We got your princess right here.

Saturday, December 04, 2004
 

Review: Capcom Fighting Evolution (PS2)
Posted by Ariel :: 8:02 PM

Well. This was something. I had completely forgotten that Capcom was releasing this title until Dan came over one weekend and told me about it. He said that this game was supposed to mix up different styles of play in one video game. I was thinking I'd get to finally match up Alpha chracters against SF3 characters against some of the VS title's characters. Instead what I get is a spattering of characters from 5 series (Including Red Earth, a Capcom title so obscure that the man that played Jojo's Bizarre Adventure one and two has never even HEARD of it) put together in a game that is, in one short, to the point word: Lame.

Why is this game lame? I'll tell you why. Capcom did not make this game. I refuse to believe it. Now as almost everyone who has ever mashed buttons in an arcade know, Capcom loves to rehash their stuff. Sure, it was an attempt to make money but they were always forgiven because each of their iterations was noticeably superior to the previous version. They always improved on something (sometimes everything) even if it was just a little bit. The Street Fighter Collection was just that, a collection. This game was suppsed to be an evolution of their past fighters. What you actually get is a step backward for everything. Instead of composing new animations for some of the older character models, the newer ones were simply downgraded. Instead of providing you with a large array of characters to choose from, only 4 from each series were provided. There are no real modes to speak of, and none of the added features (custom colors, online play, multiple system tweaks) that are usually prevalent in current-gen fighting games. If you could possibly phone-in a game then that's exactly what Capcom did here.

The graphics where a step down from where they could have been, the AI had no sense of progression, the choice of characters was limited and some choices were just nonsensical (Why include the Red Earth characters when you have so few characters from the more popular series?). I don't think the music was bad but there were simply so many other things wrong that it doesn't matter. It's got Capcom on it so you'd expect it to be at least a lot of fun. It's not even that. It's all cross-game gimmick with none of the substance of any of the games. It's not godawful (the core play mechanics of the original games are there and it has a certain fun novelty aspect to it) but it's pretty close. At least it wasn't buggy, that would have been the kicker. Strong recommendation to avoid, especially if you like Capcom. That's why I'm giving it a:





Friday, December 03, 2004
 

News: New Sony PS2 Demo Disc Could Erase Memory Card
Posted by Chris :: 8:40 PM

(c/o CNET News.com)

PlayStation 2 owners are seething after discovering that a demo disc distributed by Sony could accidentally erase the memory cards attached to their consoles, wiping out many hours of progress in games such as "Grand Theft Auto."

Sony acknowledged the problem last week in a postcard sent to members of its PlayStation Underground fan club, warning members to be careful with holiday demo discs sent out last month. Don't play the trial version of the Capcom adventure game "Viewtiful Joe 2" included on the disc, Sony warned, unless you want to start over from scratch on every PS2 game you own.

A representative for Sony Computer Entertainment America said: "We recognize this as a serious issue and are doing everything we can to alert the consumers who received the demo. We have sent out postcards and e-mails alerting the recipients of the glitch, as well as posted the information on various message boards to alert consumers before playing this demo."

Copies of the Sony demo disc sent later in November don't include the "Viewtiful Joe 2" demo or the glitch. Capcom representatives have said the glitch is not replicated in the full version of the game.


Wow, way to go Sony. There's got to be at least tens of pissed off people who actually subscribe to the Playstation Underground.

Seriously though, that's a terrible glitch.


Wednesday, December 01, 2004
 

News: Renewed Furor Over Video Game Violence
Posted by Shocker :: 10:30 AM

Not the latest of news, but I wanted to back off the story for a bit until people sort of moved on from it.

A video game simulation of President John F. Kennedy's 1963 assassination released this week sparked outrage yesterday from a leading entertainment decency watchdog.

In "JFK: Reloaded," the player views Kennedy's fateful Dallas motorcade from the book depository tower in which Oswald sat and is charged with the mission of assassinating the president. The game debuted Monday to coincide with the 41st anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. Traffic is offering a $100,000 prize to the first player to "most accurately re-create the three shots fired by Lee Harvey Oswald," according to a news release issued Monday.

