[ Shihiko° × Game。]

About Games. by Shihiko°

January 1st, 2011

2010 was an interesting year. I know this site began started up again during that time and then things slowed down after my trip to Japan. As a new years resolution I will try to maintain the site more and actively post new thoughts and discoveries from my gaming curiosity and ideas…

A few things I did plan to post about and didn’t find time to I may return and write about them… as an addition to the new year the site will be open to user registration so those who follow or read this site can make comments and opinions to my posts. On top of that YouTube recently allowed me to upload videos longer than 15 minutes… which is a really nice plus for me for uploading game recordings from the consoles… ;)

Hope 2011 is a much more exciting or challenging year for new games and game designers. :)

October 10th, 2010

A game that aimed to break the “Sonic Cycle” was released a few days ago… Sonic 4. I tested it out on the iPhone so far… might also try the PlayStation 3 version. And how was it…?

Well after playing Sonic World Adventure [Unleashed] I can see that Sonic was slowly getting back in his speed shoes… but we would all like to see more than just well made stages and great game play. We needed to see Super Sonic in game levels, flashing all the Chaos Emeralds in Golden Glory. Sonic 4 – Episode 1 brings this back to us and more depending on what you enjoyed about the classic Sonic games.

The concept was good. Bring the original 2D game play of Sonic back and continue the story from Sonic 3 & Knuckles… Which didn’t exactly happen yet…? If you haven’t noticed from screen shots the level designs and art style has been quite similar to that of Sonic 2. So I guess they can’t ruin anything by doing that… it does however for me make it feel that it wasn’t very original, but at the same time brings some nostalgia which is what Sonic Team wants I guess.

Though I played the iPhone version, the look and feel of the game was quite good. It was also interesting trying this version first, because we are so used to Sonic being a control pad game it seemed stupid if we were to play without buttons. I cleared the Final Stage and all of Episode 1 with Tilt Controls… I did attempt to use the touch controls at one stage for a more precise control, but there was no point since I was already used to the tilting.

Getting the Chaos Emeralds was a huge chore though as the bonus stage gets annoying with the tilting, I guess when you are used to playing Labyrinth type games it doesn’t really help. It is the same type of bonus stage across all the consoles… thought it does look like a rip out of Sonic 3′s check point bonus game, it works because we are tilting the stage… though I could have gone for a cooler new type of bonus stage but no big deal, we get Chaos Emeralds that work on something other than the Final Boss… [Oh how true that is... 36 Rings really?]

It’s good to see Super Sonic back. It’s still too early for a review though as this is the first episode of the game… Sonic Team are doing this so they can slowly reel back in those who were hurt by the Sonic Cycle and are confident that they will get Sonic fans to buy all the episodes this way. So far it seems to be working, it is mostly positive reviews from various sources…

September 30th, 2010

Of all the Survival Horror series, one I enjoy most is the Project Zero or Fatal Frame series… if I were to make a website for a game it was either that or Minna no Golf.

Project Zero Work in Progress.

That would probably have been the case if there wasn’t already a nice website out there for the game and also if the game was more true to it’s original feel. With some game series or franchises, things get a little stale or game play or design go backwards instead of forwards. Project Zero is probably one of those who have fallen into this area of progression, with the game starting off to a great start with Zero, then topped by Crimson Butterfly and then holding it’s position with The Tormented… while the latest release Mask of the Lunar Eclipse on the Wii wasn’t improving it seemed the series was heading sideways.

With basically a drought for news on anything to do with the series and Nintendo holding the localised release of the game in western countries… you’d think that maybe the series might be dead. Well yesterday there was a few articles and press releases which contain visuals of the new upcoming work in progress Project Zero featuring the characters from Crimson Butterfly. This could be signs of a remake or Mio and Mayu have matured, but why is it for the Wii again…?

