Batman: Arkham Asylum (PC, PS3, XBox 360)
By Brandon Grant
Batman: Arkham Asylum was released about a month ago at the amazing limited price of $38.83 in Canada. I don’t know exactly why it was priced so low, there was a rumour about an early Best Buy flyer with a pricing error and Walmart catching on to price match it by advertising it on Xbox Live. For whatever reason it was I think anyone who bought this game on Tuesday came out on the winning side of this deal and let me tell you why.
Obviously, this is not the first Batman game ever, but it might surprise you that it’s also not the first Batman game to include the voices from the amazing animated series from the 90s. I will go out on a big fat sturdy limb and say that this is the best Batman game ever. The team that made this game has an encyclopedic knowledge of the Batman universe and it is the perfect game to immerse yourself in that universe. The combat is deliciously satisfying, the bat gadgets are cool, the riddles are fun, and the story is great. Anything more is just going to be gushing but really I can’t think of a reason to dislike this game. However, you will hate this game if you own the last generation gaming system and you won’t ever be able to play this game. But really it isn’t the game that you hate, that’s your defense mechanism to avoid thinking of how little money you have. If that is you I’ve just made you hate this game even more but maybe it will encourage you to scrape 200 bucks together and join all us happy folk in the modern gaming world. Read the rest of this entry »
An open letter to Nintendo regarding their mistreatment of hardcore gamers
Dearest Nintendo and Wii,
I was very much looking forward to spending time with you when Fatal Frame IV comes out. I had it all planned: we would spend hours together in the evening and I would quiver with anticipation and horror as together we would fight scary Ju-on style ghosts. We would point the Wiimote at the screen and take pictures of our ghostly conquests and keep them as memories of our epic quest. It was going to be beautiful. I knew the controls would be shaky, as I literally tremble with fear when playing a Fatal Frame game, but I was more than ready to try my favourite series on the Wii.
I was literally crushed, vehemently angry, but sadly, not surprised when you said you would not be releasing Fatal Frame IV in Europe and North America. You made me, a hardcore gamer, feel alienated yet again and I’ve tried so hard to forgive you, but this is unforgivable. You’ve let every other crappy, half-assed game that gets made be published on you, but never ever something for hardcore gamers like me. I am beginning to finally believe that you really do loathe hardcore gamers.
Admittedly, you (the Wii) have not been my favourite console. Yes, I do enjoy playing with you with my non-gamer family and boyfriend, and doing my morning exercises. Other than that, really, I haven’t found a game for the Wii that’s swept me off my feet like Nintendo games did in the good old days. Don’t you remember the long exhilarating moments we spent together during Eternal Darkness, Chrono Trigger, and Resident Evil 4? Why can’t you make or even publish games like that anymore? I’m tired of being part of the Wii fit group. I want to go back to being a Nintendo gamer, when I was proud to say I solely owned and played Nintendo games. I have not been able to say that for years.
You no longer even try to satisfy me. You are forcing me into the loving embrace of an Xbox 360 and into the bed of my Blu-Ray-playing PS3. I am afraid I am going to have to break up with you – and after such a long love affair! We had the NES, SNES, and the Gamecube together. (I know – totally missed the N64. It was because I stupidly thought I should grow up and not play games anymore. I never said I was perfect, Nintendo.) Would couples’ counseling work? Are you willing to listen to me? Are you willing to consider my needs as a hardcore gamer? Can you give me that epic game that I desperately want and deserve? Can you give me a game that I’ll lose sleep over and constantly think about while I’m at work?
Or are you leaving me to hang with all the casual gamers? (Casual as in sex, not Fridays.) I understand that it means that you can be with more people, and we’ve always had an open relationship, but I really need you to make me remember why I fell in love with you in the first place. Dearest Nintendo Wii, I am waiting for the perfect E3 make-up game. Prove that you still love me for who I am, a hardcore gamer.
2008 was another big year for videogames, and like 2007, we had too many great games to even mention (which is why I am glad I had a bunch of new writers to help me play all of these games! Thank you!).
We played the creative, enduring open-ended platformer LittleBigPlanet; a new expansion for World of Warcraft; terrifying tactic dismemberment in Dead Space; witnessed the return of the iconic Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid 4;Wii Fit got us off our asses and attempted to convince us that exercise could be fun; we finally got to whip a lightsaber around in the Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed; once again we have annoying neighbours and digital friends while trying to having the most eccentric house in Animal Crossing City Folk; encountered Resistance 2 and Gears of War 2, and Bioshock for the PS3, and I could go on forever. Honestly, it was a busy gaming year, with something for everyone.