(Source: CapeCodOnline.com)


Does this cross the line? For myself, I think it's, again, a big disconnect from the attitudes that older politicans have about games versus the reality that is there. Last week, I gave some facts about video game players that stated that a good majority of players are adults (18+) and are capable of making these decisions without politicians' help. But the statements in the article are a bit more insidious than that. Lieberman outright threatens developers and publishers with possible legal action for "contemplating violent action against an elected official." Please.

Video games are a form of media, and like all media, sometimes acts are simulated that the participator would never do, but wants to experience. When we watch a movie like Rambo, are we actively involved in the killing of commandos in the jungle? Or more relevantly, when we buy books, watch TV shows, attend movies, and read magazines about the assassination of JFK, or any figure, are we any more or less culpable for the promotion of that event?

Moreover, where is the outrage over games like Dynasty Warriors, in which you simulate the assassinations of leaders of Chinese dynasties. Oh, wait. That aroma you're catching is the smell of hypocricy. Because it's tragic to you, now it's a problem. If politicians want to make hay, let them. But don't start telling me that I'm culpable for promoting the assassination of a president if I'm interested in a game, when more pure profit has already been made over exploitation of his assassination through books, magazines, movies and television than this game could ever make.

This, by the way, brings up our second ever
QUESTION OF THE WEEK

How do you guys feel about this? Do you agree with the way I stated it, or do you think that I'm full of it? What about the broader implications of games like this? Will its acceptance, tacit as it may be open the gates for mainstream games about assassinating current political figures?

Respond in comments!



 

News: Independent Ratings System to Target Video Games
Posted by Chris :: 10:16 AM

(c/o Planet Gamecube)


Research Finds Ambiguities And Inconsistencies In Current Industry-Run Ratings

LOS ANGELES, November 30, 2004 – Cutting through the ambiguity of the current industry-run ratings, Current Attractions has begun an objective and quantitative reporting on the Profanity, Sex, and Violence in today’s hottest video game releases. With Current Attractions’ use of the proprietary PSVratings technology, parents will know exactly what to expect before they purchase video games containing potentially objectionable material for their children.

Until now, video games have been rated only by the software industry’s own Entertainment Software Rating Board, (ESRB), which rates games using a subjective, age-based rating system. The ESRB attempts to match the content in games to players’ ages, but how many parents know that the Teen-rated best-seller Tony Hawk’s Under Ground 2 shows characters vandalizing buildings and women lifting up their shirts to bare their breasts?

The ratings found on Current Attractions are powered by the PSVratings system, the most comprehensive, accurate and objective ratings system currently available. They do not suggest what content is suitable to any particular age group. Instead, they provide parents with the detailed, unbiased information, independent of game manufacturers, necessary to make informed choices based upon each individual family’s own personal standards of suitability.

Initially devised to evaluate movies, the PSVratings system utilizes the globally recognizable traffic-light symbol to convey three levels – green (suggestive), yellow (explicit) or red (graphic) of Profanity, Sex and Violence. It provides consumers with in-depth information including the exact number of instances and the context in which profanities, nudity, sexual words and activities, disrespectful behavior, character, racial, religious and sexual slurs, alcohol abuse, illegal drug use, tobacco use, threatening behavior and violent actions will be encountered.

Current Attractions’ original research shows that while some of this season’s major releases bear the same game-industry rating, their actual content varies widely. The inconsistencies found among games with the same ESRB rating can be seen clearly in a side-by-side comparison of four games rated M:

Game Title Profanity Rating Sex Rating Violence Rating
Halo 2 Yellow (None) Red
GTA Red Yellow Red
Fable Yellow Green Red
Shellshock Red Green Red
“The fact is, parents don’t know the half of what is going on in these games,” said David G. Kinney, CEO of Veritasiti Corporation, the parent company of both PSVratings and Current Attractions.

“We take it for granted when the rating on the box tells us a game is rated for ‘Teens’ or for ‘Everyone,’” continued Kinney. “A lot of parents might be shocked by what some video game developer has decided is appropriate for their child. The PSVratings offered at Current Attractions make no value judgments about age-appropriateness. That is a parent’s job. We take objective, quantitative research and present it in a way parents can easily understand.”

