I was fortunate enough to have the great folks at GamesRadar ask me to write their Front Mission Evolved review. So I did. This is it: Right here.
Archives For September 2010
As I type, it’s 1:00am Central Time, and Nintendo is hosting a conference in Japan. The main topic of discussion: The 3DS.
Most of us were impressed with the device’s showing at E3, but now I’m even more excited for the handheld. Some bulletpoint announcements:
- February 26, 2011 launch for Japan, March 2011 for North America and Europe.
- Launching for 25,000 yen, which is around $300 USD, but no US price has been announced (I wouldn’t be surprised if it was closer to $250).
- 3DS Virtual Console, FINALLY bringing us Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games in a downloadable format.
- Tag Mode, a popular feature of many DS games, is now purely hardware based. What this means is that you do NOT have to have a game in sleep mode in order to exchange data with other users. Simple have your DS on – asleep or awake, it sounds like – and you can collect data from a variety of games and a variety of users. HUGE improvement over the old system.
- This tag mode can be used to exchange leaderboard info, download ghost data, etc.
- Nintendo is experimenting with providing 3D TV on the device, at least in Japan.
- This is old news, but a ton of big hitting companies are behind the device, such as Square Enix, Konami, Capcom, Level-5, Kojima Productions, and more.
- Resident Evil The Mercenaries 3D was announced. Apparently different than “Revelations,” which was announced at E3.
- Launch colors (in Japan at least) are Aqua Blue and Cosmos Black.
- Tetsuya Nomura (Square-Enix, of the Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy fame) re-iterates that they want to release a number of 3DS titles, starting with Kingdom Hearts.
- Kotaku stumbled on a random (but really large) list of upcoming 3DS games online. To quote them, these games are: Samurai Warriors Chronicle, Resident Evil Revelations, Super Street Fighter IV, Dynasty Warriors Musou, Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive, Kingdom Hearts 3D, Chocobo Racing 3D, Super Black Bass 3D, Super Monkey Ball, Sonic, Licca-chan 3DS, Animal Crossing, Kid Icarus: Uprising, StarFox 64 3D, Steel Diver, nintendogs + cats, Mario Kart, Pilot Wings Resort, Paper Mario, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Marble Mania, Deca Sporta, Bomberman, Gundam, Super Robot, Dragonball, Pac-Man & Galaga, Ridge Racer, Harvest Moon, Professor Layton and the Mask of the Miracle, Crash-City GP, VS-robo, Class of Heroes 3D x 3D, Combat of Giants Dinosaur 3D, Ghost Recon Tactics, Splinter Cell 3D, and Driver 3D.
- Somehow lost in the shuffle: Capcom is making Mega Man Legends 3 for the 3DS. This is pretty huge news for a lot of people.
So… What do you guys think?
The price may be a tad bit high, and I’m bummed that I have to wait until March, but this thing seems AWESOME. I’m particularly excited about the Virtual Console announcement (fans have been clamoring for that for awhile), and this new tag mode actually sounds extremely fun and useful, unlike its inclusion in some of my favorite DS games.
So yeah, I’m extremely excited. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these.
Professor Layton is a very different kind of badass.
He’s the ultimate gentleman; a top hat wearing, suit strutting London man who always manages to stay polite and is willing to roll with whatever crazy curveballs life decides to throw at him. He spends his free time solving puzzles and riddles, often drinking tea along the way.
But if need-be, he can assemble a gun out of broken slot machine parts that fires coins at a high velocity so he and his friends can escape a casino full of gangsters.
Don’t get your hopes up if you’re an action gamer – you won’t find any shooting segments in this puzzle game. But it’s the characters and setting of “Professor Layton and the Unwound Future” that help make it so darn lovable.
I’ve talked about the “Professor Layton” series in the past. The previous two games (which, like “Unwound Future,” are on the Nintendo DS) provided some brilliant, brain-teasing gameplay blended with some great mystery stories. This third game is no exception, and is probably the best “Layton” title yet.
For those new to the series, don’t worry. While there are plenty of familiar faces and a few references to past adventures, “Unwound Future” is a stand-alone title, and you don’t need prior experience with the series to enjoy it.
The game opens when the titular professor and his self-proclaimed apprentice, Luke, receive a letter from someone claiming to be Luke from 10 years in the future. From there, Layton springboards into an adventure that spans two very different times in two very different Londons. The future, it turns out, is kind of crazy.