2009 is shaping up to be an equally exciting year, but sometimes, in order to move forward, it is good to look back. Afterall, some of these great games might be on sale!
And to help you sift through the pixels, I’ve decided to look back at my favourite MONDOvideogame articles in chronological order:
Huls made outstanding predictions for 2008. He only mis-stepped on the pushed-back and at-one-point-rumoured-to-be-cancelled Ghostbusters: The Videogame. Developers, please – I ain’t afraid of no ghosts!
Moran gave us an in-depth history of the overlooked Harvest Moon series, which — unbelievably – makes farming addictively fun. Nintendo seems to succeed in turning absurd, bizarre, and occasionally mundane ideas into great gaming. On top of that, probably the only time I’ll ever get to take a wife and the second time I’ll get a have a pet chicken is in playing this game. This time, Spotty the Rooster won’t go the slaughterhouse.
Baker’s scathing review of Qore magazine not only made me want check it out (in the same way I’ll see a bad movie to see if it’s actually terrible, or taste a friend’s meal to see if it’s turned), but also forced Sony representatives to come out of the woodwork and respond.
Wisteard reviewed the Wii version of The Force Unleashed and proved that, yes, waving a lightsaber around is a dream come true, but is also very tiring and often ridiculous. Yes, it was something of a disappointment, but still got all of us back in touch with our inner Star Wars nerd.
(Perhaps it is bad form to include myself, but it was a joy to write this article.) I wrote about what to do when your MMO is down and how to get yourself back into RL (real life). Afterall, I’m sure I’m not the only person addicted to MMOs, and while writing it, I actually did have an intervention…
There’s nothing that annoys me more than when I can’t play my MMO. I love World of Warcraft and why should anything get in the way of playing it? I’m worse than a smoker jonesing for their next cigarette break, and twice as antsy.Doesn’t Blizz know that I have dailies to do, discoveries to make, and minor inscription research to partake in? Tuesdays are the typical server-down days and I can handle that. Tuesdays are my day to get work done without thinking about WoW. However, it’s when the server is down for extended maintenance that I need to find things to do with my newly acquired time. I’m sure all you MMO players know what I am talking about what do you do when you can’t play? First of all, breathe; it’s going to be okay, the real world doesn’t have to be boring. Here are my suggestions on how to fill your time when your MMO is down.
Watch television. Honestly, I really don’t watch much TV anymore. Which often leads me to watch any channel that has 24 hour news coverage. Avoid G4tech TV or any other gaming show, it will remind you of the MMO you are currently not playing.
Do your real life dailies. Shop for groceries, pick up that something from the convenience store, tidy up or clean out the fridge (it really could use it). Think of the change you’ll find while cleaning up as your quest reward. Killing random animals on the street will not result yield accessories or rupies, though. Just a heads up.
Play other videogames. You probably should finish one of those Final Fantasy-type games that you haven’t bothered with in months, or any other game you ditched when your started playing your precious MMO.
Read a book. Chances are, you can find one about the MMO you play. Even read something entirely unrelated to gaming. Some books are even about real life. But really why would you want to read anything that doesn’t a) help you get better at playing, or b) give you a profound and detailed understanding of the mythology of your MMO?
Go out with a friend. If you are lucky, one of your Real Life friends plays the same MMO as you, and together you can reminisce about all the raiding and questing you aren’t currently partaking in. If you are unlucky, and your real life friends don’t play an MMO, then you might have to talk about one of your other hobbies, whatever that may be. If you think your friend would be interested in your MMO, attempt to get them interested in playing by introducing them to the free trial.
Check out special events at your local arena or fairground. I’ve filled server down time with Gem and Mineral shows and library book sales. It takes the edge off and you get to see this outside world people keep telling you about. It’s satisfying to see real copper ore when you’ve virtually mined it.
Visit your local museums or art galleries. Some of these institutions will let you in for free (or a donation) and there’s nothing better than a free event. Also, art galleries do have occasional Thursday and weekend opening receptions with free food. In every respect, you win: you get to see something interesting and possibly get a free snack. Besides, you might see some cool armour or weapons similar to the ones your character uses. Overall, you’ll feel enriched.
