Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
1. First time you start up is a bit different from the Xbox 360. Apparently Sony doesn't associate your 'game profile' with your Playstation Network profile. So when you first make a profile on the PS3, you have to make another profile on PSN and associate them with each other.
2. Getting my PS3 to play nice with my local network setup gave me a slight headache. For one thing, it seems I can't assign a static IP address to the PS3 when it's wireless. I think I can't, anyway. Well, it's hard to navigate the settings on the PS3 since there's so many options. And as I was trying to get it to play well with my local network, a bit later on it turns out that the PS3 was messing around (somehow) with my local router's settings via Wi-Fi. By that stage I had to reset my router and set up my local network (which has a special configuration) from scratch.
By that point, I decided to just make my connection to the PS3 a wired one. That way, I could assign it a proper IP address and give it a setting on the router which would let the Playstation Network access work properly.
3. A lot of the time when you start out with the PS3, and if you use it's online features, you'll be downloading patches, patches and more patches. If you don't want to think about online connectivity then this should be no hassle and you can just cancel at every prompt. But since I want to try online modes in some games, I had to sit through a lot of screens which said 'DOWNLOADING....'.
4. Loading up Little Big Planet for the first time, the first screen that greets you is some kind of 'Installing' screen. I think it installed something because it took a long time for it to end, and there was a warning onscreen saying that I shouldn't turn off the system or do anything or else my console will have problems. So there I was, waiting even longer...
5. Little Big Planet, at the outset, doesn't introduce itself well. For one thing, the first 'level' is like a long self-congratulatory credits / tutorial level. Granted it was creatively designed, but the developers' self-back-patting before I even appreciated the game was a little smarmy and off-putting for me.
When the game DID get started (that's by level 3 or 4), the game started to build a much better appeal, and I was beginning to enjoy it. I did have fun with it by that point and the game became a far more pleasant experience by then. I just wish that they didn't go with the combined forced tutorial and credits during the first level of the game.
More Little Big Planet impressions soon....I had to mix work with christmas shopping with PS3 gameplay, so I have to gather my thoughts first, and play a bit more of the game, before coming up with a solid and reliable impression. I'm having fun by Level 3, and I hope it will get better from this point on; that's all I'll say for now.
6. Making my PSN ID was a pretty simple affair. I chose a US region, since this was the recommendation by many of my peers in Pinoyxbox.
7. There's a lot of content on Playstation Network that isn't on Xbox Live. Which is nice. One bonus is how the Playstation Network's Videos/movie trailers ARE NOT REGION LOCKED. I was able to download a couple of movie trailers. On Xbox Live I can't do this, because somehow Microsoft thought it was a bad idea for people out of region to start downloading trailers from the States....it's an odd thing that Sony can be more free about this than Microsoft.
8. Another nice thing about Playstation Network:
THEMES AND WALLPAPERS ARE FREE! Thank Goodness I don't have to pay for those!
9. I tried Playstation Home....wow, it reserves 3GB of your hard drive space??! There goes my 40GB. I have about 27GB left. Granted, that's a lot, but every time I do something on the PS3, this console seems to be eating more and more gigabytes.....
Another thing about Home---I was supposed to go exploring, but every option to visit other places required me to download the place, and each download was around 200MB or larger. For this reason, I didn't leave the first area in Playstation Home at ALL. I just stuck with navigating the regular Playstation Store interface instead of spending even more time sitting and waiting for downloads to finish.
10. Apparently Sign In is not automatic by default. So when you login in as user 'scytherage', you still have to log in manually as PSN user 'scytherage' separately. You could make it automatic on the PSN login screen, but it's just odd that by default the two 'accounts' exist as two completely different entities.
11. The PS3 has a weird bug where it 'thinks' I don't have an Ethernet Cable plugged in, but is still able to sign in to PSN and download patches/videos/etc.