In the volatile video game industry, Current Attractions aims to be a comprehensive resource for parents. The new service will include listings of the most popular video games, a traffic-light style PSVrating, pages dedicated to general information about each game, pages featuring in-depth information about each game and an entire section providing a Parental Guide to Video Games, including a glossary of terms for the uninitiated and links to articles on the effects of gaming on children.

About PSVratings

The PSVratings process is both extensive and objective. The system operates on proprietary, database-driven technology featuring in excess of 3,000 rules and more than ten million rule combinations. A Standards Board of educators, child psychologists and child psychiatrists, all of whom are parents, assign ratings to each of the rules of the system; thus creating the PSVratings Standard. Auditors are trained to record instances of Profanity, Sex and Violence in media. The data then goes through three independent stages of validation. Proprietary technology then analyzes the complete data and generates the PSVrating, which ensures objectivity and makes the system unique from the industry-based systems that generate ratings based upon the opinions of a subjective group of parents, critics or enthusiasts.

To learn more about the PSVratings system or for more specific information on these and other video games, please visit www.CurrentAttractions.com and sample the PSVratings and reviews with a complimentary 30-day pass.


Now, this sounds like a good idea... in principle.

But 1) If it's not on the packaging, I bet you dollars to donuts that the majority of the parents will never know about these ratings. Seriously, who else but insane Christian Fundamentalists log online to check the ratings on video games that you weren't gonna let your kid buy in the first place. Now, slap these colored ratings on a game case and then you might have something.

and 2) a "complimentary 30-day pass" generally means that once that's up, you have to pay for a subscription of some kind to view the latest ratings on the newer games. And I bet you some more donuts that even fewer people will do that.

Like I said, it's a good idea, in principle. And I really want a donut.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004
 

Review Archive
Posted by Shocker :: 11:59 PM

This post will basically be used as a reference for the reviews we've done. I've added a link to the sidebar for it, for new visitors who just want to read reviews. I've broken it down by console for your convenience.

Multiplatform Reviews:

X-Men Legends (XBox/PS2/Gamecube)
Def Jam Fight For New York (XBox/PS2/Gamecube)
Mortal Kombat: Deception (XBox/PS2)
ESPN NBA 2k5 (XBox/PS2/Gamecube)
The Bard's Tale (XBox/PS2)
Tony Hawk's Underground 2 (XBox/PS2/Gamecube)
Star Wars: Battlefront (XBox/PS2)

XBox Reviews:

Fable
Halo: Combat Evolved
Otogi 2: Immortal Warriors
Kingdom Under Fire: The Crusaders
Halo 2
Dead or Alive: Ultimate

Playstation 2 Reviews:

Street Fighter: Anniversary Collection
Smackdown vs. Raw
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Killzone
Katamari Damacy
Rumble Roses
Capcom Fighting Evolution
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

Gamecube Reviews:

WWE Day of Reckoning
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Donkey Konga

Gameboy Advance Reviews:

Mario vs. Donkey Kong
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga

Last updated: December 17, 2004



 

Review: Dead or Alive Ultimate (XBox)
Posted by Shocker :: 11:17 PM

Okay, so I rented DOA: Ultimate a few weeks ago, and ever since, I've tried to fob off the review of it to other people (Chris, Ariel). But they all balked, so let me pop this one out for you guys.

As a compilation, DOA Ultimate will basically be judged on completeness, but we can look at some gameplay aspects. DOA Ultimate is a massive two-disc compilation of the original Dead or Alive and Dead or Alive 2 Ultimate. As for DOA1, you'll most likely not be playing it much, but it is nice to see that the graphics have been updated a bit (though nowhere near DOA 2/3 levels). DOA1 can be played online, though the day I got it, November 9th, no one seemed particularly interested in playing it. If you've never played Dead or Alive 1, it's an interesting experience, but not so much that you'd be buying the entire package for it. The modes are not as fleshed out as in DOA2U, basically arcade, versus, training and live modes are the only ways to fly here. As far as the gameplay, it plays a whooole lot like "Tecmo sees Virtua Fighter 2 and really wants one of those too".

