June 27, 2010

3 Clicks for Health

So I was going to the Yahoo! home page for kicks when I saw an article about Universal's new "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey" theme park ride. Granted, there's nothing relevant for anyone living here (in the PH) to care about, but at least there's something to be said about devoted fans willing to exercise and eat healthy because of something that remotely even promotes these activities.

The thing about this ride is, unlike Disneyland's It's a Small World ride, Universal is enforcing some rather stringent rules regarding safety, for the sake of, you know, less money to burn due to class action suits. The thing is that in this ride, if the restraint clicks three times, a person can be deemed qualified to ride. Knowing America, there are probably a lot of people who are too plus-sized to fit these seats, and while there are those who aren't big enough fans to man up and actually lose weight (and instead resort to bitching in the Interwebs), there are still quite a few cases of people who are truly dedicated to this intellectual property and willing to eat healthy if it meant experiencing something that could potentially give him some sort of status upgrade.

While the reasons are kind of... well, creepy and cultish, Harry Potter isn't anything dangerous to latch onto if it means people getting into losing some. You could say that as the books were able to build a huge readership of young children (and plain get them into reading), the ride may or may not be a big catalyst of children living healthy.

In the end, maybe I'm making too big a deal of this.


June 26, 2010

Movies Opening This Week: Supernatural Love Triangle

"Why are you so against me to come with you?" said Bella Swan.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Come on, I don't want to beat around the bush. This looks like crap, although I have to admit, it looks like the strongest entry to date.

Of course, you can't really say much about the word "strong" in this context.

But really, what else is there aside from the much-shown vampires vs. werewolves setpiece that will actually interest the fans? You can't really fault Summit for opting to show more of the same staring (oh wait, that's Stephenie Meyer's fault too) but the brooding is just tiring to watch. Fine, fine, I've avoided watching the so-called "saga" like the plague, but I'm conscious enough about the pop culture to know that, yes, Twilight's main attraction is staring... and shirtless Taylor Lautner.

To say that Robert Pattinson is even a marketable face is debatable, but really, I can't find anything fresh and new about this installment. I mean, yes, the Harry Potter series is sort of the like this, but at least that series introduces new concepts in its world regularly that keeps it somewhat fresh (eg, Triwizard Tournament in Potter 4, Umbridge in Potter 5, the Inferi and Horcruxes in Potter 6).

I propose that there should be a bold new direction in Breaking Dawn, which as I've heard is already full of explicit content that isn't as fit to market to the tweens. Why not push it further and create an even more complicated supernatural love rectangle by putting that Dakota Fanning Volturi character in the mix. I mean, come on, they've done it before. It won't be exposed in the trailer, and people will be surprised. Word will spread and a whole new audience will be introduced. Even if that new audience will be an audience of pervs, Summit will earn more money, Twilight will get more publicity, and everyone will be scrambling to make a contrived sequel to Breaking Dawn. Man, I should be working at Summit.

To cleanse the palate, let's go for an animated ride with monkeys... in space.

Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back
I never knew there was a market for a sequel to Space Chimps but, well, there it is. In theaters and not in home video (where it really belongs).

After wasting time rambling on about the politics of Twilight, I can't really say anything about this one anymore. I'm just baffled to see that the first one even made a profit. And they had the creative funding to develop a new character. And it's in 3D.

Maybe... it's just because it's an underwhelming new release compared to, I don't know, a PIXAR FILM?!

Whatever the case, people will become indecisive by the inherent awesomeness that the real alternative to Twilight this week will offer, and that alternative is:

The Last Airbender
I don't mind removing "Avatar" from the title, even though people will keep saying that title instead of "The Last Airbender". Why? Because a lot of people are really fond of the Nickelodeon animated series that came before it.

But the more significant fact that springs from the movie is that M. Night Shyamalan, a once-respected director, might actually become legitimate again. Yes, yes, there's a lot of racebending happening with the cast behind the scenes, but a lot of movie looks visually faithful to the source material nonetheless, and it's still an epic summer movie whichever way you look at it. In short, it will have a pedestrian story but a magnificent aesthetic. Despite the apparent choice of style over substance, this is still gearing up to be a great summer movie to watch out for.

And hey, if the story really is good, then that's a huge double whammy for everybody concerned.

Although the fact that it's being upconverted to 3D at the last minute really worries me...


June 25, 2010

iPhone 4: You're Holding Me Wrong

A product with a launch that's as insane as the radically new iPhone 4 is obviously not without its issues. Some could say that the phone was even rushed from the factory to market, so obviously, there could be a few defects here and there.

2 large issues plague the iPhone 4 right now, and one of them's actually a non-issue. Can you guess which one?

It's the yellow blots on the screen.

People have reported tons upon tons of yellowish screens over the past few hours and have obviously become up-in-arms about it. But the real thing about this is that it's just manufacturing residue that should've faded away long before shipment. Obviously, phones affected with the yellow spots were rushed from the factory, and people have almost universally been reporting that the distraction that detracted from the charm of the Retina Display has been fading over time. So yes, it is a non-issue, especially for countries that aren't receiving their iPhone 4's until next month.

But another issue could be a bit of a long-standing one that's due to Apple's new exterior antenna design. Basically, if you hold one part of the iPhone 4 (lower-left side), the service will worsen, and even drop calls at some point. It was first speculated as a display issue because calls were not dropped, but as the issue went out of hand, Steve Jobs issued a response to this phenomenon, saying that it too is a non-issue.

