. FPS style. Visually annoying. Lot’s of time in caravan, morality is involved, though not as much. Only magic? It seems like it’s not a Fable game at all. It seems like they’re using the Fable franchise and a few Fable elements to sell a Kinect game. It is Kinect only.
Seems to me that the Fable franchise, which honestly was a perfect trilogy that needed no follow-up, is being used to sell a game and indeed a way to get Fable fans like me to feel the need to get a Kinect.
Peter Molyneaux has apologized for the “horrendous mistake” that was the Fable: The Journey demo. He promises fans that the game is not on rails, and was even backed up by the signature of several reporters who got more of an inside view of the game. The stripping of the navigation made it seem like there was a lack of freedom, but Molyneux swears it was just a missing element in the demo. The trailer does admittedly make the game look awesome. Theresa is being chased by some black smoke and the main character picks her up in his caravan and I suppose the rest is history. The smoke may be the blackness you had to fight in Fable III, but there’s no word on that yet. Either way, the cinematics set it up as another great fable title. But from what I’ve seen, the gameplay leaves much to be desired.
No gears! Hooray!
Final Fantasy XIII-2
In contrast to Fable, FFXIII-2 looks like almost the exact same game, just with a different story. That is to say it’s a beautiful-looking, cinematically stunning, action-packed game with acceptable RPG game play and a frustratingly linear journey for the player. FFXIII wasn’t a problem for me because it had a bad storyline, or bad gameplay. I didn’t like it because it felt like an entirely different game with the Final Fantasy named tacked on to it. Kind of like The Super Mario Brothers Movie.
XIII-2 doesn’t seem to offer anything different. When pressed for comment on shops and sidequests by G4’s Adam Sessler, a lack of which was a glaring problem with XIII, Parker Sapp gave vague answers like, “I don’t wanna call it a town. It’s not gonna be in the same format you expect. You’re not gonna go to a shop yet.” He was even vaguer when asked about sidequests, saying, “We’re not showing a lot yet.”
It’s nothing new, but XIII-2 feels like the Final Fantasy going franchise beating a dead horse, and using the name to sell games that bear little resemblance to the original title.
This is a direction the developer has been going in since X. There’s still familiar elements like gil, Moogles, Chocobos and save points, but so much of the gameplay is SO different from anything else Final Fantasy.
I won’t deny that there are very exciting things that seem to be coming in FFXIII-2. Apparently there is an ability that will allow creatures to join your party, there will be cinematic actions ala Kingdom Hearts and God of War, and an interesting new compass system that determines battle advantage [(might be a problem for Meyer though)]. I don’t doubt it will be a good game, like FFXIII was, but I just am not interested. The purist in me wants a classic Final Fantasy.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
Despite being a bit of a whore of a game, (being announced alongside another Halo title, Halo 4) and coming after Reach and ODST – which could in themselves be argued as franchise milking games – I’m kind of excited for this one as I missed the Halo boat and a chance to get on board from the beginning is kind of cool. Plus, I am sure there are a lot of nostalgic gamers out there who are looking forward to a revamp of the classic. Hopefully this will be better than the special edition of Star Wars.
Halo 4 isn’t even by Bungee and starts the launch of an entirely NEW trilogy. Not much to say about this. The trailer made the game look kind of cool I guess, but it didn’t reveal much about the gameplay or story, other than the fact that Master Chief is back. But it does beg the question, do we NEED a fourth Halo? Or is this just franchise milking?
I don’t know if I count the new Zelda, Skyward Sword, as franchise milking, because the franchise is still alive and kicking. Zelda has evolved from the first game from Nintendo, but other than the mistake that was Windwaker, the franchise continues to deliver familiar but ever-changing gameplay, storylines and atmosphere.
I suppose you could say Nintendo is just better at milking than Microsoft and Sony, but in my probably biased opinion, I can’t wait for Skyward Sword and hope the franchise lasts forever.
Similarly, I feel like the announcement of the many “3’s” coming out are in a different vein. Mass Effect 3, Gears of War 3, Resistance 3 and Battlefield 3 seem less like milking because they fit into trilogies. Especially Mass Effect, which has always been planned as a trilogy. I know less about the other games.
There is of course the Mario franchise milking that has been going on since the birth of Mario with games like Mario Kart, Mario Party, Mario golf, Mario S and M Fiesta. Okay, I made that last one up, but you get the point. Attach the Mario name to some sports or mini-game-based title and poof! You’ve got a classic. A lot of them are fun, though. It’s as simple a formula as attaching Luigi to a project that’s bound to fail!
Game of the Show: (01:23:30)
Erik: Dark Souls and Skullgirls
Ed: Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Alex: Assassin’s Creed: Revelations
Ryan: Minecraft Kinect
Meyer: Mass Effect 3
Rag-NERD-rok Podcast by Alex Costello, Edward Cress, Erik Dickash, Ryan Mannix and Billy Meyer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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