If you have a significant other, spend time with them. Chances are you’ve neglected them and they need some form of intimacy, sexual or otherwise. This time spent with them will make them happier and complain less about the time you spent with your MMO. Tell them to bank up on these hours now, because they will be lean in the coming weeks and years. Hopefully, they’ll stop referring to themselves as an MMO widow(er) at gatherings for a short period of time.
Play another MMO. Both MMOs couldn’t be down at the same time, so this way you’ll have an option to fill your time. However, this may result in never seeing the outside world, or loss of real life friends. Also avoid getting your MMOs mixed up. You don’t want to be talking about how awesome it is being a barbarian when you’re actually a dark elf — talk about embarrassing.
Go Outside. Many of these other suggestions involved going outside, but can you remember the last time looked the real world sky? It has no bit-mapping issues and the frame rate on the sky is always steady. It’s time for that much needed walk or visit to the park. You’ll be working towards your achievement of “real world explorer” and moving away from “real life shut in.”
Troll your guild forum. Chances are, your other members are just as bored as you are, and now you have someone to send messages to and create weird forum topics with. You’d be surprised at how many pictures of dogs in costumes exist, and it will fill your time in a humorous manner.
Get on vent. You’d be surprised at how many of your fellow guildees retreat to Ventrilo (an internet phone programme) when the server is down. You can all complain about the server together and talk about all those weird posts your started in the forums.
Eventually, the crisis will end and you will get back on your MMO without having any sort of breakdown, causing your friends or significant other to stage an intervention. If a breakdown resulting in an intervention occurs, maybe you really were spending too much time with your MMO. In that case, take this list of things to do and use it to re-engage with the real world.
Another year, another DS. Recently Nintendo announced the DSi, and while it looks like a simple update, further investigation reveals the direction Nintendo is going to take in terms of its future as a software and console manufacturer. A first look gives nothing more than increased size for the screens, two cameras, removal of the GBA slot, and a smaller size. Yet there is much more to the DSi than meets the eye (and sadly no, it isn’t a Transformer):
1) Two cameras: The DSi will have two cameras added — one where the microphone used to be and the other one outside in the upper right corner. Nintendo has already confirmed that these are not state-of-the-art cameras, the best one having a 3.0 mp resolution. Additionally, new DS software has been developed to allow users to modify the pictures they’ve taken. The inside camera is capable of recording low resolution video. While no games have been announced yet, the DSi is on the path of becoming a portable webcam.
2) Revised interface: The new DS interface is designed around the Wii’s interface. The menu and navigation system developed to closely resemble its Wii counterpart. While it seems like a purely aesthetic change, looking beyond this shows that games for the DSi will begin to feature increased connectivity with the Wii system, and possibly the development of partner games for each system. Letting you take your Wiis into the new Final Fantasy is a step in this direction. Yet it remains to be seen what Nintendo is planning for their big franchises. I dream about a Zelda adventure that spans worlds on both the DSi and the Wii. Or what about a portable Smash Bros? The options are endless.
3) Larger Screens: Instead of the 3′ screens the DS Lite currently has the DSi will have 3.25′ screens. It doesn’t seem like much, but considering they have an increased brightness setting, Nintendo is probably expecting you to do more than play video games. The best answer is that they are intended for video watching and internet navigation. It now is up to Nintendo to determine what are the formats the DS can play, and if they are planning to create their own video store like Microsoft, Sony, or Apple.
4) Internet Connectivity: Nintendo has confirmed that using your DSi you will be able to login into the Internet from anywhere in the world. Speculation abounds as to whether the DSi will use a different format than the DS Lite uses to connect to the Internet, as this would determine the speed of the connection. Additionally, the quality of online game modes for the DS would be improved with the faster internet. Some of the functionalities that the DSi opens up are interactive maps, instant messaging, flash, streaming videos. It is all up to Nintendo to see what they allow and how (Remember they invented Friend Codes).
5) Internal Memory Increase: With a bigger memory comes increased processing speeds. This means better graphics, improved AI routines, and an overall increase the quality of the games for the DSi. Although it has to be made clear that Nintendo hasn’t taken the time to put in a dedicated 3D graphics chip, more memory means an improvement in all areas. An increase in memory also means that the DSi will be able to play videos in multiple formats, surf the internet faster, emulate other Nintendo systems like SNES or GBA better than the DS does now, and in general offer a better multimedia experience.