No, if you buy this, you're coming for DOA2 Ultimate, and that's where the majority of the beef to the package lies. DOA vets will be happy with the additions to DOA2. The graphics are on par with DOA3 (in fact, I'm 99% sure the same models are used), stages from DOA3 are here, including some new, very expansive and beautiful models, and Hitomi, Bayman and Tengu are unlockable characters here. In addition, each character sports tons of costumes, from Ayane and Kasumi who have nearly 20 each, to updated costumes for characters like Ryu Hayabusa (Star of the XBox hit Ninja Gaiden), whose NG costume is the default. The game is easily the most beautiful fighter on the market, from massively detailed characters to open-ended stages that have multiple paths to throw your opponent through.

The modes here are equally expansive. Story modes are pretty straightforward affairs for each character, but tag battles and survival mix it up a bit. Tag battle is sort of the middle between Tekken's Tag Tournament and SoulCalibur's Team Battles: there is some interaction between characters, who can be switched on-the-fly, but there is not a huge variety of team moves. The modes are rounded out with a solid training mode (where you can go through a test of each character's entire moveset - a nice touch), and a Watch mode, where you can watch two characters fight one another, with control over the camera.

If you're unfamiliar with DOA2/3, it's one of the best hand-to-hand 3D fighters (right up there with Tekken and Virtua Fighter). Its button layout is rather simple, punch and kick buttons, and a free button that acts as a counter if the timing is performed right. Combinations of these, and button presses in each direction yield a surprisingly intuitive fighter that is easy to jump into, but has a fair amount of depth once you're ready to sit down and try and learn it all. Series trademarks, beautiful women and environments combine to create likely the best looking games on their respective systems (Dreamcast and XBox especially).

Of course, the most anticipated feature here is the online play. The XBox finally gets its first full-3D online fighter (with the somewhat worthless exception of Mortal Kombat: Deception). Having played a few online fighters (Capcom vs. SNK 2 EO for instance), it's honestly a much different experience. The strict one-on-one nature tends to make the process of finding a fight a bit like ships colliding in the night. You can spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting for someone who can match your criteria to come along. DOA Ultimate, in perhaps it's biggest innovation, changes all of that. Now, the game plays like an arcade, with a lobby that up to 8 potential players gather in. While the two active players duke it out, you actually get to watch their fight on your screen, and can talk smack or listen to smack being talked over your XBox Live headset. Just like putting your quarter on the machine, as soon as the challenger or champion loses, you move up a slot, and once you play, you stay until you're defeated. It's an ingenious system that I would expect many other fighters (Especially 3D ones... Dare I hope for Online SoulCalibur 3?) to adopt.

So how does it all fit together? The offline modes are as solid as DOA3 ever was. If you don't have XBox Live, I wouldn't recommend a purchase, though. You can get all the features from DOAU from DOA3 (and unless you absolutely must have/play DOA 1, I don't think you do), without having to unlock Hitomi (who is one of my favorite fighters) and Bayman. The online play is solid, but there is generally lag coming through. Mostly it manifests in a bit of slowed down combat, which is less annoying than when it jumps from one point to another (which is quite rare). Rarer still, though, were games where I experienced no lag, and this is over the same connection through which Halo 2 runs flawlessly. On and offline play are helped by a complete lack of load times and solid gameplay that I'd recommend anyone to try. The only annoying bit is that in order to unlock each of the characters' costumes, you've got to beat the story mode for that character. Going through Story Mode 20 times just to unlock Kasumi's costume takes the luster off of the mode, though one could argue that it's intended to up the replay value of the game. In any case, scoring the compilation, I give DOA Ultimate





Monday, November 29, 2004
 

The Rundown: 29th November to 5th December
Posted by JayGo :: 4:43 AM

Welcome to a shortened The Rundown. Seriously. There's not much out at all this week, for some reason or another. In fact, let's cut straight to the one big title of the week...

Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PS2, Xbox, GC, PC) is the sequel to one of the big surprise hits of last year, and yet, manages to completely ignore the usual idea of not messing around with a winning formula. The setting is darker. The soundtrack is nu-metal. And the Prince now calls people 'bitch'. The whole thing now seems a lot more mass-market, and (dare I say it) aimed at the 'casual gamer'. But the question is, does it still manage to improve on the first game?