"Just avoid holding it in that way," the CEO said.

The phenomenon is now called the "iPhone Death Grip" apparently, and it only happens when you cover the iPhone 4 with your hand and block the lower-left side. It's easily alleviated by Apple's own bumpers or any third-party protective case, so hey, if you can afford an iPhone, you might as well buy something to protect it with.

Apologists have gone on record to explain that even other phones like Google's own Nexus One has these antenna problems, but they just aren't covered as much because, well, they're not Apple.

Apple has adopted Steve Jobs' e-mail as an official response, saying: "Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance, with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone. If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases."

So bottom line, get a case, or hold it ass-backwards.

But really now, if there truly are issues with other phones (Google Nexus One, Nokias, etc.) then this might as well be considered as an issue taken out of proportion (or just more noticeable).

I'm betting new shipments in the second half of July will have better performance, so suffice it to say, shipments to countries other than the countries that have the iPhone 4 right now will most likely have better antenna resistance, or whatever you call it.


June 24, 2010

Apps Weekly: Rolando 2 + Farmville

I've had this game put on hold for a while. I planned to review it almost a year ago and always managed to put it off in place of other, newer iPhone apps.

But it was about time I reviewed this long-time favorite.

Rolando 2: The Quest for the Golden Orchid
$4.99
ngmoco, Hand Circus
Rated 4+, iOS 2.2.1 or later

Considered one of the iPhone's killer games, the original Rolando was at best, an uninspired platformer that borrows heavily from the likes of Loco Roco. Heck, it even controls with tilt. I never really bothered to finish it, because I got bored with it, so with Rolando 2 I hesitantly got it and it was a large, large, large improvement.

From the get-go, you'll see that the game looks significantly better than its predecessor. The background is rendered with 3D elements, and it'll pop out and move while you tilt. Here you have the Rolando kingdom becoming threatened by some evil prince who wants to overthrow the king and become tyranny of the land. Suffice it to say, the story is nothing special; it's the gameplay that really shines.

Featuring weapons and environmental thingamajigs, Rolando 2 is definitely no slouch when it comes to variety, which the first one kind of lacked. It doesn't put more focus on the drawing aspects (which tend to get pretty messy) and instead adds a lot of gameplay mechanics that admittedly, are nothing short of awesome.

There will be parts when you will charge a power so you could shoot enemies, and there'll be times when you'll have to manipulate some mirrors to solve a puzzle. Each Rolando game emphasizes the point that your finger is an almighty force to be reckoned with, and it's most definitely executed better in this game.

What's back are some of those jewels you could collect to gain achievements, and in this one, you'll feel a bit more compelled to get them all.

Along with that are more refined controls and Rolando's that die less easily. And when you use the Spikey Commando here and go back to the original game, you'll probably prefer the controls in this one.

Rolando 2 is well worth the $4.99, because it's decently long, with much variety, great platforming, more personality and much more punched-up visuals.

And yes, the excellent music is provided by Mr. Scruff once again.

Rating: 9/10

I won't really delve much into this just-released game, but, sigh, Farmville has arrived to the iPhone.

Zynga's forces of evil are back to get your money with this deceptively free game, but the upside to those addicted to the game is that you can pretty much check on your farm 24/7 without having to go to your computer (or leave it on all the time). A Facebook account is required, but existing players are granted access to their existing Facebook farms, or they can create a new one from scratch.

Harvest this one on the App Store, if you're a big fan. Personally I think We Rule from ngmoco has better graphics and more personality. Yes, yes, I haven't played that one either, but clearly the screenshots already say a lot.


June 21, 2010

iOS 4 to drop any time soon

Get your iPods and iPhones ready (lest you're on the 1st generation), Apple's almost dropping the next software update to your devices, and it's a big one.

iOS 4, the update that brings in multitasking, wallpapers and folders among others was announced a mere few weeks after the iPad was announced. It will ship with the new iPhone 4 this June 24, as well as the special 8GB iPhone 3GS's that are already shipping.

It's free for both iPhone and iPod touch from 2nd generation and up. Multitasking is only supported in the 3GS and iPod touch 3rd generation.


June 19, 2010

E3: Sony Moves It Moves It... With Nerdy Glasses

Last year, I thought Sony made the best conference, because they offered the promise of motion controls and actual games. This year, well, after watching Nintendo, it's hard to see them top it.

And I don't think they did. They were close, but they were slightly less awesome than Nintendo. If only because they want to force their glasses on the masses.

Still Kevin Butler: "Who wants to pretend their hand is a gun? What is this, third grade?" LOL. I do hope he goes out on stage.

Anyways, after the montage, Jack Tretton comes out on stage and right off the bat, disses Microsoft. "No ponchos."

From here on, I'm already really excited only because Microsoft's speaker sucked big time.

Jack Tretton is a huge mile away from that Microsoft dude.

Anyway, Jack Tretton's tempting me to finally buy a PS3 and highlights a few games. PSP, not so much.

He segueways into "3D High Definition" and summons Mr. Riiiiiiiidge Racer! to the stage... I mean, Kaz Hirai of course.