6) SD Card slot: It initially came as great news to everyone in the Homebrew community, a supported SD card would allow for better integration with Homebrew software. Yet Nintendo quickly crashed those dreams when they announced that they are developing a new interface for the DSi, which can only mean increased security measures. For the moment, the main function of the SD card will be to hold music and pictures, but can be logically thought to evolve into a small hard-drive for the DSi where users can carry downloadable games whether from the VC library or a DS/Wiiware store.
7) DSi specific games: No word has come out yet as to what we can expect. It has been made clear that games developed for the DSi won’t be playable in the DS, which points to the speculation of these DSi games having better graphics, use more memory, and even make use of the new DSi features. The only hopes gamers have is that the new games don’t turn the camera into a gimmick. (Nintendo’s Wii is the master of gimmicky games)
8) No GBA slot: The decision to remove the GBA Slot shouldn’t come as a big surprise. Nintendo wants to expand the catalogue of games in its Virtual Console, and this is a great way to do it. It won’t be long after the DSi is released when games like Golden Sun or Oracle of Ages begin to appear. Additionally, with users being able to connect to the Internet through a better connection, purchasing games on the go will be a great thing.
9) Region-lock: Soon after the announcement of the DSi everyone in the Internet was already trying to find a way to import one. That is when Nintendo announced the DSi will be region locked, which is a first for the DS and GBA line of Nintendo products. Software developed for one region will not play in another DSi. It is clear there is more to it than making games from one region unplayable in another: locking is probably a result of Nintendo trying to stop piracy. Is this the best way to do it? I don’t think so. We will have to wait and see as to what the Homebrew community creates.
Nintendo has one clear purpose with this new iteration of the DS, which is to put a DSi on the hands of every person in Japan (and later conquer the world). Will the cuts and modifications be appreciated everywhere? Will they even have enough strength to carry users from the DS to the DSi? Will the DSi be the new portable gaming device or will it just become another SKU update (like Sony’s different PSP iterations)? These questions will have to wait until later this year to be answered.
LEGO Batman: The Video Game
Developed by Traveller’s Tales
Published by Warner Bros. Interactive
By Santiago Melo
Since 2005’s appearance of the first LEGO Star Wars game – one of the best games in the Star Wars series – Traveller’s Tales (TT) has graced us with LEGO in every conceivable platform. Since then, players have been collecting studs, obtaining canisters, and unlocking secret characters (LEGO Star War’s Darth Maul rocked my face off) for the sheer LEGO pleasure they bring. This year saw the release of LEGO Indiana Jones: though not the best TT LEGO game, it was still better than Indiana Jones 4, with LEGO Indy cracking that whip against Nazis in brown uniforms (with none of the typical Nazi icons), and breaking them into little LEGO pieces. Now with LEGO Batman you will find a LEGO Alfred (don’t you ever forget about the Butler), LEGO Arkham Asylum, LEGO goons, and the classic TT humor that makes every one of their games so enjoyable.
This review is based on the Nintendo DS version, but you can expect the gameplay to be similar across all platforms, with the graphics and sound being the main update to the game. The storyline is fleshed out from the mythology of the Batman movies, cartoons, comics, toylines, and games. LEGO Batman has a robust cast of characters, fanboy details aplenty, and one of the best uses of an electric buzzer in video games. The number of playable characters is vast, ranging from Clayface to Catwoman (sadly or luckily, not the Halle Barry version) to Harvey Dent, with Batman and Robin using different costumes in accordance with the occasion.
The game is divided into two storylines: One where you do hero missions and get to play as Batman and Robin, and another where you play the same mission from the villains’ perspective. For example, in the first mission as Batman, you have to stop Clayface from stealing a very important key. Then you get your chance to break in and steal the key as The Riddler, Two-Face, and Clayface. Instead of saving the day, it is nice to experience the other side of Two-Face’s coin and thwart Batman.
Like previous LEGO games, freeplay time comes once you finish the main two story lines. In freeplay, you can unlock the majority of the collectibles and secrets you didn’t get while completing the storyline. All in all, don’t expect to finish this game in one or two sittings.