Well, I've played the demo, and it's a mixed bag. The combat system has been overhauled, and is much better as a result, and the camera system is unusually great for a game in this genre, but if anything.. well, it seems a bit Mortal Kombat-esque now. In terms of style at least. Long battle sequences with leather-clad women to what sounds like a Linkin Park album filler reject jar quite badly with what fans of the first game may expect. This isn't to say that it's a bad game, by any stretch of the imagination. Just that perhaps it could have been better.

Still, I've only played the demo thus far, and I'm sure Dan will be weighing in with his review some time in the next few weeks. So look out for that.

Outside of the new Prince of Persia, things are quite barren. Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 (PS2) has been delayed to this week, so anyone looking for more war-based action could try that, while Final Fantasy I & II: Dawn of Souls (GBA) brings the first two Final Fantasy games together for handheld gamers. You know, before they added the long FMV cutscenes everywhere.

Also out this week:

The creators of Dora The Explorer (GBA) may think that nobody has been observing the continuing delays to this eagerly awaited title. They are wrong. Don't worry folks, as soon as those slackers get around to unleashing Dora's special blend of platforming action onto the nation, I'll stop mentioning it every week. Until then, here's the rest of this week's new releases:
  • Playstation 2: Growlanser Generations, Kuon
  • XBox: American Chopper: The Game, GunGriffon: Allied Strike, World Championship Poker
  • Gamecube: Cabela's Big Game Hunter 2005 Adventures, Pinball Hall Of Fame
  • PC: Armies of Exigo, Bad Mojo (Redux), Blitzkrieg: Rolling Thunder, D-Day, ER, Fritz 8 Deluxe, Konung 2, Legacy: Dark Shadows, Painkiller: Battle Out Of Hell, Second Sight, X-Plane 8
  • Gameboy Advance: Dora The Explorer: Super Star Adventures, Metal Slug Advance
Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom:

The release schedule looks a bit more healthy in the UK this week, but it's made up entirely of titles I've already covered in this column before. So, in short: Prince of Persia: Warrior Within (PS2, Xbox, GC, PC) and Painkiller: Battle Out Of Hell (PC) will be arriving in both continents at the same time, while Call of Duty: Finest Hour (PS2, Xbox, GC), Blinx 2 (Xbox) and Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC) will all be out on British shores.

Oh, and there's Pro Evolution Soccer 4 arriving on the PC too, but I think I went on about that enough last week. So.. that concludes a shortened Rundown for this week. Don't worry, there's one final torrent of big names to arrive before Christmas yet, and I'll get a chance to talk about them in seven days time. So, see you then.



Sunday, November 28, 2004
 

Review: Rumble Roses (PS2)
Posted by Shocker :: 7:05 PM

We're all adults here, right? I mean, when DOA Xtreme Beach Volleyball came out, we all recognized it for the excellent volleyball simulation that it tried to be, right? And we all recognize the serious important contributions to the videogaming society that bobbing and weaving a rogue sperm cell through a minefield, a la Leisure Suit Larry, don't we? Hell, we can even enjoy the simple pleasures of a quiz-show turned mature adventure in The Guy Game, right?

Okay, those games sucked (Yes, DOA XBV sucked. It was an awful volleyball simulation. Yes it was), and they sucked because the primary emphasis was on T&A and not on the gameplay that passed for an excuse to see more tits. And while I like tits and I like video games, I really hate it when the former becomes an excuse not to make a decent game.

Honestly, that was my initial impression with Rumble Roses, an all-female wrestling game for the Playstation 2, published by Konami. In Rumble Roses, sexual innuendo is all over the place... Skimpy costumes, provocative moves, insultingly sexualized wrestling. Yet beyond all of that, if you can get into it, lies a pretty interesting and fun arcade-wrestling game.

As you guys know by now, we take a pretty close look at wrestling games, having originated from In This Very Ring.com, and so I waited with anticipation for Rumble Roses. My initial impressions were mostly negative. Match types were the most basic possible: one-on-one and mud matches. No tag team matches, no special matches (aside from one to be discussed) and no customization on the type of win (submission, pinfall, KO, etc). A staple of most modern wrestling games, the Create-A-Wrestler mode was also missing. Moreover, the focus here did not seem to be on the wrestling. Rather, the mud match style and a focus on "humiliation" moves (which usually involve putting your opponent in compromising positions) looked like they would overshadow any sense of core gameplay here.

