Gaming Zen 9-25-06

Morning my chip chips. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m Tom Pandich and this is the Gaming Zen. Wondering where I was last week after I made such a bold promise of never missing until the end of the year? Well go over to Retrograding and read my new column, â┚¬Å”Blowing in Cartridgesâ┚¬Â. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a non-fiction account of how gaming has been influential in my life both small and large. I figure Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll write them in alternating weeks or depending on my mood. Gaming Zen is a more upbeat column while the other is going to be more reflective and sometimes, not all of the time mind you, depressing. I may write one every other week. I may write both each week. It all depends on what sort of time I have. Seeing as how we had a major conference this weekend, letâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s look at that.

The Gaming Zen Tokyo Game Show Wrap Up

Well that was quite a show, wasnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t it? Remember not hearing about all of the big announcements? Me too! Tokyo Game Show 06 ended with a sputter as there was very little to get excited about. The big PS3 news is two fold. Sony has decided that the PS3 needed a few adjustments and HDMI is back in all versions of the system meaning at $500 you wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t get a gimped out PS3 like you would with a $300 Xbox 360. Furthermore, the PS3 has received a price drop in Japan only to â┚¬Å”below 50,000 yenâ┚¬Â placing it at around $415 dollars and making it much more competitive with the new Xbox 360 packages. The Japanese premium system still remains priceless though.

The bad news out of TGS for Sony was somewhat amazing. Their keynote was as blah a keynote as it possibly could have been. The Final Fantasy XIII trailer that was shown was the same Final Fantasy XIII trailer shown at E3. The presentation didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t show nearly as many games as people wanted, and the games it did show, such as Afrika, are still essentially tech demos. Plus the whole global mapping system sounds stupid as hell.

The other big foul up seems to be with Sonyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s first real system seller for the PS3 in Gran Turismo HD. GT HD has a rather confusing pricing structure which essentially amounts to the game costing much less then a usual game, but the vast majority of the cars and tracks being downloads probably at cost. With the 700+ cars in the game, most analysts are placing GT HD at over $300 on the low end and up to $1000 on the high end for how much itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll cost a person to get the complete GT experience. There is a right way to do this by leaving the ability to purchase cars as an option, but also allowing people to download cars (not special edition cars) by earning entitlement points through playing other games. As it stands now though, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Sony milking a few hardcore fans for all theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re worth and then essentially telling the rest to go to hell.

On the floor, Kojima and crew wowed crowds with a new Metal Gear Solid video, and Devil May Cry 4 looked impressive. The vast majority of games seemed just â┚¬Å”ehâ┚¬Â though. Lair looks like Warhawk with dragons and apparently is being made for the â┚¬Å”casual gamerâ┚¬Â. You know, the casual gamer who loves big fantasy epics and is willing to spend $600 for their casual gaming pursuits. The one real winner for the PS3 seems to be White Knight as itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the newest game to get released that has a lot of buzz behind it. Beyond that though, it seemed like the PS3 ball was dropped pretty hard, especially considering itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a mere two months away from launch. Sony has officially failed to pull in the hardcore gamer who is really torn on waiting in line for a PS3 or getting one off of E-Bay from just saying â┚¬Å”f*ck itâ┚¬Â and biting the bullet to snag a 360 with Dead Rising and Oblivion.

Speaking of the 360, this appeared to be the best showing Microsoft has had in Japan in a long time. While Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, and DOA Xtreme 2 wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t turn the tide for Microsoft, it will sell a few systems. Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon had huge lines apparently (partly due to Microsoft doing stuff to make the lines look longer). Pro Evolution Soccer (Winning Eleven) is also going to be rather big seller for the 360 in Japan. The HD-DVD player isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t priced that high at around $170 US, and the announcement that the 360 will receive a firmware update to display in 1080p is pretty huge. Very few people care about the Pac Man Worldwide Championships, but the new bundles are pretty awesome. Project Gotham 3 and 99 Nights bundled with a core system is really good and a new package with Blue Dragon and a core system priced at 28,381 yen (~$250) might be the first package really to sell a 360 in Japan.

As for my favorite system, the Nintendo DS, there were a few new games shown and announced. The biggest game for Japan is going to be Front Mission DS which is getting a ton of excellent press. Additionally, Natsume announced a few new Harvest Moons for the Wii and the DS that will feature connectivity, a few new Final Fantasy games (including an uber cute Chocobo game which hopefully wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t fall into the cycle of ass Chocobo spin off games), and a full 3D monster breeder set in the Dragon Quest world. Thereâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a ton of great looking DS games coming out despite the lack of any direct Nintendo presence.