Overall, my first 24 hours with the Playstation 3 is marked by surprises; I got so used to the smooth online interface on the Xbox 360 that the PS3's implementation is just alien to me. Granted, if the Playstation 3 is your very first game console, the things i've mentioned probably won't bother you. They're things that PC users have to deal with when they're trying to connect their PC to the Internet for the first time. But if the PS3 is your second console (and you've just used the Xbox 360's NXE interface), the 'style' of the PS3's online connectivity just feels old-fashioned and dated. A lot of it involves going through several menu screens and changing settings manually, then waiting and sitting through the interface and following instructions step-by-step. It just doesn't feel seamless and effortless enough, and I can imagine some gamers will just give up completely in the middle of setting up the PS3 for any kind of online connectivity.
Actually playing games (in particular, my experience with LBP) is just alright. Installation of things to the hard drive on the PS3 is NOT optional but mandatory, so when you start out whichever game for the first time, there's going to be a bit of waiting. But once the game gets started, it seems to work well; I haven't encountered much problems like waiting for a long time in between game levels in Little Big Planet. It's just that 'first installation' that happens when you first load a game which makes it feel a bit slower than the Xbox 360.
Sony's generosity on their Playstation Network deserves a bit of kudos, I suppose. It's good they're not charging for themes/wallpapers, and it's GREAT that their movie trailer downloads/etc are not region locked.
The Philippines' very own Carlo Racela won 1ST PLACE and was the overall champion, winning against Australia, while Daniel Chua won 4TH PLACE. Both of them got some really great prizes for the effort, too!
For more information, check out the original news post I found in http://www.hackenslash.net/ . Here's the direct link to the news article, with a video as well:
Just an excerpt, below :
Filipinos win international Tekken tilt
Posted under Competition, Gaming Scene, Tekken
THIS recent win proves again that Filipinos are at par with international players of video games.
Filipino players Carlo Racela and Daniel Chua both placed high among the players in the International Tekken 6 Championships held at the TriNoMa Mall in Quezon City last Saturday.
Racela beat Australia’s Andrew Kim in a race-to-five match for the championship round.
Click this link for the full article
Monday, December 22, 2008
The Playstation 3 also pulled this nasty stunt on me where it reconfigured my router's settings, and I had to reset the router just to get the local network up and running again. After that, I had to put customized settings for the PS3's IP on the router just to get it working without any problems.
Luckily, the tags "Scytherage" and "Wuffyx" were still available.
The first (and only) game we've bought for the PS3 so far is Little Big Planet. It's a really cute game; I can imagine the younger crowd will really enjoy it as a plaforming gaming experience.
That said, it's Christmas time, and I'd just like to make a small wish for this season:
Peace On Earth and Goodwill Towards All Men.
These days there are a lot of topics calling out to ‘Save the PS3’ or ‘Save Sony’. While I won’t deny this blog leans heavily towards the XBOX 360, both me and my husband owned Playstation consoles before. We recognize the milestones that the Playstation brand has brought upon in gaming, particularly in helping eradicate the expensive cartridge based medium popularized by Nintendo in the 80s by introducing the compact disc based media for videogames. In turn this new storage allowed for greater content and capacity for games compared to the old cartridges. Sony Computer Entertainment has also brought about so many new intellectual properties.
And while I do understand that Sony had their share of wonderful contributions, I am confused that there is a call to ‘Save the Playstation’ platform from apparent doom. Okay...now isn’t that going a little bit too overboard. Sure times are hard these days but I don’t think Sony will chuck away one of their most popular products. Sony didn’t trash the Bravia Line or the Vaio Line despite heavy competition, so why should they trash the Playstation? Howard Stringer must be off his rocker if decides to throw that away and chances are the Sony stockholders would have him fired in the very next hour if he does decide to do that.
So again...why is everyone panicking that Sony is a sinking ship? Because of the CNN article? Because of the Games Industry Biz articles? I fully expect IGN to write an article similar to the ‘Save Sony’ thread contents. Sony is losing money. It’s true...heck practically every single industry today is losing money. And Sony has been losing money on the Playstation line for quite some time now. As already stated by the numerous articles, yes they aren’t earning much with the PS3. I doubt they have broken even with the cost of maintaining their numerous first party studios as well as trying to grow their online services with the Playstation Network.