The premise may be out there, but the narrative is interesting and very well done. Helped along by some terrific voice acting as well as a few beautifully animated FMV sequences, the game tells a very charming tale that you’ll probably want to see through to the end.
The gameplay is unchanged from previous titles, but very refined. As before, you explore various locations over the course of the story, and there are literally puzzles around every corner. Sometimes a local townsperson you speak to will pose a riddle to, or sometimes a situation in the environment will prompt a brainteaser. You might have to solve a puzzle to open a lock or get directions to your next destination. You can think of the entire rest of the game as fluff between the puzzles – as if your book of Sudoku puzzles had an involved story stuffed between the numbered grids.
If a puzzle seems to tricky for you (and trust me, there are some pretty tough ones in here), you can get help from a slightly revamped, much improved hint system.
When exploring the environment, you can find tons of hidden hint coins. If you’re stuck on a puzzle, you can use a hint coin to nudge you in the right direction. You can do this three times for increasingly helpful hints, and if you’re still stuck after that you can spend two final coins and have the game give you a hint that will likely make the solution obvious. This is a good system to avoid the frustration many players might have.
Often, the way these puzzles will be presented to you in pretty contrived. For example, at one point you need to visit someone in a hospital, but you have to “fill out paperwork” first. As it turns out, the only question on this paperwork is a riddle that involves a nurse making her rounds. But these situations tend to be more charming than anything, and don’t get in the way of your enjoyment at all.
The variety of puzzles is also fantastic, which is good considering there are over 150 of them to solve, not including free downloadable puzzles that will come in the future.
If you need a break from brainteasers, there are a few mini-games you can mess around with for a change of pace.
When it comes right down to it, “Professor Layton and the Unwound Future” is an amazing sequel in a pretty amazing series, and anybody who likes using their brains at all should check it out.
Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Like rock &’ roll and comic books before them, video games are currently the prime suspect for all the evil that plagues our nation’s youth.
The state of California has been trying to ban the sale of violent video games to minors for years now. In a 2007 article, website Ars Technica reported that, all told, the California government had wasted more than $1 million of taxpayers’ money in trying to pass legislation banning the sale of violent video games to minors. Every attempt failed.
And yet, here they are again.
California is still trying to fight a battle it has been losing for the last five years. Traditionally, courts have sided with groups such as the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), arguing that California’s proposed law went against First Amendment rights of free speech. Earlier this year, however, the Supreme Court agreed to hear both sides of the argument, so we’re back to battle.
Some states side with California, some against. Texas is one state that seems to be on California’s side.
Now, the question some people might be asking is, “What’s so wrong with the law?” Indeed, prohibiting the sale of violent video games to minors seems like a noble thing, not a 1984-esque one. Even the people behind California’s proposed law are quick to assure all adults that violent games would not be banned outright, and anybody could still enjoy them provided they’re the proper age.
Said lawmakers argue that some media are not protected by the First Amendment. Hardcore porn would be an obvious example of this, but the people behind this proposed bill also refer to a 1968 case, Ginsberg v. New York, which effectively banned the sale of magazines like Playboy to minors.
Would this mean that a game like “Grand Theft Auto” or even “Halo” could, in the future, be shelved only behind the kind of blinder racks you see hiding risque images of pornographic magazines in gas stations? Surprisingly, this possibility has actually been discussed.
One reason this law is worrisome is that no such rules would apply to movies. At least, not yet. If it’s suddenly the government’s job to stop stores from selling “Resident Evil,” the game, to minors, then who’s to say it should also be its responsibility to prohibit the sale of “Resident Evil,” the movie? The violence level is about the same. Would music be the next victim? Books?
The law also brings in a major problem: Who’s to say what’s appropriate and not appropriate to sell to a minor? The government would have to devote a ton of money every year to panels that judge each and every game.
Another big issue with the law is that it’s a waste of time. Why? Well, currently, the video game industry is self-regulated, much like the film industry. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board is the video game equivalent of the Motion Picture Association of America. While a game would get an “R” rating from the MPAA, a game might get an “M” from the ESRB.
Likewise, just as movie theater attendants will check a youngster’s ID before they sell him or her a ticket to an R-rated movie, the ESRB requires that stores check the IDs of people buying M-rated video games.