Seeing as with the previous version, Nintendo had rights to the publishing of the game… and their decision was to hold the release of the game in western countries [due to chances the game will not sell well in western regions]. Eventually it lead to fans creating a English patch for the Japanese game. Tecmo did also say that they would try not let this happen again in the future as they are quite sorry the game was unable to reach the western fan base of the series. So what are they doing now…?

I’ve always looked forward to a HD version of the game to play. Looks like that may not be happening, though I don’t see why if they are already remaking it anyway… Also if the motion controllers are what they are after, that doesn’t mean much as the PlayStation Move is now available so that doesn’t make sense. The only reason this could be happening is that Nintendo maintains the license to the series or franchises now as Tecmo may have sold it to them for a set number of years. A move which may have cost the series it’s progression and success.

Anyway here is what the original Crimson Butterfly looked like… comparing with the new graphics up the top there is clearly a noticeable difference. Mio and Mayu have had their costumes modified a little and some other enhancements… really? One thing that was irritating about the Wii release was that in Lunar Eclipse, there wasn’t much difference between the look of the girls you were in control of. Most of them were given enough polygons to emphasize their face and chest while the rest of the body was pretty much left for awkward moments when stretched or animated. The original PlayStation 2 releases of the game seemed to have done a better job… it just seems like they wanted the game to look better than the originals however decided that they would need to cut corners else where [such as straight and stiff looking limbs that fold awkwardly] to maintain that effect.

That aside the Wii never seemed to do the game much justice. Ignoring that Suda did change the way the game play and system works a little, there are times where the game would lag uncontrollably when travelling between rooms or sections of a building. Why does it happen? I even tested it with USB loaded version of the game and it still had the same lagging performance at the same area of the game… this wasn’t a bug that just happens to be on the game because we are running it off a disc. It happened even when the developers were probably testing it off the Wii SDK… which means they should have fixed it in the testing phase. If they were struggling with resources and performance in the first place, why announce another release for the Wii when there are clearly better alternatives out there where the series can succeed on?

Well I look forward to the release of this game… but there is always going to be that thought of how much better this series could have been if they weren’t crippling their ideas and development teams just for a little bit of cash. With the PlayStation Move now available, there is no excuse not to make this in HD if they wanted the motion controllers… Also atleast if they released it on the PlayStation 3 the game would be region free and not force legitimate people to hack and modify their consoles just to play a game they would have gladly purchased if it were released in their respective regions. [Also more exposure for the game if people were playing it online on the PSN or Live with the Trophies and Achievements systems.] In the end I could move over to Biohazard for my Survival Horror gaming… too bad the horror factor in that is pretty low.

September 20th, 2010

Going to the Tokyo Game Show was quite interesting. This was my first time to such an event, so it was an all new experience to see how things work at these exhibits. I was actually not in Tokyo at the time the event started, so I needed to travel a few hours to reach the location which this year was at Makuhari Messe in Chiba.

Upon arriving at the station near Makuhari Messe there is many people walking towards the exhibit. You can follow them or listen to the people who try to guide you there with signs or gestures. Anyway, as you get closer to the building there is already a huge mass of people gathered outside lining up to enter… If you have a pre-purchased ticket you can move along to join the line, otherwise you need to line up to obtain a ticket. [Pre-purchased tickets are cheaper but you need to print it out yourself.] Even so, it turns out the line you are lining up at after the tickets is a security check line… After that it is actually straight into the exhibit.

It was packed. One thing that means is, you’re not going to be able to see everything. So prior to going I would probably recommend knowing where and what everything you want to look at is located. It is also probably much easier to do everything you want to check out if you were alone… I wasn’t. So I mainly hung around the Sony, Capcom and Level 5 area. I did drift to the other parts but mostly just to eat lunch and look at what else is on offer at the event.