While LEGO Batman doesn’t really advance the established TT formula, players who have already gone through previous TT games will enjoy it, with new players quickly grasping the basic mechanics. But this lack of advancement means that camera issues leading to annoying falls haven’t been solved, texture and polygon clipping problems remain, and some repetitiveness in the mission structure persists. Still, despite its flaws, (which we can only hope will be addressed in future LEGO games) it feels like a labour of love.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Developed by Krome Studios
Published by Lucasarts
By James Wisteard
It is a truth universally acknowledged that ever since Nintendo introduced the motion-based console to the Wii, one of the growing feelings at the back of peoples’ minds has been that it would be pretty damn cool system to play a Star Wars game on. Now, after two years, we finally have the chance to wave around our dream (mock-)lightsabers and slice everything that isn’t made of air into two. Was it worth the wait? Yes, actually, it was.
First of all, let’s go over the controls. I hesitate to use the word “control” because I think “waggle fest” might be slightly more appropriate; this game easily takes the reward for being the Wii’s most motion-intensive game yet. To swing your lightsaber up, down, left or right, you swing the Wii-mote in the corresponding direction. To use a force push, you thrust the nunchuck toward the screen. To block incoming blaster shots, you hold the Wii-mote up and sideways. In boss battle “quick time” events, you tilt the Wii-mote or nunchuck at indicated angles. Picture yourself in a room with a dozen storm troopers, and you’d better make sure you have a clear area around you. Maybe attach some wrist weights too — you’d have a work out that Wii-fit will never match.
Despite sometimes feeling hectic, your character is always able to do what you want him to, which is rather impressive. I very rarely missed a jump, found myself swinging at nothing (at least in terms of my character on screen), or messing up one of the quick time events. As in most 3-D platform games, the occasional camera issue pops up, but in this game it is easily fixed by pressing down on the D-pad.
The game begins to feel highly repetitive towards the end; no enemies call for specific strategies or powers — you just run up and slice at everything. Shoot lightening here. Force push there. You’ll quickly fall into a pattern that you’ll stick with for the rest of the game, even in boss fights. This is the game’s greatest fault. Although you can upgrade your lightsaber and force powers and discover new combos on your journey, nothing really feels fresh after the first few levels.
Besides this, the graphics are definitely below expectations. I know the Wii doesn’t have the power of its next gen competitors, but the images featured here on The Force Unleashed are unfortunately identical with the PS2 version of the game. Even from that lowered standard, the graphics are often sub-par; not embarrassing, just disappointing. The Wii is easily capable of much more than this, but for some reason only Nintendo knows how to pull off good-looking games right now.
On the other hand, the music and sound effects here are just as incredible as on any other Lucasarts project. The soundtrack is full of swelling strings and familiar songs, while the sounds are pulled directly from the movies. Even the little speaker on the Wii-mote hums as you move it around, which was a great touch.
For the majority of the game, you play as Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice, code-named ”Star Killer”. Vader starts you off on errands around the galaxy to various planets, locations, and temples, so you can execute renegade Jedis and bring back their lightsaber hilt as proof of their death. The story quickly becomes more complicated through double- and triple-crosses, lies and deception, failure and redemption. Later on in the game, you come to realize that your actions have had a very direct impact on the formation of the Rebel Alliance. It’s worth playing The Force Unleashed just to watch this unexplored chapter come together from such a unique viewpoint.
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed definitely has its fair share of weakness and missed potential, but I still highly recommend it for anyone interested in anything to do with the Star Wars cannon. For anyone else, the journey may only be worth the length of rental.
Rock Band – Track Pack Volume 1
Harmonix, Electronic Arts, MTV Games
Release date: Out now
By Curtis Amisich
Last year Harmonix’s Rock Band amazed Xbox and Playstation owners with its multiplayer, replay factor, and yes, even its karaoke. This year, Wii owners finally got their chance to have the requisite rock band party.
Rock Band for the Wii was basically a carbon copy of the PS2 version but with a few extras. One of the extras is “5 exclusive Wii tracks.” Since Rock Band’s Wii release those “Wii exclusives” have shown up as downloadable content for the Xbox 360. False advertising it might have been, but this writer thinks it’s a good thing that Xbox owners can jam along with Sting and rest of The Police to “Roxanne.”