Does this work? According to our own government, yes. The Federal Trade Commission filed a report back in 2007 that actually found that it was much easier for a minor to purchase an R-rated film or CD with a parental advisory warning than it was for a minor to purchase an M-rated game. All told, the FTC found that the games industry was doing a good job prohibiting the sale of violent games to minors.
So, why is California bothering to waste money to introduce a law that isn’t necessary?
California currently argues that video games, being an interactive form of entertainment, are more harmful to minors than other mediums, such as film. The problem is, they’ve never been able to show this.
Recently, 82 scholars and researchers signed and filed a brief that outright refutes the state’s claims, saying that California is unable to show any evidence to correlate violent games with violent youths.
Furthermore, a recent report issued by the ESRB showed some enlightening statistics, including that the current average age of gamers is 34, and that only 25 percent of gamers are under the age of 18.
Even comic book legend Stan Lee, creator of such classic characters as Spider-Man and Iron Man, has stepped into the ring and publicly voiced his allegiance toward the game industry. In an open letter that can be found online, he recalls how comic books were under the exact same scrutiny games are now, which, looking back, he admits is “comical.”
Lee said in the letter that “if you restrict sales of video games, you’re chipping away at our First Amendment rights to free speech.” He urges gamers to join the Video Game Voters Network. I don’t disagree.
You can find more information at a variety of websites, such as GamePolitics.com, and I might post more thoughts on the issue on my personal blog at BrittonPeele.com, but in the end, it really comes down to paying attention to what your elected officials are doing.
If this thing gets passed in California &- though it hopefully will not &- Texas may be one of the first states to try to follow suit. Make sure that doesn’t happen.
I’m all for protecting minors, but you should also protect your constitutional rights.
The Entertainment Merchants Association has a nice FAQ up on the California video game law: http://www.entmerch.org/schwarzenneger.html
The Entertainment Consumers Association has a petition you can sign: http://action.theeca.com/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=1781
Peele: Games shouldn’t be treated like pornography – Daily Toreador – Opinions – http://www.dailytoreador.com/opinions/peele-games-shouldn-t-be-treated-like-pornography-1.2336009
Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
Earlier this week, I stumbled upon an opinions piece on USAToday.com titled, “Spirituality can bridge science-religion divide.” Boiled down, it seems to be trying to say that science and religion can get along just fine, provided religion leaves the picture.
Seriously, that’s how the author comes across. He seems to want people of faith to keep their faith, if they so choose, but ditch fundamentalist religion.
He might not be entirely wrong, but I don’t think he’s entirely right, either.
It’s treading on old ground, but it’s still worth noting that religion itself is not at war with science, nor should it ever be. As a Christian that’s fairly fundamentalist (to the point that I believe much if not all of the Bible contains a great deal of historical accuracy), I’ve never had problems with ideas such as evolution or the big bang.
Now, that’s not to say I’m entirely accept evolution yet, but it doesn’t affect my faith in the least if it’s 100 percent true or not.
Scientists aren’t out to disprove God &- or if they are, they’re severely misguided. Science’s goal is to figure out how the universe works and then to apply that knowledge to make our planet a better place to live. Nothing about that goes against the teaching of the Bible, nor, to my knowledge, many other spiritual texts.
That said, religion today &- Christianity definitely included &- is extremely flawed. Churches all over the world have done very bad things in the name of God, Allah, etc. I can see why some people would be all for ditching organized religion altogether and going the “spiritual” route.
But in my humble opinion, we should try to fix the problems before ditching the practice entirely.
With the resources available to organized religion, a lot of good could be done for the world. We could cure AIDS, shelter the homeless and feed the hungry. Science could gain much more from a partnership with religion than it could from people who are merely spiritual &- a term I’m sure a lot of agnostic people would apply to themselves.
Now, I’m definitely not saying there’s anything wrong with going the spirituality route in your personal life. That’s perfectly fine, and the day may come when I leave Christianity and follow Christ on my own terms, as it were. All I’m saying is that we should maybe give religion a better chance.
The USA Today column, all told, doesn’t feel terribly balanced. The author spends a lot of time talking about how New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, are fine with “spirituality,” and how even people who don’t believe in a deity can have it. Therefore, it doesn’t seem to make the case for religion being OK with science so much as it seems to ignore religious people altogether.