"PS is about innovation and content. In the next year, PS will take both innovation and content to a completely new level. Sony is the undisputed leader in 3D, and what PlayStation did for Blu-ray, it will do for 3D as well," says Hirai. He wants people to buy both a BRAVIA 3DTV and a few games that are compatible with 3D today, and explains that PS3's are already 3D-ready. OK. Now what?

Killzone 3, of course.

I guess being ambitious with a game is good, but me with my chronic FPS nausea combined with 3D is huge no-no. The audience is urged to wear glasses (sigh...) and well, of course, I can't really give my own impressions of the game. Still, the graphics do look quite good on its own without the 3D gimmickry, and... there are apparently some flying robots you'll be shooting. On a home theatre, I imagine this will be enthralling, but not everyone has a home theatre. Hell, you'll have to be a 3D capable projector for that too. And a few more pairs of $150 glasses. With that money, you could buy a 360, a Live Gold subscription and games.

But we're not here to trash talk any more of Sony, partly because I hold much faith for the PS3 anyway even if I don't have one.

Killzone's reaching out to you in 2011, February with PS Move support.

Hirai goes on to name drop a lot of games that'll be compatible with 3D. The Sly Collection (remastered Sly Cooper trilogy), Mortal Kombat, Shaun White, Tron, etc. Please, I do not want the glasses.

Sony then wants to sell some 3DTV's by showing a demo reel. Frankly, I don't want to bother embedding a video.

15th anniversary of the PlayStation and 10th for the PS2. It's the second most-played console last year, but of course, it's hard to say if there's really going to be any more support for new titles. Duh.

Next is more PlayStation Move sales talk. We've seen the action in GDC, and I wonder what other games they'll be demoing this time.

Kevin Butler is definitely a huge selling point for this device. Whoops, I mean... uhh... never mind.

A new game being demoed for the Move is Sorcery.

Looks pretty okay, and as always, 1:1 is impressive. There isn't as much jittering as there was in GDC... oh wait, there was some jittering during the potion thing.

But anyway, there are quite a few creative concepts at play here (ie, I love the "creating a firestorm"), and yeah. It looks pretty decent. Art design doesn't particularly stand out to me for some reason.

Andrew Wilson for EA Sports is next so he can demo Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11.

Who knows if it really controls any differently than, say, the Wii Motion Plus so it's hard to say if Move truly is superior. In the HDTV they were using, there was quite a bit of lag so, a bit iffy really. It got better eventually.

Heroes on the Move makes an appearance as a trailer. Features several Sony mascots like Ratchet, Clank, Jax, Daxter, Sly Cooper, and 2 more I don't know.

Coca-Cola is made a partner to advertise Move. There will be a promo that will entitle you to a Move, or some Move games.

Whatever.

And then, Kevin Butler comes to the stage. Now things get interesting.

Somewhat unscripted, he plays on the motion control trend, Kinect, and more. This dude is awesome. Even if he doesn't game and he says "I love gaming," I'd believe him. FOREVER MAY GAMING REIGN! Dammit, he's the best thing Sony's ever done.

September is the release window, and the Move will be priced at 50 dollars, while the navigation controller will be 30. A "Sports Champion bundle" will be priced at $100, while a PS3 with Move bundle is #400. On launch, there will be about 15-20 titles for Move.

Time Crisis, Singstar, Echochrome, etc. will be some of those games, while some existing games will get updates for compatibility.

Next, a video for Move.

Oh come on, two Move controllers for volleyball? Seriously? There's like a conspiracy in play here. Sports Champions, Start the Party, Singstar, Eyepet, Heroes on the Move, TV Superstars, SOCOM 4, Time Crisis Razing Storm, The Shoot, Resident Evil 5 Gold Edition, Lord of the Rings, Tron Evolution, Sorcery are the games included in the trailer.

PSP is next. A new ad campaign is unveiled with Peace Walker featured.

It's called "Meet Marcus". And he's kind of annoying.

OK, Sony, any games?

Invizimals is apparently a "major" enough game to market. Meh. Uses augmented reality for pets like Kinectimals.

But alas, we have God of War: Ghost of Sparta. Ready at Dawn returns to the PSP. There must be hope.

Tretton name drops a few more games, and there will be "70 new titles by December". Look! ModNation! Kingdom Hearts! Hot Shots!

The 3rd Birthday looks really interesting.

Next part of the talk is the rather notorious PSN.

It hosts some shows like "The Tester" and will be expanding to other countries. PlayStation Home will also have its own version of the Sony E3 booth, and... I guess it's pretty cool?

Jack Tretton also announced Sony's acquisition of Media Molecule, and that could only mean some more creative exclusives for the PlayStation. After the rather exciting trailer released a few weeks ago, it would be pretty cool to see an actual demo of their promise for "a platform for games".

I'm surprised there weren't any Move demoes for this game.

PlayStation Plus is then announced, which takes PSN to the next level. It's a subscription service that promises exclusive content, exclusive betas, Minis, discounts and more. It's $49.99 for a full year. 3 months free for now.

But will it have good servers and party chat?

Still, I like Chrono Cross for free. Although it's kind of weird not to match Microsoft's ESPN, Netflix and Facebook offerings.

An EA executive is then called to the stage to announce some PS exclusives. Medal of Honor is going to receive some exclusive content apparently.

There's going to be a multiplayer map, and the beta will be available June 21. There will be a remastered version of Medal of Honor Frontline.

Next: Dead Space 2.

That is intense, kind of creepy even. Damn, I have to finish the first one, pronto.