Almost everything has a line… either that or you need to line up somewhere else before you can line up at a popular game. An example was most of the 3D or PlayStation Move booths at Sony required you to line up at another line to obtain a coupon that gives you a time slot so you can try the game you want to play. The other case was you could be lining up at a up coming game that also gives you some limited goods for trying the game, which was the case for Ni no Kuni… of course you could also try it at the Sony booth without a 30 or 60 minute line to wait in.

The real nice thing about going to these events is you can see and experience the games rather than base your judgement on the videos and pictures or content offered online. Truly some games need to be seen to be enjoyed or appreciated… since some games or media content are staged. This explains why without a press license we are unable to take pictures of videos of any games at the event as they are mainly all work in progress of concept demonstrations. Mavel vs Capcom 3 did look much nicer than the online videos show it to be. Little Big Planet 2 was nice to see too.

It’s probably a good plan to also try things that will probably be too expensive to experience at home or concept games that probably won’t make it to any platform in the near future. Since I was there with two of my online friends, we decided to try play Minna no Golf 5 in 3D because we probably can’t afford the set up at home or it might not even be released for the current version of the game. It was an interesting experience which you can read about here. I didn’t try the PlayStation Move as it was already released elsewhere in the world so it isn’t exclusive, also it was good enough to watch the booth assistants demonstrate it as it gives a good idea of how responsive it is.

If you plan to hang around from the start to the end, then another good idea would be to prepare your own lunch. You can hang around in lines and eat your lunch instead of lining up and paying for a lower than standard quality lunch which saves you time and money so you can play and view more games. I guess the same case goes for if you want to buy some limited goods at the place, you need to be there early so you can insure that you will obtain the goods you want… I had no interest in that part of the show, but my friend was lining up two hours before the event in order to get his hands on a Moogle plushie.

To wrap it up, I quite enjoyed the event except there shouldn’t be a need to line up to reserve a spot just to try a game. Also it would have been nicer if we were allowed to take pictures of the event instead of only the area between the buildings that had cosplayers getting their photos taken… That area would have also been nicer if it wasn’t where we needed to walk through to get to the other areas of the event, as in they could put it in another area away from the people who are trying to navigate around the exhibit. Some freebies would have been nice too… :)

September 16th, 2010

So the Tokyo Game Show 2010 started today… I haven’t been following the news and press release closely, but I do see a few things I look forward to trying this weekend. Ni no Kuni, Patapon 3, Marvel Vs. Capcom 3, GranTurismo 5, Little Big Planet 2, PlayStation Move and also up coming 3D games. I don’t think they will be awesome but might be a good experience and enlightening to what 3D may or may not be capable of.

Minna no Golf 5 had a short 3D display… I wonder if that means they are planning to patch the current game?

Anyway doesn’t seem like an awesome line-up of things to come but it is interesting none the less. :D

August 20th, 2010

So today’s about a month since my PlayStation Plus Experiment… How’s it going so far? Well I have received three months worth of premium avatars and a few games which I already have or aren’t that fun. Quite dissappointed with the service so far, still no news about cross-game voice chat and no premium dynamic themes to keep.

Continuing on however… According to next month’s schedule they don’t look all that great at all. For the Japanese PSN The next free title will be Warhawk… A game that is over two years old. Also there is no premium dynamic theme or avatar lined up to collect so I maybe skipping next month’s subscription.

Now what have I learned about this so far? First off the experiment works of course… I have received three months worth of avatars and games for only one month’s payment but none of the games were that interesting or worth my time or I already have it.

Subsciptions need to be unsubscribed once you have started it otherwise it will automatically renew and charge your credit card or PSN wallet at the end of the period. The service can to be unsubscribed from the Account Manager menu.

Once it reaches the end of the period you will automatically lose your Plus icon from your online status. Apparently there is a bug that allows free PSone games to continue to work even after the subscription period. However there were no PSone games for free on the Japanese store for me to test this.

