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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Games Catchup

posted by on July 29 at 13:35 PM

As expected, the summer has slowed to a near-crawl for games. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to go outdoors bullshit the games fans at Slog with hyped-up previews of games coming this fall, not even with Golob’s nerd fatwa up in the air. Well… except for this crazy-looking demo video of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, I guess:

There’s no telling whether this game will play as well as it looks. Mortal Kombat, for years, has been the sloppy, fun-to-watch stepchild of Japanese fighting games—amusing and bloody, but awkward and tiring after roughly 14 minutes. (Gaming’s Jerry Springer.) But you can’t say enough about the way Superman beats that dude down—the looks and sounds of it sure are satisfying. Jonah and I will run this game into the ground come November.

Speaking of redundant fighting games, Soul Calibur 4 launches this week for PS3 and Xbox 360. Attempts to flag down a review copy haven’t gone well, but I’m not too sad about that. This series was already perfect on the Dreamcast in 1999; the original still looks and plays smoothly, and it was the first big fighting game to make the whole attack/reversal shtick really accessible. But sequels never added to the formula, simply throwing more stupid characters into the Tekken-with-swords mix (and the new one makes a big deal about featuring Darth Vader on one console, Yoda on the other, so methinks Namco is sticking to the trend).

Not sure why the fighting genre is so scared to try anything new. Strangely, Ultimate Fighting Championship had the right idea back in 2000, marrying the then-nascent hetero love-fest with the feeling of a true fight—awkward, careful, and hinging almost entirely on breaks in momentum. Much like a bar fight, that game was all clumsy grappling, duos tangled up for seconds at a time to push, pummel, and find a rare break in defense. And that was before game controllers generally employed two thumbsticks. When’s a game going to use the dual-stick setup as a pair of fists (or legs) and make a game that feels as realistic as it looks? It’s 2008; if I can’t have my hover-skateboard, at least give me my bizarrely authentic bar-fighting sim, complete with broken bottle clip-on for my Wii remote. (Full disclosure: the first UFC video game since the ‘00 version will be out this Christmas season, but sadly, it appears to have eschewed the chess-like give-and-take of its original version; dumbed down for the league’s rising TV audiences.)

Better “coming soon” news—the Xbox Live Arcade is going bonkers for the next 30 days, unleashing cheap delights like Geometry Wars R.E. 2, Bionic Commando Rearmed, and Castle Crashers every Wednesday until the end of August. Roughly $10 a pop, though not all game prices have been announced yet. No lifechangers in this batch of games—they’re shameless throwbacks to ’80s arcade classics—but these three are easily the most action-packed multiplayer onslaughts of Live’s Arcade catalog in recent memory. In particular, the four-player Castle Crashers (from the dudes who made Alien Hominid years ago) will repaint your fondest Golden Axe memories in bloody technicolor. I’ll probably hop on tomorrow to gush about Geometry Wars 2.

If I can be pulled away from my DS, anyway. Good stuff on the portable system this week… in Japan. Now there’s a KORG-licensed synthesizer program (see above), which not only saves up to six compositions but allows multiple DSes to link up and perform together in sync. The results range from impressive to… Jesus, already? The sound of this thing is a bit too compressed for my tastes, but it sure beats DJ’ing with an iPod.

Since I’m clueless about KORG synths, I’ve spent more time with Rhythm Tengoku Gold this week. I’ve previously written about Rhythm Tengoku, Nintendo’s marriage of Wario Ware and Parappa the Rapper, and its DS sequel adds touch control to the series’ cheeky J-pop mini-games. This recent demo clip shows the basics—either flick or press/release on the screen to match the percussion of a particular challenge. Fortunately, Nintendo is bringing this one stateside, supposedly by the end of 2008, though the Japanese version isn’t hard to figure out if you’re as impatient as me. (The Korg DS-10 is also set for American release, though its Japanese version is already completely in English.)

Obligatory Penny Arcade news update: the Penny Arcade Expo’s pre-registration discount period ends Thursday. If you have any interest in attending the Expo this August 29-31, buy a ticket now and save five bucks. How else are you and I going to play Calling All Cars in a Washington State Convention Center meeting room?