Dead Space 2 Limited Edition will include Dead Space Extraction with Move support. For PS3. He goes on to mention all the other major EA franchises. Well, how about Mass Effect? Yeah, thought so.

Next: GLaDOS!

HOLY CRAP. VALVE. GABE NEWELL.

He's eating his words as he speaks.

The cake is not a lie: Portal 2 is coming to the PS3. "It's been a long time. How have you been?"

Portal 2 looks insane. Even though I suffered massive nausea with the first one, I still really loved it. Kudos to Sony for actually negotiating with Valve instead of poo-pooing it.

Next is Final Fantasy XIV Online.

It's an MMO much like Final Fantasy XI, and apparently it's pretty much PS3 exclusive unlike its predecessor.

Mafia II is name-dropped, and will feature day-one exclusive DLC for PS3.

Ubisoft is next and expanding Assassin's Creed with Assassin's Creed Brotherhood. It will feature a multiplayer mode, and will only have a PS3 beta.

Well, that's a lot of exclusives.

A PS3 games reel is shown next, because Sony wants people to remember that no, CoD is not 360-exclusive, MGS Rising is not 360-exclusive and Madden is most definitely not 360-exclusive.

A lot of them titles intrigue me highly.

Gran Turismo 5 the title that's been exhibited around since God-knows-when is getting featured again.

Graphics look absurdly realistic. Top Gear videos a nice touch.

Concrete release date, please? Oh look, finally: November 2, 2010. Absurd.

Sucker Punch Studios is up next for inFamous 2. Cole's back and more electrifying than ever.

Looks like he has ice powers, that's... wait for it, cool.

Another trailer is shown. An ad for what though?

Twisted Metal.

That's kind of disturbing. Clowns? Lol, what?

David Jaffe is back on stage to pretty much seal the deal for Sony. And what better way to do that than to demonstrate some destruction?

Crazy classic gameplay right there.

A new team mode is also introduced, "designed to bring out skill and strategy". It's called Twisted Metal Nuke and it takes place in a dilapidated, post-apocalyptic-ish city that's ripe for destruction.

Woah, that's just crazy and sadistic.

I guess you can expect no less from the creator of God of War.

Jack Tretton closes the conference with the same summary you'd hear in a Nintendo conference. Only difference is that Tretton actually acknowledges, I don't know, the fans while Reggie flaunted his booth babes to the audience with his smug little face and showed off the 3DS. Granted, the smugness was warranted because the 3DS is kind of awesome, but come on, Ninty, show the fans some sugar.


Facebook movie chugs along

David Fincher's follow-up to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a bit less whimsical and much more grounded in reality. A glorification (and likely stylized) look at the creation of what we now know as Facebook is most definitely chugging along at a fast rate, and the rumored $47 million dollar movie will star a few notables like Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake.

In case you haven't caught wind of any news about this film, it's called The Social Network.

Based on a book by Ben Mezrich called The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook, a Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal and adapted by none other than The West Wing's Aaron Sorkin, this interesting movie set in modern times is shaping up to be a pretty darn exciting thing to look out for.

It will cover the happenings that revolved around the creation of the aforementioned social networking site, as well as the exploits that Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg were involved in. Hey, they're two kids who wanted to get laid. Now they're on top of the world.

You can read more about the film's premise in the source of this news piece: Slashfilm.


Movies Opening This Week: Scientologist Stalkers

Ahh, Tom Cruise. When did we last see that guy?

Oh yeah, he was Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder 2 years ago. A character now being developed in to a movie by Ben Stiller and Paramount.

In the interim though, what was he doing?!

Knight & DayKnight and Day

Whatever it was, it must’ve been quite similar to the premise of Knight and Day. He sat on a plane, stalked a girl, and shot guns all for the sake of Scientology. Plausible enough, don’t you agree?

 

 

That aside, I think this looks better than Killers. Also, I like Cameron Diaz more than Katherine Heigl, so maybe this is purely subjective conjecture.

Also, the action scenes look pretty decent, but the trailer just spoils a bit too much for comfort. It isn’t marketed as a particularly conventional rom-com because in essence, it feels more like Duplicity minus the empowered female agent character of Julia Roberts.

A little bonus is the somewhat conspiratorial vibe they’re going for; there’s something about it that feels as if it will spring a plot twist that’s LOST on you.

Ha! Get it?

Uhh…

Ba-dum-tish!

Grown UpsGrown-Ups

Adam Sandler and his posse of man-children (and notably, Rob Schneider and his first major movie since… who cares?) are old pals who meet up 30 years after they split. Since they’re wearing mourning attire, they probably shot it right after Chris Rock finished his Funeral movie, and man does this movie look insanely lame!

 

It’s either they’re saving the best gags for people to become surprised with, or it just means that the presence of Rob Schneider is but a bad omen to a potentially good, if not safe, premise. There will be obvious fat jokes, fart jokes, black jokes, and MILF jokes all around.

If you really want to watch a comedy though, get Get Him to the Greek or Cyrus, because while this movie’s jokes are probably legion, those two Jonah Hill movies are probably actually funny. Quality beats quantity. Two beats four. The works.

June 16, 2010

Apps Weekly: Guitar Hero + Foosball HD

Guitar Hero
$2.99
Activision, Vicarious Visions
Rated 12+, compatible with iOS 3.0 or later

I'm an unabashed Rock Band fanboy, but there's something I have to admit about this iPhone app: it's very well thought-out.