I may not be pro-Playstation these days but I don’t subscribe to the idea that they are on their way out. Sony’s problems is not brought about by the Playstation alone. Sure, they had some bad calls with the Playstation 3, particularly the inclusion of the Blu-Ray drive, and they have suffered losses from these calls...but its not enough for them to just throw away the brand line. Take for example the Mini-Disc, which was classified as a worldwide failure, but Sony still supported that format in Japan with by allowing J-Pop singles.
The articles from CNN and other non-gaming news sources point out how the Playstation brand is conceived. While many games are indeed multiplatform, the strongest selling point of the PS3, is also its profitability Achilles heel, the Blu-Ray drive. Recent news regarding the US or ‘global’ recession spells bad news for Blu-Ray, HDTVs and anything that may be considered as a luxury. For most people, the Playstation 3 is perhaps the most accessible Blu-Ray player out there. For the tech heads, its also one of the few (if not the only one) which can be updated online once the final standards for Blu-Ray is drafted. In today’s tough times, more people prefer either a Wii or an XBOX 360 for a game console because its cheaper. Even if those consoles are just $50 - $100 less...its still cheaper. And in today’s times, most people will stick with their ordinary DVDs and ordinary SDTVs rather than upgrade and try to figure out how to pay their credit card bills the following months.
I’ve written about the PS3 before and I’ve always felt that the inclusion of the Blu-Ray disk drive in the PS3 was a mistake. Although its not hard to imagine why they probably did it. In a culture where tradition is looked upon highly, the Playstation platform has technically been the ‘herald’ of a new form of optical media for game consoles. The first two being the widely successful adaption of the compact disc (CD) and digital video disc (DVD). The third being the failed universal media disc (UMD) for the PSP. And the fourth, the lukewarm, Blu-Ray disc for the PS3.
While there was nothing wrong with the underlying principle behind increasing the allowed space for data, what was wrong was not being able to maximize existing storage. However, Sony was not really concerned about that for they were a hardware company and they make their bread and butter by introducing new hardware with potentially high royalties in the event of mass acceptance and production. Once again, nothing wrong with getting profit...after all, companies strive to make a profit.
But the problem of the Blu-Ray format was it was too soon and there were so many uncertainties regarding the standards. To top it all off, while Sony has a great track record for hardware, their software support has much to be desired. One of Sony’s biggest competitors is Microsoft, one of the biggest software provider in the world. If there is anything one should know about software is that there are a million ways to skin the proverbial cat. Certain hardware limitations can be solved with an efficient software solution, thereby maximizing the hardware. Sony was not able to meet Microsoft in that regard with the XBOX 360. Nintendo, on the other hand, offered a completely different hardware implementation in the utilization of the good-old DVD disc.
Another one of Sony’s big problems, which is evident not just on the Playstation platform, is their overwhelming brand reliance. Sony has invested so much in their brand name and marketing. While that works for awhile just like it ‘worked’ in the rebranding of the Macintosh (Apple), you can only take brand reliance and brand perception to a certain level and its not guaranteed to draw in sales. While the Sony is ‘cool’ its competitors are also actively leveraging the strength of their brand name. The most notable of Sony’s competitors is Samsung who even created the World Cybergames Tournament, to show-off their displays.
In either case, Sony was stuck to the tried and true formulas of the past in order to meet the present challenges. And right now, those strategies aren’t working and will probably not work anytime soon given the present economic circumstances.
So why are things like ‘Save the PS3’ an exercise in futility?
Simply because even if consumers were to buy PS3s in droves, it will not help Sony solve the problems that they have internally. It’s not a matter of having enough sympathy to save Sony or the recognition of their accomplishments to justify salvation by the hands of the consumers. Sony, just like most companies today, doesn’t really care about those trivial matters such as an online petition to support their platform or stop the PS3 hate. Until Sony figures out where they went wrong internally, they are going to continue getting losses or at best minimize losses. But the PS3 for me will have a hard time catching up to the XBOX 360 and most SPECIALLY the Nintendo Wii.
We will never forget...