The Wii does not have a large hard disk, however, so downloadable content is extremely limited. As such, Harmonix has just released the first volume of its Track Pack. Included is a disk, which can only be played as an entirely separate game from the original Rock Band, which makes it a real pain in the ass if you feel so inclined to play songs from both versions. My second gripe with the game was the price: $29.99 at EBGames for only 20 songs seemed way overpriced. However, once I compared the price to that of a 24 case of Labatt and the hours of enjoyment my three friends and I would get out of it, it became much more reasonable. The “band tour” took only a couple of hours to get through (it is the exact same format as in the original game, just shorter), but it was some of the most memorable and memory-jogging times I have had playing one of these musically based games. The song list was excellent for what, at first glance, seemed be a random selection. The song selection is great if you, like me, were a child of the late ’80s and ’90s. The list is a veritable buffet of old school rock tunes, familiar grunge, and some new school emo that I would have never otherwise been exposed to.
Perhaps more Track Packs directed at specific audiences would be appropriate in the future and would be able to please the hardcore audiophiles who enjoy the game, but for the average Rock Band groupie Track Pack Volume 1’s smorgasbord hits all the right spots.
You see what they did there with the letters. Pretty clever, Playstation Network
By Miles Baker
When Masthead magazine, the magazine about Canadian magazines, reviews a new publication they always base it on at least three issues. So, I figure, if it’s good enough for Masthead, it’s good enough for me.
Introduced in June 2008, Qore is a download-only, Playstation Network-only magazine about all things Playstation. It features HD video; interviews with developers about upcoming PS3 and PSP games; and a downloads section where you can get exclusive game demos, wallpapers, and beta trials. This would all be great if it wasn’t a pack of lies.
There is HD video, but it is so compressed that often backgrounds are so pixelated that it looks like they are filming inside a building made of Lego. There are interviews, but they feature puff questions like, “So how much are gamers going to wet themselves when they play this?” and the developer says, “They’re going to need buckets.” You can download some “exclusive” demos and beta trials, but all the beta offers are bogus in that you can’t download them yet. You can sometime in the future, I guess, but not when that issue comes out.
Speaking of downloading, what a pain in the ass. As the file is between 1.3 and 1.8 gigabytes, it takes a few hours to download. I’m not sure why the file is so big; there’s only about 30 minutes of video content in each issue, which makes the “time to get” versus the “amount of time enjoyed” ratio extremely small.
There are also some serious problems with editorial/advertising splits. In print magazines, if you have an article about an advertiser, you try to put that article far away from their ad so it doesn’t look like it was bought by the advertiser. Qore, however, is uninterested in this. In the most recent issue, between interviews about the latest off-road racing game, I was treated to an ad for that exact same off-road racing game. It just reeks of bought content so I stopped watching the rest of the feature.
To be fair, there are signs that Qore will get better. For one, the pixie-cute host is getting better and has begun to ask questions that aren’t soft. It really was the perfect casting on Sony’s part; Veronica Belmont is perfectly girl next door — pretty, but not too pretty. And she knows her stuff and seems genuinely enthusiastic about some of the titles she profiles, which is good.
One thing, and maybe call me crazy, is I think this magazine could benefit from writing. As in, I’d actually like to read parts of Qore. For example, I think it would be cool if there was a feature about how a game is shaping up, with some video of that game used to illustrate the point of the article. There are tons of examples of this online, and I think it would also work here. This would also solve that slim-30-minute-watching-time-for-such-a-large-file problem I was talking about because text is smaller than video. It might also help me feel like I didn’t just swallow a heaping bowl of self promotion.
Newspapers and magazines are looking hard at the future of their mediums. They’ve reacted to the internet by offering video, adding comments, and whatever Web 2.0 they can wrap their heads around. I’ve even heard that some major newspapers are sending their reporters out with video cameras so they can have more video content online. But mostly, they have a keen eye on digital distribution because it’s ever so cheap. Qore presents the model that magazines have feared for so long, but Qore is nothing be be feared. It’s nothing to be bought.
There is a lot of convention here, but not videogame convention.
Nintendo’s strength has never lain in conventional videogames. Golden Eye 64 aside, they’ve rarely pulled off an amazing first-person shooter, and their racing games usually peak at the industry’s standard of “average.” The only reason Nintendo’s made it this far is because of their ability to pull off the odd, strange, and downright absurd. Think about it: the system’s name is built on a plumber fighting a dinosaur. One of my favourite game series follows this plot: You’re grandfather dies, and leaves you his run down farm. You’re job is to restore the farm, get married, and have children; essentially, the goal is to have a pleasant life. Seriously.