Featuring a more appealing interface than EA Mobile's Rock Band iPhone game, Guitar Hero contains much polish that'll make the 3 dollars worth it for that alone.

The "Backstage" feature will let you customize your character's hair, face, body, clothes, etc.

You can select from a wide range of colors, so you can mix and match your fashion-forward avatar.

However, for more options, you'll have to play through the actual game to get more clothes/faces/hairdos and so on.

You can share your avatar through Facebook, and take a photo of it.

Obviously though, the game actually revolves around guitar and bass. Yes, you heard it right. No drums, no vocals, it's all a stripped down, back-to-basics version of the Guitar Hero that people originally really loved, me included.

You have a (very paltry) selection of 6 songs, ranging from Queen, Weezer to Vampire Weekend. You can sort by artist, score rank, difficulty level and title.

After selecting from either Guitar or Bass, you'll be able to get into the game, which involves the usually tapping of gems. See that arrow though? That means you should slide the gem as it reaches the tap area. Another way they shook up the game mechanics come with the hammer-on's, which are tied together by a purple line. You can slide your finger across those gems to perform usually hard riffs.

And when you go through enough starred gems, you can activate Star Power, which involves a little tap of a blue bar found above the tapping area.

This all sounds well and good, but the game doesn't allow for two player matches like Rock Band iPhone's 4-player games, nor does it necessarily have a stable frame rate. Yes, there's lag even when you're using a 3rd generation iDevice. The timing window can be a bit off at times too. Somehow, Rock Band is more responsive than this game, but that's not to say this game is broken, it just needs some performance tweaks.

When you finish a song, you get a star rating, and interestingly at the bottom, you also get a sort of "level up system". Depending on the achievements you are able to unlock, your guitar tapping skills will level up.

What's more interesting though, is that each song has its own individual achievements, which is a great addictive touch.

If you get bored with the game, you can definitely buy more songs from the Store, but unlike Rock Band, it doesn't have any free songs to download... yet.

Were this game priced at Rock Band's $9.99, I would call this one a rip-off, but since it's $2.99 for this amount of detail, polish and user-friendliness, I'll let it off the hook and wholeheartedly recommend it.

Rating: 7/10

This week at WWDC, Illusion Labs, makers of games like Labyrinth 2 and Sway, comes to the iPad with an exclusive title called Foosball HD.

Like all of Illusion Labs' games, the game features a lot of polished graphics and gameplay mechanics. Social gaming is definitely a better fit on the iPad, and Foosball might just be the thing to whet a World Cup fan's appetite until the next game rolls along.


E3: Nintendo brings on the pain

Reggie Fils-Aime comes on stage because he wants to change the way you view the word "technology". "It shouldn't be about HD, Blu-ray, but it should be about the experience. Great technology married to great design is an experience like no other."

Ninty brings out the big guns, "an experience you've been waiting for". Yes, it's The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Semi-cel-shaded, semi-Twilight Princess. Wow.

Shigeru Miyamoto suddenly appears on a green screen dubbed in English, explaining the history of Zelda development circa 2004.

Wii MotionPlus was apparently key to the development of this new game, and Miyamoto calls for someone to demo the game's new controls. And fails.

Miserably.

Now that things in Nintendo land aren't looking quite good, Miyamoto comes to the rescue!

They're touting 1:1 motion tracking, and it's also failing badly. Hey Shigeru, this game isn't obviously ready for primetime.

Knowing Nintendo though, this game is going to be controlling quite well by release. Maybe there's lag due to the big screen being used, but even with that, the game's obviously still a work-in-progress.

Even with that, I like how you can actually control a few objects more granularly, in the sense that bombs can either be thrown or rolled. Miyamoto's blaming these snafus on Wi-fi interference though, and this is really Steve Jobs of them.

New gadgets include a beetle you can fly around with which is really cool. It'll kind of let you fly around a level to inspect and pick up unreachable items. Another item of interest is a whip you can use. A whip. Your dominatrix Zelda fanfiction just came true.

Seriously though, that whip is cool.

I know what's in store for this conference, but if I were actually watching this keynote for the first time, I would have my expectations lowered, if only because of these technicalities.

Reggie Fils-Aime goes back on stage to announce a new Mario game. No, it's not Galaxy 3, it's a sports game. Has volleyball, hockey, and basketball, all glorified with that arcade style Mario's known for. Coming in 2011, it's Mario Sports Mix. Might be fun, who knows?

Fils-Aime addresses some criticism for Wii, how it has waned in popularity and how games are sold less as time passes. "They're false assumptions," says Reggie. He then goes on to enumerate a lot of first-party games, thus somewhat making Reggie's claims pointless.

He then segueways to Nintendo's next "bridge" game: Wii Party.

In the spirit of Wii Play, it's pretty much another social game that's full of mini-games.

Next, Just Dance. Ubisoft's freaking everywhere.

I don't care much for it.

Fils-Aime goes back to the hardcore gamers by addressing the somewhat brief mention of a Golden Sun game for the DS last year. Now, it's getting a full-on trailer, along with a subtitle (Golden Sun: Dark Dawn). Looks really good.

I'm so loving my DS. Arrives "this holiday season".

Next comes a sudden segment talking about a new Goldeneye game. That's... very surprising! And the graphics look bad, a deliberate homage to the N64 days, or low production values?