On a side note...let me say this... Part of the reason why I am unsympathetic to these pleas is because most of these people who were campaigning for this cause where the same haughty gamers who called for the 'death' of Sony's competition as a way of fanboy chest thumping.
Where were those Save-My-Console-of-Choice comments when the Dreamcast died? All I remember were the people clamouring for the blood of Sega, like some lowly slave in a roman tournament arena facing a hungry beast. Back then people fuelled the whole console war with the death of a console. And before the start of this present generation, people were already making bets on how long a certain console will last or who will be the ‘Dreamcast 2’. No one cared about the advancements Sega brought to the table at that time. All they cared about was its destruction.
No...the death of the Dreamcast proved to feed the 'superiority' of certain groups in the console fanboy wars. Now to explain to me why we should care about 'saving' the PS3 when back then nobody cared to save the Dreamcast despite the numerous advancements Sega has brought to the table? 'Concerned' Dreamcast gamers also gave the same reasons that are being provided today.
And today, we are faced we an interesting irony. A true exercise in futility.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Anyway, it surprised me to find out today that the Playstation 3's Great White Hope, "White Knight Chronicles" was flunked by Famitsu in their latest issue.
White Knight Chronicles: 7/7/8/7
--lots of optional content
--big boss battles
--is basically like every other Level 5 RPG. Sadness befalls the land.
--Online has chat issues and a reviewer "hopes it will be patched in the future"
Now, let's pretend for just a split-second that Famitsu does post honest, critical reviews...it's still a wonder that they'd score the game so low. Being a magazine that caters to Japanese tastes, they must know what makes a good Japanese RPG and what doesn't. Reading the Western press to figure out what makes a good JRPG is generally a bad idea, since they're really more into games that are essentially big open-ended gameplay sandboxes (and where the story essentially boils down to "Here's a big sword, now go destroy evil!"). So regardless of what you think of the legitimacy of Famitsu's reviews, they're pretty much the only media authority that you can somewhat trust for understanding what makes a good JRPG. Don't go bringing in a review score of a western-inclined site to a discussion about Japanese RPGs because the truth is, they just don't get it. Famitsu reviews are bought and paid for....BUT, they get exactly how a Japanese RPG should work.
So I guess it works in reverse for me. For Western sites, you generally add a point or two to figure out what a game is really worth. For Japanese mags like Famitsu, you have to subtract a point or two.
That just makes it worse for White Knight Chronicles. I bet gaming forums everywhere are already burning with even more Internet rage than they used to, because WKC was supposed to be the game that was going to make the long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long,long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long,....long wait for Final Fantasy XIII all the more bearable.
I guess some people will just have to keep on waiting. Meanwhile, let me load up Tales of Vesperia.....
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Sony's PS3 A Sinking Ship: Sales Plummet
By Eric Krangel
December 12, 2008: 09:21 AM ET
(alleyinsider.com) -- Sony's (SNE) PS3 is dying on the shelves.
Alone among the three major videogame consoles, sales of the PS3 are down about 19% from November 2007, according to the latest stats from the NPD Group. Sony was only able to sell 378,000 PS3s this November, compared to 466,000 last year.
And the problem for Sony isn't the recession, it's the PS3. Microsoft (MSFT) put up respectable numbers with its Xbox 360, selling 836,000 units vs 777,000 in November 2007. And Nintendo's (NTDOY) Wii continues to dominate the market, more than doubling sales from 981,000 to 2.04 million.
So why is the PS3 flopping so badly?
It's the most expensive console on the market, $150 - $200 more than its rivals. Even if you believe the video game industry is "recession-proof" (it isn't), a tanking economy makes consumers more price-conscious.
The PS3's big bonus is its ability to double as a Blu-Ray player. Too bad no one seems to care about hi-def DVDs. The differences between Blu-Ray and DVD are hard to see on a TV less than 50".
The PS3 just doesn't have any must-have titles exclusive to the console. "LittleBigPlanet" has generated decent buzz but isn't a game-changer, and neither is Sony's new virtual world "Home."
