Penny Arcade Expo - Day 2

Greetings all from Seattle again. Yesterday, I spent most of the day running around in awe of everything. My sense were overloaded and I was more in the mood of seeing everything as soon as possible, swiping all the free stuff, and.. pretty much taking in everything at once. Actually, my first first objective was to find a copy of Phoenix Wright 3, but alas.. Pink Godzilla has not gotten a copy just yet.

sad...

Pink Godzilla did have two games.. well three games that sparked my interest, but nothing enough to purchase. These were Doki Doki Mahou Showtime (i think that's the title) on the DS, Face Training on the DS, and Cosmic Smash for the Dreamcast. Honestly, I don't think I'll get more than 5 minutes worth of OOhhh and AAahh out of the DS games. And Cosmic Smash was $75.. just a little too pricey, despite being the only DVD cased Dreamcast I don't have. hmm.. I probably should have taken a picture of these.. oh well.

Anyways, today was all about the games. Watching demos, playing demos, and doing some hardcore video game journalism by writing up impressions on early builds which don't reflect the final product.

Here's a few pics from the way in:

Conan

by THQ for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3

Dan was super interested in Conan and defintely wanted to give it a whirl, so this was the first game of the day. Conan is the story of Conan the Barbarian and his adventures storming spartan controlled camps and utterly tearing apart their bodies. It was a pretty entertaining game to watch, since Conan has particular combos that lay havok on soldiers resulting in both arms being sliced off at the soldier followed up by a kick to the chest sending their head flying at the screen.

Honestly, I wonder how many next-gen titles have an M rating. Doesn't it seem like every game you come across, you're either shooting up some guy, and slicing some dude across the chest?

Anyways, the game looking pretty fun. Definitely not worth $60, as is the case with nearly all next-gen titles, but whenever the demo is available on Xbox live, check it out for well spent 20 minutes of senseless brutality. The full version will probably be more of the same, which will probably get quite old after the first level or two.

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

by Capcom for Xbox Live and PSN

While waiting for the Mass Effect live demo, I played a little bit of Puzzle Fighter since it was right next to me.

The HD remix looks quite beautiful, but some of the alterations in the game will keep me from downloading. The sprites are beautiful, but the gems are needlessly overdone. They sparkle with lens flares, and explode when destroyed, rather than shatter. They make explosion sounds too, rather than shattering sounds :/

They also altered the gameplay a little bit. They changed some character's drops to be more balanced, but they also changed around the patterns of gems that normally drop. In the original, they was always one color that dropped more than the other through the match. This made it easy to figure which color to group together and eventually build a massive gems out of to topple your opponent.

Now, this has changed so you start off having an abundance of one color, but eventually changing to another color before the Diamond drops. Then after the diamond, it shifts again to another dominent color. Pain in the ass for loyalists of Puzzle Fighter.

I guess the balancing and unpredictability isn't so bad.. but the stupid gem explosions and lens flares are absolutely needless. Screw you, Capcom.

I wonder what stupid needless alterations will be in Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.

Mass Effect

by Bioware, exclusively for Xbox 360

I've had a very disapproving relationship with Mass Effect based from my initial bias against the Xbox in general. Despite actually liking the Xbox 360, and a couple games on the machine, ever since the original Xbox was announced and released, How dare microsoft and PC gaming tread into my territory of console gaming... blah blah blah.

When Mass Effect was announced, i didn't care at all. Then i learned that Bioware was the developer and finally realized why people gave a shit about it. Bioware had previously done such Game of the Year worthly titles as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2 on Xbox 1.. and later did Jade Empire. All 3 of which I have never played, and also carried no interest towards.

After watching 1up's 15 minute Mass Effect preview, I suddenly saw why people were so ape shit about this title. My hyped opinion went from "eh" to "damn.. maybe i'll rent it or something." Definitely check out the video, btw. I showed the video to a couple people and they were completely thrown back by it.

So today, Microsoft's booth held a live demo of Mass Effect which highlighted the conversation gameplay and the battle gameplay. Ya know, the two key elements to any RPG-like game. Conversation was amazingly smooth. Conversation cues were easily integrated within a cutscene FAR more fluidly than KOTOR of Jade Empire. You're able to select your response before the other's finish talking, so you aren't sitting at a selection screen of what to say.. The conversation actually feels like a real time conversation.