I love that it has Daniel Craig in it, and it actually looks exciting. Activision's making it though. Hmm... well, maybe not Treyarch but yeah. It "arrives this holiday".

Epic Mickey is next on the pipeline, and I'm excited to see some really unique gameplay.

Warren Spector, the much-storied designer for Epic Mickey is called on stage to demo the game.

It's a 3D platformer with a catch: you can manipulate the world with your paint and paint thinner. You can draw things and erase the world.

Masahiro Sakurai is being featured by Reggie, and wait for it: Kirby's finally getting a new game in a console! The first time in seven years!

It's called Kirby: Epic Yarn, and the game looks astoundingly unique. This looks like art. Wow. Looks like it supports multiplayer. Releasing "this fall". That's a lot of blockbusters in one year!

Next game: Dragon Quest 9 for the DS. It's out in Japan, with 120 mini-quests (with more on WiFi), the ability to link with up to three DS's in an adventure and an lot of random treasure maps, this RPG is a huge craze over there. A localized version will be released on July 11.

Next, Metroid: Other M.

A return to 2D with FPS elements, it's pretty much Metroid with a new coat of paint.

Next, Retro Studios is working on a new Donkey Kong game. Yes, Donkey Kong Country is back. More specifically, it Returns.

Excellent.

Next: "3DS is on the way".

Satoru Iwata takes the stage and holds the new 3DS on his hand. The top screen is widescreen, and displays 3D without glasses.

There are a lot of cameras on the device. The cameras on the back are actually capable of taking 3D pictures: a nice touch. Also, Iwata reveals a new Slide Pad located above the d-pad. It will play some 3D movies from content providers like Disney, Warner Bros. and Dreamworks.

Next Iwata reveals Project Sora being worked on by Sakurai. What is it? It's Kid Icarus Uprising. Holy freaking crap.

"Sorry to keep you waiting!"

Wow. Talk about a great graphical upgrade for a handheld.

Another feature of note Iwata is introducing is a new way for games to communicate to your system. Basically, the old DS would have Nintendogs running, and under a Wi-Fi access point, another Nintendogs owner would be able to see you and wake your dog up, but the connection would stop when the cartridge was removed. Now, even without the cartridge, a 3DS can be communicated to. Does this mean that any software stored in the 3DS is finally separate from the hardware? Does this make the software downloaded from the DSi Store assigned to a user ID rather than an individual system? There are a lot of questions surrounding the specifics, but I hope Nintendo can sort all of those issues out.

Also, the launch lineup includes Nintendogs + Cats, as well as a lot of third-party titles from developers like Warner Bros., Atlus, Hudson, Marvelous, Ubisoft, SEGA, Harmonix, EA, Capcom, Bandai-Namco, Konami and more.

DJ Hero 3D, Professor Layton, Saint's Row, Madden NFL, Dynasty Warriors, Resident Evil, Kingdom Hearts, Batman, Assassin's Creed, Ridge Racer and here's a coup: METAL GEAR SOLID.

Bombshell, much?

A video about the Nintendo 3DS is shown.

I'm willing to bet that 5th Cell won't be leaving the DS any time soon.

In the end though, I'm so glad that Nintendo is going back and appealing once more to the hardcore. As Iwata said, "we've established the install base, now we want to make compelling games".

Another video is shown though featuring Satoru Iwata, Shigeru Miyamoto and Reggie Fils-Aime this time.

So far, this is really the only 3D display technology I've felt compelled to buy. And I really like how Reggie Fils-Aime got burned.

Reggie summons his echelon of booth babes to demonstrate the power of 3DS. I really want to see how the "3D sensation" will work. "No more glasses" should be the way of the future, really. Sony and Microsoft are working on 3D gaming but they have glasses. Nintendo is a step ahead.

Sounds fanboyish, but it's not.

P.S.

Other notable 3DS launch titles: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is being remade, along with Star Fox. That's awesome.


June 15, 2010

E3 '10: Microsoft fails to Kinect.

From forced excitement to awkward Wii Sports rip-offs, Microsoft really put up a rather underwhelming E3 conference, touting a look at the future of gaming.

If you don't want to hear me rambling about it though, you can just watch the whole thing for yourself.

It all starts... with Black Ops.

(Not the E3 trailer.)

Now that Infinity Ward has been dissolved, it's up to Treyarch to maintain the series' integrity. Yes, they've had cracks at it in the past, but none of them have really been as critically acclaimed. Still, the stage set for Black Ops is not the World War II anymore, which is promisingly fresh, because now we're on Vietnam. Yes, it's the 70's in this new go-around.

Unfortunately, I suffer from a lot of nausea when playing a lot of FPS games, so even if I were actually interested in this new installment, I wouldn't be able to last 20 seconds with it.

Next, Senior Vice President Don Mattrick is reading the teleprompter badly. Seriously.

He announces an exclusivity deal for Black Ops DLC, and moves on to mention the Xbox's 10 year anniversary. He segueways a bit into Project Natal- now dubbed "Kinect"- and it's "all about showing, not telling".

He calls Hideo Kojima on to the stage and, as last year's E3 announcement for MGS Rising promised, he delivers some actual gameplay footage. Shigenobu Matsuyama, producer of the game, is called on to provide a slightly clearer English-language explanation. "Zan-Datsu" - to cut and to take- is a driving force behind the awesome-looking multiplatform game.