The PS2 looked, well, invisible. So much for 2010 Sony. Tales of Destiny, Seaman 2, Tokobot Plus, and Dawn of Mana look neat, but wow. There was utterly nothing of note at TGS this year for the PS2.

The PSP was a different story. Parappa the Rapper was announced for the PSP which looked neat. Rachet and Clank PSP was confirmed and Gran Turismo PSP is still going to be made apparently. Also Killzone Liberation has some decent buzz about it, but it needs to come a long way from the demo that I played which was rather meh. Gunpey looked neat for the PSP (also looked neat for the DS), and Ridge Racer 2 will sell copies but probably not PSPs.

So thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Tokyo Game Show. We were going to do a roundtable, but the show was rather disappointing so weâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll pass on that. Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the extent of our coverage on NaTE for something that wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be replacing E3 in terms of scope for the American audience.

Deal of the Week

Toys R Us is holding a Buy 2, Get 1 Free on all PS2/GC/Xbox games priced exactly at $19.99. So this is the time to pick up Shadow of the Colossus, Paper Mario 2, or any of the number of greatest platinum playerâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s hitting choices that have come out over the year. The deal expires on the 30th which is also when most Toys R Us are holding a special PokÃÆ’©mon event where you can finally, finally download Mew to your Generation 3 carts. For Emerald you need to have the national Pokedex and for Leaf Green/Fire Red you need a Pokedex and a PokÃÆ’©mon to trade. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s nice to finally see Mew in the US.

Game of the Week

Gaming Zen is running a bit long this week so no top ten and no build up for Valkyrie Profile 2: Silmeria! Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s the sequel to Inside Pulseâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s highest rated game ever. Of course itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s game of the week. Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 for the DS, Baiten Kaitos: Origins for the GC, and DDR: Supernova for the PS2 looks like theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re all worthy of picking up. Sadly, I think Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll wait for the majority of those to go on sale/clearance before picking them up. Wait on Mario vs DK 2 until next week or buy it from Circuit City because a little bird told me itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll be on sale that week.

What Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m Playing

Mario Hoops: 3 on 3- Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve got mixed feelings about this game. It, unlike Star Fox DS, has both stylus and face button control. Three things jump out at me about it. First off, single player is annoying as hell. Your two teammates are worthless. Not worthless in that their defense sucks and they wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t set a pick for you. Theyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re worthless in the sense that they wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t defend or even pick up a f*cking ball if itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s sitting next to them. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve seen a Diddy Kong on my team carry around a red shell the entire match simply because it wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t move. It also doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t help that the game is pretty f*cking cheap once you get to the Final Fantasy team. Secondly, the game is beautiful. It looks as good as a Gamecube game, and the soundtrack is rather catchy. The stages are gimmicky without feeling gimmicky too. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a well laid out game. Finally, multiplayer is where this game is at. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve had it for a day and after spending a day screaming at the Final Fantasy team on hard, Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve unlocked all of the characters. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll take a while to unlock all the various balls, but the single player is a very short experience. Multiplayer is where itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s at in this game.

Harvest Moon: More Friends of Mineral Town- Hm. I only put a few â┚¬Å”daysâ┚¬Â into this game so far and it seems fun. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s been ages since I played a Harvest Moon game (more of my brotherâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s thing then mine), but I figured I liked Animal Crossing so Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll enjoy Harvest Moon. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a bit odd wooing men but not enough of an assault on my sexuality for me to lose any sleep over it. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a good game that Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll give a little more time.

Dragon Ball Z: The Legacy of Goku 1 and 2 Double Pack- Awesome game if it didnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t suck so much. I hate this game so much in its complete unbalance. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m a whore for Dragonball, but this is a bit too sucky even for Dragonball standards.

PokÃÆ’©mon Mystery Dungeon: Blue Rescue Team- Lucard is posting his review of the GBA version and I might end up reviewing the DS version if Williams doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t. Anywho, itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s a good game that I fear too many people will pass on because of the relatively mediocre to bad reviews by the gaming press in general. 1up gave it a respectable score but IGN and Gamespot shit all over it for having bad graphics and not using the DS functionality enough. There are some problems with this game, but it is so refreshingly different from the vast majority of RPGs out on the market these days. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve had a lot of fun with this game and there is a near infinite depth to this game. I highly recommend either version (though getting passwords for Rescue Missions is a bit easier on the DS version then it is typing them out on the GBA version).

Thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s it for Gaming Zen. Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ll see you guys during the week with a review, my contribution to the â┚¬Å”Adieu Game Boy Advancedâ┚¬Â feature and a few other surprises. See you next week.