There's really only one option left for Sony to remain in the game: deep price cuts, and not just for people with good credit. Tell yourself the PS3 has superior graphics if it makes you feel better, but a $400 console with a mediocre game library simply cannot compete against an Xbox 360 priced at $200 in this economy.
This console generation is a pretty tough one to be in (for hardcore gamers). You've got the Xbox 360 which has the best games but the hardware is failure prone. You've got the Playstation 3 which is so expensive from both a hardware and software standpoint, and whose game library is far more sparse relative to the Xbox 360's. And you've got the Nintendo Wii, where most of the best games are first-party titles, leaving you with little diversity (You've got Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and everything else). Couple that with the fact that the Wii is not an HD-capable device and can't deliver graphics on the same level as the Xbox 360 or the PS3. The Wii might be a great hit with the casual gamers, but for hardcore gamers like me, it's a one hit wonder. I played it once, was entertained, but I can't, for the life of me, find a good reason to actually buy one or own one. The novelty just wore off so quickly. But I can understand why it's such a hit with the non-gaming / casual gaming mainstream.
It's hard to decide on an overall winner because each platform has its own faults. If we're talking about hardware AND software sales, the Xbox 360 is clearly the winner based on its high attach rate and its consistent pace of selling. If we're talking about hardware sales ALONE, the Nintendo Wii is the clear winner. But, personally, in terms of which console I'm really happy with, I can't pick one; again, because all of them have some deep flaw that prevents me from simply saying, hey, this console is the best. I can't recall a console generation that had this kind of scenario in the past.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
On nicovideo.jp we found a couple of videos of Sonic Unleashed Speedruns. Apparently some Japanese gamers couldn't wait for the release of the game in Japan (where it will be retitled 'Sonic World Adventure' - a more fitting name!), and they're already making videos of their incredible speedruns through the game's massive levels. Here are just a few of the more impressive ones we've seen:
Original source: http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm5503340 Credit goes to the Japanese player who posted the video at the link provided.
This Empire City video is most impressive when you see how the player just drops down at point blank range on one of the rails to effectively shorten his trip around the level: http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm5528074
Now this video below makes it look easy....it isn't! It's very easy to fall to your death in Spagonia Act 2: http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm5445564
Another video: Chun-nan Act 3. Source: http://www.nicovideo.jp/watch/sm5383085
If game reviewers can't appreciate the depth of the gameplay in games like Sonic Unleashed, then why should we bother with their opinions? Are they gamers in the truest sense? Or are they just writers who happen to just write about games? Those are two completely different things. If game reviewers can't recognize great gameplay for what it is, they're doing an immense disservice to their intended audience.
I could much more easily get feedback about a game from reading on various messageboards online, and then come up with what I think is the right decision, rather than relying on a person paid to do the job of reviewing games. If these people can't cope with the number of games that they have to play on a daily basis (and, as if THAT kind of a job is really a JOB, jeez), then maybe they're better off writing for some other publication or online site.
Then again, judging from the writing skill of most gaming reviewers online, I doubt they'd get hired by mainstream media outlets anyway.
When game reviewers go too far:
At the time of the release of Sonic Unleashed, there was also Prince of Persia, and that game was already getting a lot of accolades and praise even before coming out to market.
The upcoming Sonic Unleashed, on the other hand, was usually met by questions like "Since the last next-gen Sonic game was no good, how can this be any different?", and "Why did they change the gameplay mechanic with Sonic's 'Werehog' form?"
Granted, I'll be honest and straightforward with you here---I really had my doubts and I didn't expect much. As a player completely disappointed by the first next-generation Sonic game, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), I didn't think Sega/Sonic Team was even CAPABLE of making good games for today's latest consoles. I just thought they could never figure out the hardware. The only team that I thought could make good games for next-gen at Sega was AM2, and they proved that with Virtua Fighter 5, which was certainly a great game.
So when my wife got the game, I loaded it up with not that much degree of optimism. Initially we didn't install the game so, at the very start you see that "Now Loading" screen...and yes, my doubts started creeping in (Sonic 2006 had really bad loading times).