The only question is: are there cutscenes?

Other than that, this title looks extremely hardcore. That is so badass. Come on though, watermelon cutting simulator? Lol.

Phil Spencer, Corporate VP, comes on stage. He's a better speaker.

He goes on to name drop some high-profile titles, but then goes on about Kinect's ability to connect people. But whatever, it's Gears of War 3 time. 4 player Locust ass-kicking.

Did anybody say Left 4 Dead?

OK, OK, I confess: it looks pretty fun.

Cliffy B.: "Now that's our demo. Try out Beast mode later."

Wait, he forgot to mention about how much he'll be ranting more about bird poop on TV.

Peter Molyneux, expert British rambler and legendary game designer, is called on stage. Fable III to be covered.

Looks exciting. And the dog returns.

Next, Microsoft Game Studios presents a new game from a new partner: Crytek.

Now that God of War has come to an end, there should be something that fills the void. These Spartans in Codename: Kingdoms may just be the thing, and what better developer to handle a graphically astounding epic than Crytek?

Next is Halo: Reach, which I have zero interest in.

All I know is that there are space battles.

Next exec to be called is Marc Whitten.

Time to demo Kinect. I'm very compelled with the navigation controls because it does voice and face recognition, which is very cool.

Fast forward to about 20 minutes to see how cool the navigation interface is.

"Xbox! Pron!"

Also, Justin Bieber? Demo? Gamers? Seriously?

Now it's time for FaceTime, I mean, VideoKinect. It's great that you can chat with people who are on Windows Live Messenger instead of just Xbox to Xbox. Why does Apple's demo feel cooler for some reason?

I like how you can watch videos together. But the really forced (scripted?) conversation stifles the mood, even when the camera follows your face which is a very good touch (although I hope it also follows colored people's faces, unlike some HP computers).

Next, ESPN streaming for Xbox 360 is announced. I imagine a lot of sports fans are cheering right now, but of course, your network provider must be supported by ESPN.

The two guys from SportsCenter "commute in just seconds to E3". I don't particularly care, still it looks like a great implementation of an "ultimate sports experience".

Now it's time to demo the Kinect library, and Kudo Tsunoda is back to "deliver on last year's promises".

A family-friendly derivative of Nintendogs is announced, and it's called Kinectimals. That little girl pretending to be licked at is so... ughhhh...

Bright side: you're taking care of a tiger!

Next is, well, the uninspired Kinect Sports. Ubisoft also announced a Kinect sports compilation and... I'm kind of sick of them.

Well, if I wanted to run like a running dumbass, I would've bought that old NES Track and Field game. At least, you can play soccer. Ping pong without a controller though is gonna be tricky.

Next: Kinect Joy Ride.

"Here we go..."

Wow, worst feigned enthusiasm ever.

You know that game show Wipeout? Well, Kinect Adventures is kind of like that... I guess. But seriously, are they actually faking fun?

"Look at the water!"

I hate you people.

Sims are more convincing in faking their fun.

Ubisoft demos their Kinect game. A fitness game called Your Shape: Fitness Evolved.

Hmm, looks like an actual attempt at a decent fitness game. They actual demo this game, but I'm too lazy to look for the demo video.

Interestingly, the Kinect is actually made for these games. Dude, this is the new Wii Fit craze. This thing will sell because of Your Shape.

Next for Kinect is Harmonix's dance game Dance Central. I love Harmonix, but...

...oh. Interesting. This actually looks badass given the right presentation. Alex Rigopoulos goes on stage to announce some tracks from Lady Gaga, No Doubt, etc. and Harmonix has worked with "actual dancers so the game lets you do the real deal". Otherwise known as "not looking as stupid as it really should be".

That said, there is still a lot of opportunity to look dumb regardless.

What's great though is something that resembles a bit of drop-in-drop-out, or maybe it's just me.

Kinect will be launching worldwide on November 4, 2010 with 15 titles set for launch. Yes, there's a Sonic game.

Lol, what?

No demoes for that, but I'm interested in how it'll actually happen.

But what they do show a demo for is a freaking Star Wars game. It may or may note come with something tangible.

Hit detection looks iffy though.

Afterwards is a demo for Forza Motorsport for Kinect, and I don't really care much for that game because I really don't like the idea of a non-tangible steering wheel. Maybe for car creation though.

Will Kinect hold up to the demands of precision that a racing simulation demands?

Don Mattrick comes back on stage and from here on I'm feeling a bit indifferent.

He recaps whatever the teleprompter says, and definitely tries hard to appeal to Nintendo's blue ocean. To be honest, some games look good, but some games just look stupid.

Aside from that, he announces the completely redesigned Xbox 360 Slim. 250GB HDD, built-in Wi-Fi, Kinect-ready. $299. That's a pretty competitive price against the PS3.

It's shipping today.

And the audience is getting one.

They just got OPRAH'D!

"That was really fun," says Mattrick. Yeah, a fun bribe. An otherwise lackluster conference can only be made good with a stunt like this.

Truth be told, I'd really love to have one of those for free...

P.S.


The Cheapest Mac, More Expensive.

I'm surprised this isn't the advertising tagline of the newly, quietly redesigned Mac Mini computer.

If you go to the Apple website, you'll see a little insignificant mention of the redesign located below the huge iPhone 4 photo.