Not that Richard Dawkins really understands religion, anyway. That man is a pretty smart scientist, but he’s one of the worst philosophers I’ve ever read.
I know this imaginary war between science and religion isn’t going to end any time soon, and that’s a major bummer. However, I don’t think that means we have to immediately toss one side or the other into the trash.
Not all religious people will boo Bill Nye the Science Guy for saying that the moon only reflects light. I would bet a great deal of money that those sorts of religious people make up a very, very small portion of the population.
Likewise, not all science-minded people are like Dawkins, anxious to destroy religion and all it stands for. Those numbers, too, are probably pretty low in the grand scheme of things.
Why can’t we all just play nice with each other?
Regardless, the time hasn’t yet come to toss religion out the window. I worry that such an action would create far more problems than it would solve.
Daily Toreador – Peele: Spirituality plus science, good for society? http://www.dailytoreador.com/opinions/peele-spirituality-plus-science-good-for-society-1.2328169
Originally published in The Daily Toreador.
While the “Metroid” series has seen a few different incarnations &- including first-person adventures, and even a pinball game &- the games are mostly known for slightly slower paced exploration and puzzles, with a bit of action thrown in to keep things interesting.
So when it was announced that the fast-paced action experts at Team Ninja would be making the next game in the treasured franchise for the Wii, fans were optimistic, but cautious.
If you’ve never played a “Metroid” game before, the format is both simple and deep. The games always drop series heroine Samus Aran into a huge, sci-fi environment and task her with exploring a variety of environments using a variety of upgrades and new weapons. Backtracking is a key element, as you’ll often pass doors that you just can’t open until you come back later with the proper tools.
“Metroid: Other M” for the Wii is the first time Samus has been in a third-person adventure, and the transition is mostly a great success. One aspect of the game that’s a bit weird, however, is the controls.
When moving around the 3-D environment, whether you’re exploring or fighting, you hold the remote sideways, using the control pad to move and the 1 and 2 buttons to run and shoot, which brings back memories from the original “Metroid” on the NES.
However, at any moment you can point the remote at the screen to look around and shoot things in first-person mode. You can’t move around in this view, but it’s necessary to use in order to find secrets in the environment and to fire missiles.
This setup makes the controls extremely simple, but it also means sacrificing some things hardcore gamers are used to from this sort of game. The loss of analog control is obvious, but the lack of buttons also means giving up things like a dodge button.
For the most part, the folks at Team Ninja came up with clever ways to compensate for this. For example, if you want to dodge, just move in any direction with the right timing and Samus will artfully avoid many attacks.
It takes some getting used to, and it was a weird design decision for the game, but the controls do what they need to do, and for the most part they work perfectly fine, with few problems.
Other than the controls and new third-person perspective, “Other M” plays like other games in the series, which is not only a great thing, it’s also a relief. The things that make “Metroid” unique, such as the exploration and item hunting, are what help the game stand above other sci-fi action titles. It would have been a tremendous shame if those elements had been buried with this new entry. But they’re intact and thriving.
Something that does feel different, though, is the story. This is the most story-driven game in the series, and unfortunately that aspect of the title is a bit hit-or-miss.
Much of the “miss,” unfortunately, comes from the voice acting. For being the lead character, Samus’ voice is very flat, especially in the opening monologue. I get the sense that the voice actress may have been trying to make Samus sound like the tough, heroic bounty hunter that she is, but the delivery is painful at times. Other members of the cast aren’t much better.
The story itself spends a lot of time exploring the history of Samus as a woman in the Galactic Federation. This is illustrated with some beautiful cut scenes &- a common characteristic of games from developer Team Ninja &- but this story will probably divide fans, as it’s merely OK.
Graphically, “Other M” is beautiful for a Wii game, taking full advantage of the power the Wii has and being very pleasing to the eye.
All told, fans of the series can rest easy, as “Other M” is a great addition to the “Metroid” franchise. It may not be the shining jewel, but it’s a thankfully solid adventure that any hardcore Wii owner should check out.
This new Metroid game for the Wii – developed by Team Ninja – has a lot of people skeptical. I was one of those people. Then I played it. Then I reviewed it. This is that review: http://www.dailytoreador.com/news/peele-new-metroid-video-game-different-but-still-has-much-to-offer-1.2323008