If you’ve never played Harvest Moon before, right now you’re probably thinking that’s the most boring idea for a videogame ever. Its huge worldwide fan base would beg to differ. Believe or not, the Harvest Moon series, so far, has 14 installations for Nintendo and two for Playstation. The 17th game in the series, Tree of Tranquility, will be released next month for the Wii. Two more incarnations, Rune Factory: Frontier and Exciting Animal March*, are expected to be released in 2009. The games sell so consistently well that they’ll likely keep making them for years to come.
The original Harvest Moon was released for the SNES in Japan and North America in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Unlike other RPGs at the time, it had zero combat involved and focused more on character interaction and other choice aspects of RPG. When the game was re-released as downloadable content, it was met with much praise by old and new fans alike.
Harvest Moon 64 followed up the original game’s story line in 1999. The game was highly successful, with popular video game website IGN.com rating it an 8.2/10 and calling it “addictive.” Harvest Moon 64 existed in the same world as the original but about 50 or so years later, and the technology of the world had barely advanced at all. Some of the original characters even made appearances. One of the bachelorettes, Ellen from the SNES game, appears as an elderly woman living at the town bakery. The SNES bachelorette Maria seems to have passed away; however, her granddaughter is not only her spitting image, but she has the exact same personality and name. The raw charm and appeal of this series is so great that the plot is barely altered from game to game. The legions of die-hard Harvest Moon fans never seem to complain and in fact seem to delight in old plot points and characters returning. The entire franchise of this game thrives on its tradition, rather than continuing the story arc or adding features to lengthen the game. Not that they’d need to. The average day in the game takes around five minutes to play through. And the only way to beat the game is to play for an allotted amount of time, usually two-and-a-half four month years, or 270 days. Multiply by those five minutes and you have 1350 minutes of gameplay. When you reach the end, forgetting to take care of any one minor detail leads to a less than perfect ending, and in the case of Harvest Moon 64, it causes your father to publicly shame you.
You have to love Nintendo.
HARVEST MOON: TREE OF TRANQUILITY will be released August 28th.
*Exciting Animal March is a loose translation of the Japanese title, WAKU WAKU ANIMARU MAACHI. Obviously something is lost in translation and the title will no doubt be changed to something else for its North American release.
E3 2008 was exciting for all gamers this year, and once again it was closed to the public and focused on press conferences rather than spectacle. However, I was a little disappointed with E3 this year; it seemed as though many of the games covered were ones I already knew were coming out (e.g Little Big Planet, Final Fantasy XIII, Far Cry II, Rock Band 2, Too Human, Mirror’s Edge, Mercenaries 2, Ghostbusters, Lego Batman, etc.). That was the one problems of having E3 in July instead of May, there were not too many surprises since many of these game will be out in September or December.
The biggest surprise for me was the announcement of Beyond Good and Evil 2. The original was released in 2003 to exceptional reviews, but very few people actually bought it, which was a shame because it was awesome. I am glad to hear that Ubisoft are continuing the game, as it was planned to be a trilogy.
I highly recommend playing the original and it’s usually in the bargain bin for $9.99. I was very disappointed to not hear anything about any of the new Kingdom Hearts titles, since one of them should be coming out in late 2008 or early 2009. Despite my complaints, there are many games for all of us to look forward to.
I’ve decided to cover a few of the games and peripherals that were discussed at the Expo; don’t worry, there’s something for everyone. One good thing this year was the focus on demos rather than on trailers. This meant that we got to see actual game play rather than cinematics.
Nintendo announced that they would have two new peripherals coming out, Wiispeak and Wii MotionPlus. WiiSpeak is a small microphone to sit on top of your TV so everyone in the room can converse with other players in their home. Wii MotionPlus is an addition to the Wiimote to make it more motion-sensitive. What got me the most excited about Nintendo’s press conference was the announcement of Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Wii. It’s a return to Animal Crossing on a console and it excited me because holidays like Hallowe’en are making a comeback. I was disheartened when Animal Crossing: Wild World for the Nintendo DS sterilized all the holidays from the game. This time around, you can visit the city and even fashionista Gracie’s store.
Rock Band 2 was further elaborated on, including the release of new instruments like drums that have more bounce but less noise, and guitars that hide the coloured buttons — so they look more like guitars than toys. Your old instruments will still work, as will all of your downloaded songs.