And in Wii news… nothing. If you were dumb enough to pay higher than retail cost for a Wii, don’t be dumb enough to look at the system’s Christmas release schedule. The “innovative” system’s catalog looks like a 3rd grader’s Scholastic book sales pamphlet—all cheap cash-ins and sequels to Carnival Games. The future of gaming is throwing more tennis balls at towers of milk bottles? Holy moly. I’d rather go outdoors.

RSS icon Comments


I'm going to give this round of nerdiness competition to you.

You've got videogames, ultimate fighting, KORGs, and at least two different semi-obscure references.

Posted by Graham | July 29, 2008 1:47 PM

I'm bored sick of my Wii Fit, I was hoping they'd come out with more for it. I do see a couple of games my 6 year old will like. But I suspect he'd rather I buy them for the xBox 360, he finds the Wii controls annoying.

I'm looking forward to Soul Caliber and fighting as Darth Vader thankyouverymuch.

Posted by PopTart | July 29, 2008 1:49 PM

Harvest Moon for the Wii... I can't help but be excited.

Posted by Lobot | July 29, 2008 1:56 PM

And don't forget the new Animal Crossing - let's Friend each other, ok? All Wii friends need to stick together.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 29, 2008 2:11 PM

Since only 2 out of the 10 people who bought a dreamcast still play it, you can get the original soul caliber on xbox live arcade for $10 or so.

I sort of agree with your opinion on this series, but given this is the first to have online play and first on this hardware, wouldn't it be worth a look, if one enjoys the series?

Posted by harold | July 29, 2008 2:21 PM

I will be at PAX, but since the bf programs for Nintendo, I don't need to pre-register. Woot.

Posted by Original Monique | July 29, 2008 2:22 PM

What is Superman's second weakness? I listened to the clip a couple times but all I could make out was Kryptonite and *heat vision*.

Posted by Chris in Tampa | July 29, 2008 2:25 PM

@7: Yeah, it's hard to hear. He says "magic." It's some weak-ass rationalization, but since it's apparently for the sake of a good beat-fest, I'll allow it.

Posted by Sam M. | July 29, 2008 2:29 PM

@4 Will, I can't decide if you are making fun of me or not.

Wii should be friends!

Ok I'm an idiot. Carry on.

Posted by Lobot | July 29, 2008 2:31 PM

You should play Condemned 2, Bloodshot on the 360 for something new in fighting. That game uses the R/L triggers for throwing punches and the left analog stick for kicks. You work your way up to throwing combos, which are pretty intuitive (right, left, right, or kick, hook, right, right, etc.) It feels natural and looks great. It's in a FP view, too, which I prefer.

Posted by crazycatguy | July 29, 2008 2:33 PM

@10: I tried that game. I liked that you could fight with anything that you picked up off the ground, and the atmosphere was pulled off pretty well. Not so much the "fighting" innovation that I seek, but for a scary FPS, it's certainly up there for 2008 sleepers.

Posted by Sam M. | July 29, 2008 2:43 PM

I wasn't making fun - there's a new version of Animal Crossing coming out, about the same time as Spore.

Don't know why, but that game's addictive.

And I prefer to use my net to whap people with, thanks.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 29, 2008 3:21 PM

I want that KorgDS-10 so badly, but Pink Godzilla has yet to get some copies in stock...Sadness...

And I just picked up SCIV for the 360 and Yoda really sucks as one of the fighters. I think I just might milk it for the achievements for a week and then trade it in for credit towards the PS3 version...

Posted by Amnesiac79 | July 29, 2008 3:46 PM

@ 11,
Yeah, picking up stuff and using it to fight with is great. My personal favorite: a bowling ball. Marathon dev'd the game, and I like their style - sort of graphic novel looks with sharp A.I. But they haven't had their blockbuster yet, although FEAR was pretty popular. The sequel, Project Origin, might be the game that puts them on top.

Posted by crazycatguy | July 29, 2008 5:04 PM

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