Archive for January, 2011

Landing on Saturn – Panzer Dragoon Saga: Forgotten Treasure

January 27, 2011

Panzer Dragoon Saga may not have much cachet with gamers these days (what does, besides Call of Duty? olol), but make no mistake: the name used to be whispered amongst gamers beyond just the hardest of the hardcore. Sega’s last hurrah for their doomed Saturn game console. The bizarre RPG follow-up to a rail-shooting franchise. The pathetically small print run which ultimately led to its infamy. Panzer Dragoon Saga was critically acclaimed when it released, but its legacy afterward became the stuff of myths, due to the fact that it printed only 6,000 copies initially, with the final units shipped at the end of its production run totaling 30,000. Keep in mind that most games these days have to sell through at least more than 100,000 units in order to be considered successful. Panzer Dragoon Saga is something of a holy grail amongst video game collectors, a unicorn. One rarely spots a copy in the wild, and if one does, one must be ready to pay dearly for it.

I never, ever thought I would come across a copy outside of, say, eBay. But one day, I found myself on the end of an offer to sell me the game for a price which, while still quite high, I knew I would never beat. I grimaced, forked over the change, and waited for the copy to arrive in the mail. You readers already know full-well the joyous bounty of the package I received, but the question still remained: Is Panzer Dragoon Saga all it’s cracked up to be?

(more…)

(Performance Review) Kid Icarus: Uprising – Wings of Wax

January 25, 2011

SHOOT SHOOT SHOOT

Nintendo touts Kid Icarus Uprising as the “glorious return” of Pit  in “spectacular 3D.” Designed by Masahiro Sakurai, creator of the Kirby and Super Smash Bros. franchises, it’s a blend of aerial and ground-based shooting “built on elegantly intuitive and streamlined play control.”

Whoa. Wait, no.

Uprising has the finest pedigree in Sakurai, the best graphics so far seen on the 3DS, fantastic art design and fun voice acting, but none of that is going to save this highly-anticipated title until someone changes the controls. Trying to hold the 3DS with the left hand, aim with the stylus in the right hand, move with the thumb pad (left thumb) and shoot with the left shoulder button (left index finger) is an ergonomic nightmare. Trying to do all that and pay attention to what’s going onscreen at the same time is video game equivalent of spinning plates while playing Twister.

To get a sense of what Uprising‘s controls are like, it’s the same basic set-up used by Metroid Prime Hunters for the original DS. It was a terrible control set-up then, too, unless you really like hand cramps. It’s possible toslightly alleviate the awkwardness by placing the system flat on a table or against your leg, but then there’s no alleviating questionable game design.

Stupid sexy Medusa

In each demo level, Pit takes to the skies in a Sin & Punishment-style on-rails shooter, then lands on the ground, switching into a bland, sluggish brawler mode. Both styles of play feel weightless, even when Pit drags his feet across the ground. Control problems persist in the earthbound mode since the only way to control the stubborn camera, and Pit at the same time, is by flicking the stylus all over the place. Awkward as hell. Dodging and running by double-tapping the thumb pad in the desired direction — also awkward . Killing enemies to unlock doors, the most basic of video gamey objectives, was all that part of the game offered anyway. I hope, hope, hope this game is deeper than that.

Listen, weird control styles don’t deter me from playing good video games. Monster Hunter is one of my favorite games on the PSP, and the best way to control that game is to use what players somewhat affectionately call “the claw” — arrange the thumb on the analog nub, and index finger on the D-pad, to control the camera. It sounds awkward, it looks awkward, but it works well.

Kid Icarus Uprising doesn’t, and I’m not even sure if it’s a good video game. It feels shallow. I don’t know what can be done about that, but the controls can be fixed easily by including different control options, ones that don’t need the stylus. There’s plenty of time to do so. Besides, more options are good! It’s the way of the world now.

Or, I guess I’ll opt to play something else.

P.S. I went this whole time and never mentioned the 3D. Well, it’s blurry. It never focused for me. Switching it off gave me a great-looking game — lasers shooting at Pit from all directions were a brief thrill — so it was no loss. But shouldn’t the 3D in a first-party Nintendo 3DS game work? Plenty of time to iron out those kinks, Nintendo.

(Performance Review) First Batch of Nintendo 3DS Games – Baby, They Ain’t Done Yet!

January 23, 2011

During Nintendo’s Nintendo 3DS showcase last week, I had opportunity to get playtime with many of the handheld’s upcoming titles. Here are a few early impressions.

HAY LSN
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D
I rushed to play this one first. It’s the same game you played in 1998, with far better graphics and an improved control set-up. Using the 3DS’ thumb pad to move Link around the playfield feels really good, way better than the N64’s dust-making plastic stick (and no one’s going to miss the blurry, ugly graphics of the N64 original, either). Ocarina 3D‘s visuals impress with smoother, sharper and more detailed textures. In 3D, Kokiri Village and the Deku Tree look fantastic, with particle effects flitting about in the air, but I did switch off the 3D effects so I could concentrate on winning the Gohma boss battle. Aiming the slingshot and looking around using the gyro scope is cool, and it works, though I preferred just using the thumb pad in the end. Thank god for options. Too bad there’s no release date for it yet.

(more…)