As for the service so far, well there really is no benefit for power users so far… It seems you’d probably get or benefit out of this service if you were a casual PlayStation gamer and didn’t own that many games because you’d be getting essentially a new game that you have never played before. Since the service also offers automatic update, it basically allows you to set and forget your system and whenever you boot it up you’ll be ready for and game or any online networking since it would have kept your system up to date for you no matter how much you neglect gaming on it.

Well that’s the report on the experiment so far… More to come as time goes on… Hopefully they will improve the service alot more but I really done see it as a service that makes users feel they are missing out on something special…

August 14th, 2010

Looks like all the predictions and talk in the past is finally coming to fruit. Sony are really going forward with the PlayStation Phone. This can work out really well for Sony if they play it right … Rumour has it that the design is quite impressive and is a sliding touch screen with the PlayStation buttons featured like the PSP Go. Since there isn’t much to go by other than that, let’s see what points could make or break this phone for the hardcore gamer.

Games

No doubt this is the most important part of the phone and it is the selling point that will be pushing this device out to the consumers. It will be important that games created for the device are well supported and fully functional console quality games… No gimmicky games that people release on the other phones just to make a few bucks and bloat the online store or system. Keeping the system catering to more polished games will give it a more exclusive and upper class feel so that games purchased are well worth the money and there won’t be a top ten lists populated with dollar deal games and more quality games.

Hardware

Looking around at what other devices are out there that this would be competing with, this smart phone-portable console hybrid will need to ramp it up a little in order to catch the market that it needs to succeed. Firstly the hardware must support the current collection of PSP/PSone games, this isn’t an option it must be done… However this is not good enough, the device apart from featuring the ability to play PSP/PSone games also needs a refresh or update. The PSP Go failed because of this, people don’t want to pay more for a device that actually does less while despite having a nicer design and some software features. If they say they have learnt their lesson from the PSP Go, then I expect to see a brand new series of hardware that can possibly be a new type of PSP. Clue: Dual Analogue Sticks, L2 + R2 buttons, Camera, Capacitive Touch Screen, Accelerometer, Compass, GPS, Gyroscope, High Resolution Screen… pretty much anything and everything that it needs to stay on par with a high end smart phone. It would also need an awesome battery life… another thing PSP Go failed at despite the new chips and removal of the UMD drive, they decided they will reduce the size of the battery so that you end up with the same battery life as a standard PSP Slim. There is clearly more that can be said about the hardware, but I think if they wish to keep the phone competitive, they will have to have base hardware requirements for the series and refresh and update the hardware over time. However only changing the appearance, design, memory and storage so that games are designed for all systems throughout the system’s life cycle.

Software

Now this is where Sony usually struggles and dies trying. Rumours have it that the phone will be using Android 3.0, most likely skinned and modified to work how Sony wants it… similar to the Xperia X10. I’ve used an Xperia before, and well it ain’t no iPhone, even the new Samsung smart phones are nicer to use with Android 2.0. Sony needs to get the software for this right or it will crash and burn. No one wants to use a device that lags and struggles to respond no matter how beautiful it may look. A new and improved XMB would work, especially with a multi-touch screen should provide a good combination between using the directional pad and selecting icons on screen quickly. A quick example would be using the XMB menu then selecting the Photos menu on the PlayStation 3 then seeing it tile on screen which allows you to scroll with the directional pad or touch each tile for viewing. Being an Android phone, apart from supporting Android games it should also have it’s own propriety format so the games stay exclusive and will only work on the PSPhone. I’m sure this part is already thought of and clearly separates the system’s abilities from a normal Android phone… if not well then this will clearly be another lost cause.

PlayStation Network

Really, who is the market that will be buying this device? PlayStation owners and hardcore gamers. A fully functional and always connected PlayStation Network client on the phone would mean a lot to these people. If Sony wants the device to keep these people gaming, the community must be there and even though mobile devices isn’t the best idea for staying connected as connection dropping is or can be expected, it should not mean this shouldn’t be included. Most people are in the hardcore category with their portable consoles usually spend the majority of their time playing their games at the comfort of their own homes and usually have a stable internet connection there anyway. Just provide a warning that they may lose connection if the player chooses to play their games over the mobile network. The PSP had the PlayStation Network added later in it’s life cycle which meant it was slightly limited, however not being able to communicate with your friend’s list while on the PSP version of the PlayStation Network kind of defeated the purpose of signing in. So a fully functional PSN could turn it into a must have device for the daily PlayStation gamer.