Past that, the fighting system is rather intuitive as well. Mass Effect is really pioneering the first FPS RPG. Switching back and forth between weapons is very fast, and it's just as easy to switch your teammates weapons too. Hit a button and the weapon selection overlay is displayed. Click on the weapon, and you're back in battle.

From watching the demo, I totally felt immersed within the conversation, the action, and the outcome of the decisions chosen through the demo.

After this, my hyped opinion went from "maybe rent" to "buy on day 1." Honestly, this game is absolutely impressive. The slow dialogue from KOTOR and Jade Empire is totally removed. The shooting gameplay brings the action to a whole new level in their games. See for yourself with 1up's preview..

The hilarious problem with Mass Effect is that the release date is November 12th. The same day, Assassin's Creed, Super Mario Galaxy, NiGHTS 2, Resident Evil Umbrella Chronicles, and about 5 other notable games are released. The day that will probably have the greatest amount of video game sales the entire christmas season. Actually, I don't really see this so much as a problem because I don't really care so much about those other games. I'd buy Mass Effect before them, so all is good.. I might pick up Resident Evil if Circuit City has it for $40 though.

The most kickass piece of SWAG I've acquired from the Penny Arcade Expo has been the Mass Effect novel.

Penny Arcade Adventures

by Hothead Gaming for the PC

Next up, we went a few booths over to check out the Live demo of the Penny Arcade game. I haven't been keeping up on this at all. In fact, I really don't care since I don't think Penny Arcade is funny in the slightest.

The Demo started by going through the character creation process, and then started up the game playing that character. The penny arcade game is very well drawn. I might not like Tycho's humor so much, but Gabe's artwork is quite decent. It's amazing to see how much his skills have improved over time. Just check out today's comic, and then check out his first comic. You will see 7 or 8 years of improvement.

I'm not really a big fan of the 3d presented in the game, but all the cutscenes are 2d, drawn by Gabe. And the charcter you've made, is also in these cutscenes. So each possible combination that can created from the Character creator is replicated in these 2d "hand" drawn cutscenes. I don't think I've ever seen a game do that before..

The 2d cutscenes are great, but the gameplay is rather standard. It's set up like your standard turn based RPG, where you get caught up in battles, and all that jazz. It's kinda sad to see so much innovation in the Art and presentation, and have the game fall flat in how you play it. :/

Oh well... Fans will still play through for the story, the humor and the art. If you like Penny Arcade, you'll probably like the game ^_^

Time Crisis 4

by Namco for Playstation 3

With the release of the Wii, you'd think that all these arcade shooters would be find an easy home where you didn't have to buy any more gun peripherals. Well not true.. both Time Crisis 4 and House of the Dead 4 will be on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, respectively. Pretty stupid.. At least it makes sense with Time Crisis, since that has always been Playstation exclusive, but House of the Dead? eh.. I suppose the arcade HotD4 is using Sega's Xbox 360 unit. Whatever.. I still want House of the Dead 4 on Wii. Ghost Squad is crap.

For Time Crisis 4, Namco is releasing a new Guncon which has all the buttons of a Playstation controller represented. It also features light sensors placed on the upper corners of your television to detect and report on your screen position. It's the light gun of the future, seeing how TVs don't use progressive scan lines anymore. You should be able to use this Gun on all previous Time Crisis games too.

Time Crisis 4 is kinda fun. I never played it in the Arcade because shooting up zombies with an Uzi in House of the Dead 4 was WAY more fun than shooting terrorists for the billionth time.

Time Crisis 4 does feature weapon selecting which is a new change for the series. You have your standard pistol, machine gun, shotgun, and grenade launcher. Certain situations call for different attacks and certain bosses can be taken down faster with certain guns. This adds a very real-time tactical approach to a very fast paced game.

Even with a few innovations, Time Crisis is just more of the same. Hardcode Time Crisis fans will probably pick it up, but I really don't see the average gamer buying this. I mean, the game'll be $60, and the gun will probably be another $20. $80 on an Arcade shooter?! Hell no. You could spend half that, $40, on Ghost Squad for the Wii instead and not have that extra $20 for a peripheral. This is why Namco puzzles me with this release. Same with Sega and House of the Dead 4. ARgghghghh..