Resident Evil 5 had its own presentation and yes, it still looks very good, but they of course avoided talking about its surrounding controversy. For those who don’t know, RE5 is set in Africa and involves two white protagonists killing primarily black zombies. Arguments for both sides have been made, but I will not make a judgment call until I’ve played it. Often controversy strikes out of ignorance, and maybe (I hope) RE5 has resolved its controversy. We really won’t know until we’ve played it, but I do think its fair for people to protest when they believe an injustice is occurring, and I am disappointed with Capcom for not taking the time to address this issue.
LucasArts announced that the next Knights of the Old Republic game would be an MMO. This makes a lot of sense since there seemed to be a lot of fans of KOTOR, and not as many of Lucasarts’ current MMO, Star Wars Galaxies.
As Miles mentioned earlier this week, Final Fantasy XIII would not be a PS3 exclusive but for both the Xbox 360 and PS3. That is a shot to Sony, as I am sure they would have sold a few consoles with that title.
Sony announced the downloadable Flower for their PSN. I’ve seen video and read descriptions, but I am still not entirely sure what you do. It’s apparently very relaxing and similar to Flow. This is one I think I will have to play in order to understand, but I like the idea of a videogame that relaxes me. It looks and sounds relaxing.
EA is working on their first Horror game, Dead Space. It looks like a combination of Sunshine (or Event Horizon) and disgusting, deformed, mutant flesh bags. The game practices strategic dismemberment, meaning that a shot to the head isn’t going to kill these creatures — you will having remove each limb to destroy them. The premise of the game follows a crew member trying to survive after all of the other crew have been turned into horrible, deformed monsters.
Although Bungie’s statement was at the last minute dropped from the Microsoft press conference, it was confirmed later in the week that they are working on a Halo title, despite their current difficulties with Microsoft.
Ubisoft will be releasing a voice recognition real-time strategy war game called Tom Clancy’s EndWarforXbox 360, PS3 and PC. It apparently has a 95% chance of understanding what you say, but voice recognition always makes me worry.
That’s just a few of the titles that were talked about at E3, and I hope all of us have something to look forward to in the coming months.
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots (PS3)
Developed by Kojima Productions
Published by Konami
By Miles Baker
You can’t tell right now, but the theme to Metal Gear Solid is playing in my head and I’m tearing up.
It’s so fucking beautiful.
If you’ve been around the site long enough, you’ll know that I love MGS series. I like everything about it: I like the cinematic quality of the games, I like the ridiculous character names, I love the postmodern conspiracy/philosophy theories and I love sneaking. This game has everything I love about the series and then turns it to MEGA ULTRA METAL GEAR.
If you hate the series, you will find plenty to hate on. If you love it, like I do, it will make you happier than anything ever could. If you’re in the middle, or are one of those who have a Playstation 3 and have never played a Metal Gear Solid game, and are wondering if this game is worth buying for the hype? It is.
First of all, I think MGS4 is probably the best-looking console title, maybe even videogame, ever. There are short periods of time while watching this game where you will forget that you are watching computer-generated people. The skin textures, the animations, the weight of the people — every detail is fanatically rendered and makes you wonder how much better graphics can get. Same goes for the environments; it’s a game that will make you happy that you own a PS3.
Second, the gameplay is fun and very exciting, for the most part. Apart from a low-key mission where you follow a secret agent back to his base, each level is really intense with Snake essentially trying to sneak through active war zones. Bullets fly overhead while soldiers fall dead to the ground, and grenades go off next to you. All the while, you try to go unnoticed by either side. Like all the other games in the series, you are rewarded for sneaking through levels, rather than blasting your way through them. Though, to be fair, there are a lot of new gameplay mechanics in MGS4 that make it a lot easier to run through the zones, by blasting your enemies, rather then sneaking around them.
However, there isn’t a lot of gameplay. Metal Gear is a game you literally watch for as much time as you play. My calculations took me to 9.5 hours of gameplay, including continues, and 8 hours of watching cinematics. The story is convoluted and talks more about nano-machines than do advanced courses in nano-technology. Exposition flows thicker than the blood of your enemies. And the hero has a bit of a mullet. At least his mustache is a non-ironic one though.
This game is a masterpiece. Not everyone is going to like it, but there it is — it’s one of the most ambitious, pretty, political, and postmodern action games you’ll ever play/watch. It’s a carefully crafted and interesting game that I will replay a few times.
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