Marketing

Lastly, probably another place where Sony tends to over look or do weirdly is the marketing of their devices. All I can say is, keep it simple and make sure you cover the market targeted and also the related markets such as multimedia audience and the casual gamer smart phone market. Show what it does… I think the recent advertising teams are doing better, but really that’s comparing it to what was already considered bad advertising. They will need to push this one hard if they want it to expand beyond just the gamer that doesn’t like having to carry a phone and their portable console.

Summary

I’m all for this idea, and it seems the general online feedback for it is quite positive as well… the downside is Sony has done this sort of thing in the past and failed to live up to the hype and advertising of some of their products which is why they don’t pick up as well as some of the other products and devices out on the market. Hopefully they will get this right and actually innovate again instead of only improving technology and hoping people will buy it on the specifications alone.

August 5th, 2010

Aww… Google Wave was a very useful collaboration tool to have. It was also very good for brain storming ideas or putting down quick game designs that still need refining. It is a very good idea just no one knew or not enough people knew how to use it efficiently or productively to make it a part of their daily lives.

Even though it was really nice to have and use it was an annoying standalone Google product. I mean one of the things that kind of made it annoying was that you had to login separately sometimes just to use it. I think Google could have probably done a better job with it if it had been integrated as part of Google Mail or Google Accounts. Google Mail seemed a more obvious choice since they have a large user base for that and quite a lot of people use Gmail as a work or professional email account. Makes sense if it was all for work and productivity.

I think another thing they should be putting more focus on is their Google Talk application, the Gmail integrated version seems to have more features than the standalone software… Not many people enjoy turning on and keeping a web browser window open just to receive messages and notifications in regards to their Google account. The software could probably be like a Google Apps thing that works with their Cloud Services. Also wouldn’t that reduce the load of stuff required to load up for the end user? I mean these web applications seem to perform badly on a poor connection so why not release native applications to support them? Is it because they want you to log on to see the advertising?

Source: Update on Google Wave

August 4th, 2010

Wow… I played Starcraft II this week, it was released last week and well I have to say… it is beyond very good. Starcraft being a game that I used to play and owned on PC well is a classic, and this sequel kind of blows it all away. I was never a fan of Terran but I did enjoy this first release of the three part story of the game so far.

This won’t be a review on the game because I am not hardcore at the game enough at the series to be qualified to speak about the games specifics. However I will discuss a little on the success of this sequel… starting with some history. Starcraft the original was a game I used to play with my friends early high school years… back then my friends and I each went with a different race, I picked Protoss and the other two picked Terran and Zerg. I was probably quite average at the game, while one of the two friends became really good at the game. Eventually it wasn’t any fun to play against that friend at all… and the other friend kind of didn’t play that much anyway so lacked practice.

That didn’t mean the game wasn’t any good… just that Starcraft is one of those games that apart from the Story/Campaign Mode you’re supposed to play with other people to enjoy it. One of the other things that people could enjoy was Custom Maps with Use Map Settings. I met a few people Online on Battle.net back then who were really good at making Custom games… It was great, I also learnt a lot about making them myself… but one thing about this version is that the custom maps are really hard to come by, also the map editor is way too complex now… I think by the time you learnt how to use it and make really decent stuff with it, you probably could have created your own game, programmed it and released it and get paid for your work. Even though this map editor lets you make a game that is completely different to what Starcraft is meant to be, it seems like it is going to be a long while until we see something really interesting.