The first cutscene plays. It's the same as the cutscene in the trailer, but longer, and the framerate is much smoother. Yes, it's a cutscene, and that should have no bearing on the game itself; but it's a really good cutscene, and a very long one, at that. I already mentioned that the framerate for this cutscene felt much smoother than the trailer, and the CG they used is quite sharp and entertaining to watch. I thought it was quite competitive with the stuff that Pixar releases every so often in theaters.
After the CG cutscene, the game traverses to a real-time cutscene. I was impressed by the Hedgehog Engine's ability to render real-time cinematics smoothly and with ease. Yes, the characters are cute and some might argue that the next scene seems groan-worthy because of the dialogue, but I was more impressed by the technology that Sega/Sonic Team had created. The scene itself and the animation of the characters is superb; arguably you could put it beside Capcom's on work on their MT Framework Game Engine (seen in Devil May Cry 4, Street Fighter IV, Resident Evil 5 and Dead Rising) and they will compare favorably. The only thing going against Sonic Unleashed is the fact that its graphics are less detailed than more realistic games....but then, this is Sonic we're talking about. He doesn't have to be realistic. Cartoony and cute is the whole point, and in that regard, the render of Sonic and his world just works.
And I was all the more surprised to see that that level of quality in the first real-time cinematic extends to the gameplay portions. Here we have beautifully rendered cartoon-style artwork rendered all around you. The worlds when you run around as Sonic are surprisingly accessible and not as linear as I expected. I'm speaking about the 2D/3D running levels that are usually showcased in the trailers. I was really expecting that you could play these parts by just pressing UP or RIGHT on your controller and sitting there on your chair and waiting for the whole level to whizz by. Which was just not true. Sonic's running levels will have you avoiding obstacles, finding alternate paths, and making crazy leaps of faith (which, if not executed right, will have you fall into bottomless pits---a staple of platforming games and not something that should be unexpected). All of this while going at breakneck speed. The first time you see exactly how fast Sonic can go, it will leave your jaw wide open. What's amazing is that the Hedgehog Engine never skips a beat; it runs at a smooth 60FPS even with everything that's going on around you while you're running.
Before you get to the running parts, the game has a hub world which you can explore or ignore completely. There are little sidequests here, RPG style; since you can upgrade Sonic you can opt to do these quests and get some little extras out of the game. Or, you can just ignore the hub world completely and go straight to the area for selecting levels. In either case, I noticed the hub worlds aren't too big to become a hindrance unless you're an extremely impatient gamer. They're relatively small and it's easy to find your way in them. Also, the people who inhabit the hub worlds have very simple dialogue, so you won't be traversing through several pages of dissertations when you talk to them. Some of them will say inane, unnecessary things (a staple of JRPGs), while others do say stuff that will occasionally make you smile. Overall, the RPG side of Sonic Unleashed is lightly implemented, and rightly so; it doesn't interfere with the core mechanic, and what it does do is it adds some well needed variety to the gameplay.
And now, we go to the most controversial part of the game---the Werehog parts. These sections were an exercise by SEGA in introducing some contrast to the game. I suppose they were worried that the running sections may lose their appeal at some point, so they probably put these in to add some degree of variety to the game. We all know how the gaming press reacted to this part of the game, so without putting that into consideration, here's what I thought when I first saw the Werehog sections in the game:
(Note: I haven't had time to take any photos in Werehog mode; will add those later)
Before playing the game, this was the part I was most worried about. Sonic is all about running and jumping and avoiding obstacles in the fastest possible manner. The Werehog bits, in the game videos, just seemed so slow and different from the rest of the game. Actually playing these parts of the game, my doubts slowly disappeared. The Werehog levels are platforming heavy, with some doses of combat thrown in. What wasn't apparent right away was the ability to level up your Werehog. Without leveling up, the combat can seem repetitive because your Werehog can only do so many types of attacks with his default level. As you level up, more attacks are introduced, and you can be more creative with how you take out enemies. Leveling up is crucial for defeating boss enemies, and there are some regular enemies which are harder to dispatch than others. The control scheme for the Werehog during the combat sections are well implemented. I never found any trouble doing any of the different set combos your Werehog has. And there's a wide variety of attacks for your Werehog, which you can easily mix up to have fun with as you go along.