Bring House of the Dead 4 to the Wii. OR.. even better. Bring House of the Dead collection to the Wii with new graphics.

Ummm.. what else did I play..

Vision Training

by Nintendo & Namco for the DS.

Nintendo had a pretty slick setup with DSes around the perimeter of several Wii setups with Mario Strikes, Fire Emblem and Metroid Prime 3.

I wanted to play Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass.. but the demo was so long, the people perched themselves in front of it for 20-30 minutes at a time. It took forever to finally get on it.

The first time, I gave up on Zelda and tried out Vision Training, conveniently placed next to it. It had one game where several C's popped on the screens and you had to recall which direction they were facing. Pretty standard Training game.

It was so damn easy though. First try, I got the first 8 in a row, and then screwed up on the last two. I still got the high score though. What the crap?! In fact, everyone I saw play the game got a perfect score of having their vision age in their 20s. What the hell do you have to do to fail it?

Vision Training was a pretty dumb attempt at another Training game.. skip.

Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass

by Nintendo for Nintendo.. DS

After that waste of time, I got back up and stood in line determined to play Phantom Hourglass.. and after this fat guy in front of me got so fed up trying to figure out this simple puzzle. The game was mine!

Watching this guy continuously fail at this puzzle already gave me enough time to know how to solve it. There were a series of 4 levers, and you had to pull them in the correct order. Two stone tablets on opposite ends of the room gave exact directors on which ones to pull when. I was rather amazed this guy didn't get it.

The puzzle gave me the opportunity to use the MOST needed, MOST useful, MOST thoughtful piece of gameplay added to any video game.. A map that you can write on. The one tablet said to pull the lever first. I pulled down my menu and jotted the information down. Then I did the same with the other tablet. That is so damn useful..

The weird thing about Phantom Hourglass is that Link is controlled completely using the stylus. You move the fairy around on the screen, and link runs in the direction. You double tap stuff to interact with them. To kill enemies, to talk to people, to pick up rocks and pots. You draw a circle around yourself to do a spin attack. It sounds really funky, but it works out pretty well.

And if you don't like that, I think you can switch back to the old style of control.

The demo was standard Legend of Zelda stuff though.. Solve puzzles. Kill enemies. Explore the island. The large innovation is really the controls.. but it's still good 'ol Zelda at heart.

I read an interview with the producer of Phantom Hourglass a couple months ago. When asked about what he felt about Nintendo's turn towards the casual and hardcore gaming concerns and all that.. something like that anyways. He responded that Phantom Hourglass has been a very surprising success for Nintendo. He's never seen so many "casual" gamers pick up a more "hardcore" game like Legend of Zelda.

Games like Brain Age and Wii Sports have been a gateway for these people into gaming, but games like Legend of Zelda have been a bridge into more traditional gaming, and have been made an even bigger success because of that.

He was pretty excited about it... Although there's still plenty concern about Nintendo's shift towards more casual gaming. I dont' really see it as anything to be concerned about just yet. "Casual" and "Hardcore" games like Guitar Hero, Rockband and DDR have had and will have tremendous success because of both audiences..

Something that does concern me is Mario Party 8 being the Wii 2nd best selling game. :/

Assassin's Creed

by Ubisoft Montreal exclusively for the Playstation 3

This is another one of those games coming out on November 12th, but, really, the only game that PS3 owners will care about. This is made by the developing minds by Prince of Persia Sands of Time and attempts to accomplish some very pretentious goals.

Assassin's Creed was presented as a panel headed by the chief Creative Designer.

I was pretty neat. He started by going through a little bit of the design process. What their goals were when creating this new IP for Ubisoft. They wanted to do away with "video game" rules of physics and physical conduct, and keep much of the interaction with the world grounded.. but still bend that enough to make that game a lot of fun.

The set forth and designed a free roaming game engine that took the environment into account, rather than having scripted levels where the game already knew what you were going to do. With such a flexible game engine, level designers had nearly ultimate freedom on the 3 cities of Assassin's Creed.

Another goal of the Assassin Team was to base the game in actual factual history, rather than just a setting. The chief designer was a little bit of a history buff, and attempted to recreate the 1100 world of 3 major middle eastern cities including Jerusalem. Assassin's Creed's Jerusalem isn't a picture perfect model, but you get the feel of having a massive city for you to traverse.