Before I even played the Campaign Mode, I actually hopped on Battle.net under a friend’s account. I played a few games as Protoss then logged off… the Online interface was quite confusing actually, I clicked around trying to figure out how it works and all of a sudden I was sent into a game with a random person that I didn’t get to select. Dark Templars made waste of the opponent but that could have been some newbie that just happened to play Starcraft for the first time ever from this release. There was no interaction or chatting involved with me and the other player. I felt that was a little poor. I guess it is hard to chat in an Real-Time-Strategy game, but Blizzard seemed to have removed the Online Chat rooms in the new Battle.net system… What’s the deal with that? Part of going online to play games is to interact with people you are playing with so you know they are human not just [Korean] bots. One of the things about the old chat rooms was that I actually met the people who made the cool maps that I was playing through them and became friends because of the conversations I was able to have with the players when not concentrating on commanding my units. You do get a small lobby to chat in before a game starts but nothing once the game ends…

Well let’s head offline… Oh wait you can’t… When you play the game, you need a valid Starcraft II Battle.net account logged in so you can play Single Player Story/Campaign Mode. The nice thing about this is, your progress is saved on a cloud system. So you can technically go to your friend’s house and play the game from where you last finished at home. The bad thing, well you cannot play under your account if you aren’t online. However if the copy of the game is activated, you can play offline under Guest Mode… there is three guest slots that you can play Campaign Mode under… probably so you can make different choices each time you play for a different story. Which is pretty nice especially if you know someone who has the game, and you only want to try it out… Ask them to come around and install it and play online a little bit to show you then you’ll have a copy of Starcraft II that you can play the Story/Campaign Mode/Vs AI Mode whenever you want. Oh and yeah, no Local Area Network Mode for Offline Multiolayer.

Now the game… Again I’d just like to say wow… I don’t think they missed much when it comes down to the essence of Starcraft. Unlike other franchises or sequels to games that I have played Starcraft II did not fall short or drop anything that maintain the Starcraft feel. I ran the game on my notebook at 1920×1200 with most graphics settings turned down so I would have smooth game play without compromise… the game still looked great. The interface was good and the way you are put through between the missions and menus looked and felt right. Though I did find annoying that the top row of tabs during game can sometimes get in the way of clicking on units and opens up one of menus occasionally. Overall the Game Play, System and Story was top notch. It is satisfying to play through along with the special extras that are available to the Single Player Campaign makes or gives the mode some replay value which is a nice touch.

That’s about it really… Unless you want to read some spoilers or weird things that I tried while playing… Continue?
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July 20th, 2010

Today is the last day of the first batch of PlayStation Plus content, I’m curious though… See the way the system works is you either pay for 30 days for a small fee or 365 days for about ten times the 30 days fee for the service. The question is, if you were to pay for only 30 days on the last day of the previous month would you then have access to three months worth of the service? [Even though of course, the last month is only for a day or two depending on how the weeks play out.]

PlayStation®plus

The result should be for every three months you pay only the one time 30 day service. Since there is no incentive to keep the service at the moment other than to play the games being offered for free… [This depends on your PlayStation Network region though... as previously mentioned the different regions offer different incentives.] So every three months, you spend the minimum fee, then the next month you wait it out until the new content you don’t have access to is about to expire which should be nearly two months from the end of your previous service period and make the purchase for the next 30 days. This should be around three months since the start of the experiment. If it continues on in a similar fashion, the total for the whole year’s worth of content comes down to about four or five service purchases, which is half of the cost of the 365 day service.

This experiment is so that you can stay up to date with the PlayStation Plus service without missing out on anything at the minimum cost. I think there will be some flaws or holes when some of the dates don’t add up or expire past the 30 day period. This is why it is an experiment and not recommended as a way to use the service… Obviously when you are not subscribed to the service you will not be able to play any of the free games until the next period but you do get the discounts and can keep all the themes and avatars that they offer.

I’ll experiment and we can see how this goes… :)