Quite frankly, it looks so sleek.

It finally has the pleasure of possessing a sturdy Aluminum unibody enclosure, meaning that the computer is actually carved from a single large block of aluminum. Also, it finally has a feature that major Apple detractors have nagged the company for: an HDMI port. Yes, Apple's been listening to those interested in a computer for a home theater and the HDMI port is major news.

Also packed in the machine is an SD card slot, and unfortunately, the DVI video adapter has gone extinct.

It still doesn't really play Blu-Ray's though, which is probably the large contradiction to the inclusion of an HDMI port.

The discs aren't quite popular internationally, as that debacle can be easily replaced by either iTunes, or for even better quality movies, torrents.

Apple touts the lack of a power brick, as well as a more accessible interior for when you decide to upgrade the internals.

Accessing this somewhat clean looking interior is only a matter of removing a sort of removable panel.

That said, the machine, while attractive aesthetically, is priced expensively at $699, up from $599. It doesn't come with a monitor, nor a mouse and keyboard like the iMac, which kind of makes the iMac an even more compelling product when you look at it another way.

Still, the price hike is somewhat justified in the loosest sense of the word because the base model already comes with even more hard drive space (320GB-500GB), better graphics (NVidia GeForce 320M), and a high amount of RAM (4GB upgradeable to 8GB, DDR3). No Core i5 or i7, just a Core 2 Duo like the Macbook white.


June 14, 2010

Microsoft Kinect Pre-Con

Picture it: E3. You're wearing some white thing and you're about to demo Microsoft's most ambitious gaming-oriented accessory.

Well, I can certainly picture that image with the help of Twitpic, and in the words of @jeffcannata, "Microsoft has indoctrinated us," which looks to be the case.

Just when you thought Microsoft's Project Natal was a pretty bad code name, Microsoft just rebranded the camera-based motion controller with an even worse finalized name for market: Kinect.

I'm fine with Microsoft's Kin phones, but Kinect is just... a dumb play on words.

Demoed on the show floor a few hours prior to its imminent keynote (it's just a mere 5 hours to go as I type this), Kinect elicited quite a few negative reactions. True, the controller lives up to its promise of voice recognition, body position recognition and hand recognition, but the imminent game library supporting it isn't too promising. Another Wii Sports knock-off, Wii Fit knock-off and a driving game headline the launch line-up.

It's true that Microsoft may have saved the more hardcore titles for last, but as of now, I'm left unimpressed by the lack of compelling games the Kinect has been announced to have.

Also: Harmonix has confirmed the existence of a dance game that runs under Kinect. I guess, that's something to look out for in tomorrow's conference.


This Time in Games: Pre-E3 Rock Band Orga...nizing

Do you know what a bombshell looks like, aside from the obligatory Jessica Rabbit picture?

It looks like this:

What you're seeing here is the plastic prototype keyboard-slash-keytar-hybrid that'll work with yes, Rock Band 3.

And I couldn't be any more excited.

Aside from that, there are the obvious gameplay enhancements of vocal harmonies, pause counters, drop-in drop-out, and more. Top that up with even better graphics, animations and lighting effects and you've got yourself a day-one purchase.

Notably, there is also a DS version coming out. Puzzles me that a PSP version is not present this time around. Hopefully, the DS version will bring some Amplitude style gameplay, which I really, really loved when I got my hands on it.

Unexpectedly so, Harmonix has also included support for real true-blue instruments that can be connected to your computer as a MIDI instrument. No really, you can get your real electric guitar/keyboard/drums and connect it to Rock Band. It's all made possible by the little adapter below:

How, one will wonder, will a real instrument translate to the game? To answer your question, there's a new Pro mode for all the hardcore fans out there.

It'll be a note-for-note representation of the real song, so basically, there will be a lot of actual keys on the screen that you can really play from in real life. Not only does this make Rock Band 3 a fun game, it can also be a bonafide learning tool.

Harmonix is also offering its own six-stringed guitars ($150) and drum cymbals ($39) for those who don't own a real guitar but are interested in PRO mode. They will all be compatible with your computer as MIDI devices if you want to start composing your own songs.

A lot of things are a given on the 360 and PS3 side of the coin, but the Wii side, well, there are still a lot of unclear details. I won't get into them though.

There will also be smaller touches, like Facebook/Twitter connectivity, song filters and setlist creation tools, that make the game a lot more usable and quick to set up.

But I'm not all about Rock Band 3, there's been some buzz about a Mortal Kombat Rebirth movie pitch that's been distributed around the interwebs, and quite frankly, the results are positively shocking!

It's rumored to have been a pitch for Warner Bros., and I can't believe how much potential this kind of has. Still, I can't say much more since video game adaptations have a history of being really bad. Maybe this video will live a great life as a viral short, but as a full-blown movie, it might just suck ass.

More serious are the former guys of the dissolved studio Midway (now dubbed NetherRealm Studios) who are working on a real Mortal Kombat game that looks really fun for once.

It marks a return to its 2D roots, but with polygonal characters (you know, like Street Fighter IV). What's different though, is the fact that the game will also feature tag battles much like Marvel vs. Capcom 2 famously did. In addition, the good ol' fatalities return, along with "environmental fatalities", and perhaps even "brutalities". All in all, it's likely to feature much gore and brutal action.

Ed Boon, one of the original creators of MK, is once again working on it with a team in Chicago.


 
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