Archive for the ‘2010’ Category

TRON: Legacy – Despite Some Hang-ups, I GOT IN

December 17, 2010

Wow, been a while since I talked about a movie. Good thing it’s a movie about video games.

The original Tron was a slow, plodding sort of Star Wars rip-off with a few interesting concepts and a light performance from Jeff Bridges. Though it lacked in entertainment value, it provided the first foray into cyberspace on film, something that the sci-fi and cyberpunk subgenre would build upon for 27 odd years since. The Matrix, Ghost in the Shell and, if anyone remembers them, cartoons Reboot and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest all used variations of the Grid, designs that relied on neon and skintight leather, and rogue hackers who changed the system and fought soulless corporations and/or machines. Tron helped pave the way for all that. It showed that past the monitor there’s a whole other universe inside the computer. Alice in Wonderland for the digital age — “a digital frontier.”

It was also among the first movies to portray video games in a positive, interesting way. Bridges’ character, Kevin Flynn, was an arcade hero who used his video game prowess to survive the disc and cycle games in the gladiatorial world of The Grid. And games have come a long, long way since Flynn’s Arcade. They’re the most innovative, lucrative entertainment medium there is today, and everyone plays them from Angry Birds to Plants vs. Zombies, to titles like Heavy Rain and Call of Duty that arguably push and blur the boundaries of what a game could be, making billions of dollars in the process.

Movies have responded in kind. Inception, Speed Racer, Avatar, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World — not to mention those unmentionables based on actual video game franchises — all emulate the kinetic imagery, rhythms and instant gratification video games provide, and most prominently, Tron‘s pioneering use of CG. Today, CG is so common that special effects are hardly special anymore. In a strange turnabout, practical effects like puppetry, prosthetics and — gasp — actual sets are novel once more.

So, with the history lesson out of the way, and a TRON: Legacy review to get into I have to reveal something first.

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(Performance Review) The 3rd Birthday – Aya the Body Snatcher

December 10, 2010

Cinematic Sultry Advertising Action-RPG Parasite Eve is a favorite of mine, as its wintry New York setting and bizarro sci-fi tale spoke directly to my tastes. So upon hearing its new PSP iteration, The Third Birthday, would be a third-person shooter I couldn’t help but fret. Square Enix’ last notable shooter was Dirge of Cerberus for the PS2. Yeah.

After some time with Aya Brea’s new adventure at a Sony video game showcase in NYC yesterday, I can shed my fears slightly. I wasn’t blown away by it, but I wasn’t underwhelmed either. I managed to jump into the game and get used to the controls immediately. They’re very easy, simpler than Peace Walker or Monster Hunter, though similar to both.

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Sonic Colors – Don’t Hate That Hedgehog

November 15, 2010

Where's Antoine?

Sonic Colors takes a few cues from the Super Mario Galaxy games, which isn’t a bad idea — it’s a great one! Interplanetary travel, colorful aliens in need of rescue, helpful transformations for the hero and lovely orchestrated music… If Mario’s formula works for the Blue Blur to make a good game again then Sonic should ape the plumber on a more consistent basis as Sonic Colors is the hedgehog’s  best packaged video game in years (or months if you count the downloadable Sonic 4).

A hybrid of classic 2D Sonic platforming and the 3D business he’s been up to lately, Sonic Colors succeeds in each respect. The on-rails zoom-through-the-scenery parts thrill, while the jump-from-floating-square-to-floating-square parts challenge. Later levels “challenged” me enough to crush the Wiimote in my hands, though some of that frustration could be attributed to getting used to the game’s wonky jumping.

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Persona 3 Portable – Third Time’s the Charm

November 8, 2010

It’s almost the end of the year. Time to clean house. Here’s an outdated review I meant to get out there way earlier. Whoopsie!

BABYBABYBABYBABYBABY

Is it possible to be nostalgic for 2008? There was Speed Racer, the first Left 4 Dead, Mirror’s Edge, and a fresh-faced JRPG all the kids raved about called Persona 3: FES. It was good, but there was one thing that irked me about it: That the game wasn’t available on a portable system. It would have been a perfect fit for Sony’s PSP.

Then, as if reading my mind, or more likely following industry trends (JRPGs such as Ys Seven, 4 Heroes of Light and Etrian Odyssey III wouldn’t survive on consoles), Atlus announced Persona 3 Portable for the PSP the following year. Initially, I was a tad miffed– I clocked over 70 hours in my FES file! — but consternation turned to excitement. With a portable version handy I could potentially finish the game while I’m out and about, and not depend on sitting in front of a TV for hours on end. Plus, Atlus promised a lot of new content and features special to the portable version, allowing for a slightly new experience. And Atlus delivered.

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Comic Jumper – And I Thought My Jokes Were Bad

October 21, 2010

WHOOOOAAAOAAAOAAAAOAAAAAA

One of the best things about this current generation of video games is the ability to download games directly to a console via XBLA, PSN or Wii, and consequently this is the first real time independent games have gained mainstream recognition. Braid, Cave Story, VVVVVV, Charles Barkley Shut Up and Jam Gaiden, La Mulana — just a few of the good, sometimes brilliant, unique games we got thanks to convenient online connectivity and the larger indie scene as a result.

…And then there’s the Comic Jumper!

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Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode One – A New Hope

October 18, 2010

SONIC'S A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW

All weekend, all over the Internet, I’ve read complaints of Sonic’s physics. I had no idea what “Sonic’s physics” meant, and while playing Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Episode One I hardly saw what the big deal was. I figured it was just the endless whining and trolling of your typical Internet mob, combined with the victimized bawling of the Sonic fan crowd. Do these fans even know what they want anymore? Then, the more I played, and the more frustrated I got, it occurred to me.

Something’s wrong with Sonic’s physics.

Well, maybe not wrong. They’re different. Having replayed the entire original series earlier in the year, I should’ve noticed it earlier. Maybe I was so caught up in the whole “OH MY GOD SONIC IS BACK, BABY” fervor of Sonic the Hedgehog 4 I failed to notice a tiny thing like his … his physics. I mean, when was the last time anyone even mentioned video game physics since Half-Life 2?

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PlayStation Move – Just Let Go, Jack

October 8, 2010

move? move me to the bar

Earlier this week, PlayStation Blog hosted an event where folks could try out Sony’s Mii-too, the PlayStation Move. The moment I walked in and saw the boxing, karaoke and sports games I let out a sigh, then a growl: “Those damn casuals!”

Crowding the market with their shallow party games!

But like Jack, I had to learn to just let go, and sing Lady Gaga in between two gyrating gymnasts.

The Fight

But first I shuffled over to try the imaginatively titled The Fight. A street boxing game, you use two Wiimo– er, Move controllers (wands?) to emulate the on-screen fighter’s fists. After wondering what an expense that would be to have to buy two Wands, I was promised 1:1 control over said fists then fought the guy demoing the game. I was thoroughly thrashed.

Maybe I’m just a lightweight (I am), but 1:1 control felt sluggish and unresponsive. Each jab and uppercut I threw happened a moment later, which kind of undermines the supposed immersive nature of this whole motion control movement. I would later learn The Fight is actually called The Fight: Lights Out.

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