The Cheif Designer continued the presentation talking about the game engine and giving examples of it's free roaming capabilities. He had a few movies of the character running around in the environment. Then he'd restart the movie, move around the objects in the field, and play it again with the character being able to detect where everything had been moved to an act accordingly. It was quite impressive.

Most of these interactable objects where wooden bars going across the tops of streets, and bricks sticking out of buildings. Part of the free-roaming capabilities were jumping from these pegs to peg, and climbing up anything that stuck out of a wall at least 2 inches. You didn't even need to press any buttons to interact with these objects.. Simply walk up to them and the game knows what you want to do, and it'll do it. Run into a wall and you'll climb up it. Run off the edge of the building and if there's something to jump to, you'll do it. No sense cluttering the controls with useless functions when the game will do it for you.

That's simply the gameplay mechanics of movement. He went on to discuss character interactions which was part of another Goal: Crowds. Not enough games, he said, give you a real sense of a city. In a city, you have millions of people walking around. And you can't just run at full speed through the crowd.. You run into physical resistance. With Assassin's Creed you can gentle push people out of your way, knock people over, and easily get knocked over or pushed as well.

People don't just sit back and let you knock around the good citizens of Jerusalem. You've got a price to pay for being an asshole. People will start pushing back. And if you start a fight with a perfect stranger, good citizens will rise up against you and make you pay. Not to mention if a guard sees you fucking around, you can expect a battle.

Next he delves into combat, and talked about how he tried to bring realism into the fight scene too.. That one really wasn't as apparent as the previous two goals. It just looked like Fable or whatever..

Overall, Assassin's Creed looked pretty bad ass. The free-roaming nature was not unlike taking Grand Theft Auto to the next level but back in time. I can see Playstation 3 owners being very happy about this game.

The rest of the day...

That was pretty much it for games throughout the day.. There are some pretty fun games coming out, but a far too many sub-par games for the price of $60. I'll spend the $70 on Mass Effect's Collector's Edition, but beyond that.. I'm going to take advantage of any deal for a next-gen game at full price.. Meaning that, Circuit City's $10 off a newly released game will have my business if i want a newly released game.

There are so many games coming out this Christmas season.. So much competition.. I think that a lot of games are going to get overlooked just because people are still playing the games from the previous month or two. If Bioshock came out in November, there's no way it would have the same success as it had this week. No way in hell.

Anyways, After we returned from Ivan's down on the shoreline, I attended the 1up Yours live show a little late. Theater B wasn't really much of a theater than it was a corner of the large entrance hall. That made hearing anything very difficult through the ambiance of chatter throughout the Con. Overall, hearing it didn't really matter so much, since it'll be online this coming Friday.. It was neat to see all the 1up Yours guys in person doing their show.

Afterwards, I went up to the tables, shook their hands, and got a photo of 'em, minus Garnet.

Good times ^_^.

On into the night...

After the 1up Yours live show, we headed to the Auditorium to catch all the evening's concerts. First up was Gabe, Tycho and the Omeganauts playing Rockband. Next with Jonathon Coulton, Then MC Frontalot. And finally the Minibosses.

I had never heard of Jonathon Coulton, but everyone I was with certainly had. His songs were pretty damn hilarious.. Check 'em out.. I'm sure they're on his site.

Seeing the Minibosses live was another one of those Life Goals of mine which had finally be achieved. The Minibosses were pretty much the first all video game remix band. They exclusively did background music from NES games. Castlevania 1, 2, 3, Megaman 2, Super Mario 2, Excitebike, Double Dragon, Metroid.. all using Guitar Riffs. They began the night with the opening scene of Super Metroid on the Space Colony.

I've loved the Minibosses ever since first coming across one of their songs on the internet in the early 2000s. If I looked around enough through my files, I could probably pinpoint a more specific year.

The night was just as fantastic as the day.

As a whole...

The Penny Arcade Expo was quite amazing. As mentioned before, this has been the most organized Con I have ever been to. It has been a joy to attend, and seeing the smiles on everyone's faces is proof that I'm not the only one. I will gladly attend next year.




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