The story, such as it is, unfolds as you play each character. Rumble Roses sports (off the top of my head) 10 initial characters to play with, with half the roster unlockable. The characters range from the justifiable (Wrestler Reiko and judo fighter Makoto) to the cheesy (Ninja Bloody Shadow) to the why-are-you-here (Schoolgirl Candy Cane, her teacher Miss Spencer, pop star Aisha). While some characters have pretty self-contained storylines (like Candy Cane), others' storylines wrap around the entire conspiracy and mystery surrounding the Rumble Roses tournament. The main villains here, a nurse/mad scientist Anesthesia and main-bad-girl Evil Rose, actually develop pretty well. You'll come to apprciate why Rose is the way she is, and, through her incessant meddling and smug attitude, you'll come to hate Anesthesia.

Graphically, the game looks like a Dreamcast holdover. A lot of anti-aliasing "issues", but some pretty sharp textures. Everything looks as good as it should look, but not necessarily superlative. Many people have drawn (valid) comparisons between a lot of these characters and Dead or Alive vixens. Music is j-pop, dialogue is predictably cheesy.

The gameplay here is very good, once you get into it. It took me a while to adjust from the more-sim-like Smackdown vs. Raw to a game like this. Moves are predictably over-the-top, though the game never gets into the realm of the impossible. You'll see stuff like Shining Wizards or Mr. Neibla's autosubmission here. Rumble Roses utilizes the fact that it's not tied to any specific real-life characters to open up what the girls are allowed to do. That said, it does take a lot from SD vs. Raw in its grapple scheme: left or right + grapple results in a standing grapple, up or down + grapple results in your character throwing her opponent to the ground to focus either on the opponent's head or legs, respectively. From there, each character has a pretty decent variety of moves. Submissions play a pretty big part here, too, but it is very straight forward. Once in a submission, the game tells you exactly how many button presses you need to get out of the move. As you do moves, you also do damage to specific parts of the body, helping your submission moves.

Collision detection, aside from a few moves, is excellent. Strikes that can have complicated results on successful hits only work if you hit directly at the opponent, although they can do a slight amount of damage should you hit (or miss) at an angle.

The major gameplay difference here is a humiliation factor. Simply put, you can gain an advantage over your opponent by exposing her to the audience. Why any of these characters would be embarassed to be put in, say, a small package is beyond me given what they wear to the ring, but once your opponent is in a humiliated state, and if you have a super move, you can pull of a humiliation move, which for each character is a very powerful submission maneuver. Humiliation is the only stipulation that you can set for a match. Joining the Humiliation move are killer and lethal moves, which act like regular special moves. Each wrestler has a killer move that can be pulled off in any position. But if you are in the proper place, it will turn into a lethal move (which are like extra-special moves).

Once you win with a character in story mode, you can play her alternate version in the story mode. Each character has an alternate mode; if the character is a heel, her alt will be a face and vice versa. In many cases, the alts are extremely different takes on the characters... Sullen Candy Cane turns cheerleader Becky, f'rinstance.

Alternate characters can be unlocked in the Exhibition Mode, as well. This is also very well-carried out. Each character is ranked either 50% face or 50% heel intially. Through what they call the Vows system, basically a lot like the challenges in SD vs. Raw, vowing to do good things before the match, like not using weapons or not attacking your opponent on the ground, increases your face percentage. Vowing to do bad things, like making sure you attack your opponent with a weapon, or not allowing them to damage you for the entire match, increases the heel percentage. Once you get 100% face or 100% heel, you can challenge for the title in the Title Mode. Once you win a title, you can defend it. Winning the title opens the character in the Gallery, defending it opens her beach gallery. Finally, changing the alignment of a particular girl opens her alternate version for the exhibition mode.

Overall, Rumble Roses is a very fun arcade game, with portions that can turn off any number of gamers. I get how someone would be unable to get past the humiliation aspect... It's annoying and borderline insulting, but luckily it does not become the major aspect of gameplay. Rumble Roses won't appeal to everyone, but if you're able to get into it, it's a solid example of an average game that is still very fun.





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