As for the platforming bits, I'll be honest: they were initially quite hard, because it seemed that the targeting reticle for the Werehog's GRAB only appeared on screen for a slight split second. This made my initial playthrough of some Werehog levels very difficult. Over time I got used to the difficulty but it was something that did bother me initially.
Later on, I learned by going online that the best way to use the Werehog's GRAB ability was to HOLD B while you're flying through the air instead of TAPPING B when you see the targeting reticle. This made the platforming bits a lot easier, and the game became a lot more fun. It's something that definitely isn't obvious the first time you play the game; but with resources like online gaming forums, one can easily find out about this remedy for the platforming parts of the Werehog levels.
So, at this stage, I can't really say that much negative about the Werehog levels, either. They might initially be hard but, I noticed that the game places 1UPs near portions where they knew that many players would fall to their deaths. This reduces the frustration factor since it reduces the need to restart the level when you run out of lives. The game uses a design philosophy of setting the camera to give you the best viewing angle on the level design, but occasionally it gets in the way of your view of a particular jump. In some cases, the camera makes some jumps feel quite scary, because there's a lot of danger involved (it seems easy to just fall and start over unless you're really careful). But instead of finding frustration with these segments, I found satisfaction; after doing over a segment or two where I kept on falling in the bottomless pit, eventually I found myself figuring things out, and some of those moments were quite memorable. It's just classic platforming design for the next generation of systems. Most of the older games were like this, but they were more stiff with the penalties; you only get a few lives and, in many of the older games, you don't even get continues. With Sonic Unleashed, you get a lot of lives to start with, and each time you die you just start over from the level select area.
Sonic's Werehog levels don't offer the thrill of speed, but they do bring traditional platforming elements which are enjoyable and satisfying to play. Once you get over the initial difficulty, it can be entertaining; the Werehog levels offer a different kind of platforming experience from the Sonic levels, and in a way, it makes Sonic Unleashed feel like two great games in one package. I could always buy one of those really old, very difficult, classic platformers on Xbox Live Arcade---but why do that when I could buy something that offers a more polished, and newer platforming experience? This game competes quite well with many of the offerings on XBL Arcade.
Because of the 'hub world' design of the game, you could just play one level per day (if you've got a busy working schedule). Perhaps a gamer with a lot of time on his hands could finish this game quickly, but I'm not really sure about that yet. Because some parts of the game, as Sonic and as the Werehog, take a lot of patience, and, to some degree, require you to think. For instance, in the Sonic levels, you are given a lot of branching paths and some are easier than others. In later levels, you'll find yourself thinking of the fastest path to clear a level, and because of the number of obstacles, it becomes an exercise in reacting fast and thinking ahead. For the Werehog levels, the challenge is to find the fastest way to deal with enemies with your existing repertoire of attacks, and to get through the platforming bits without any trouble and in the fastest manner possible. At the end of each level, the game rates your performance. I've noticed I usually get a lot of D or E ratings with the levels in the middle of the game. Getting those ratings encourages you to play the levels again; and, since most of the levels are well-designed, I'm looking forward to playing them all over again just to get the coveted S ranking on each level!
Another thing which stood out for me in Sonic Unleashed is how bug-free it is. In the Sonic levels, I haven't experienced any slowdown or framerate issues at all. What's even more amazing is that I didn't find any bugs despite the fact that most of the Sonic levels are so large and expansive. I was expecting to find some weird physics bugs like in Sonic 2006, but apparently Sonic Team/Sega did their homework this time. As for the Werehog levels, there is some slight framerate stutter in levels with a lot of enemies, but the game is still controllable, and you won't find any glitches in the graphics like texture pop-in or other bugs. The slowdown in the Werehog bits aren't any different from the kind of slowdown you'll usually see in Western-made games; it never bothered me and I never saw it as an issue that breaks the game. And, at the very least, the slowdown that occurs doesn't happen as often as it does in most Western-made games.
Lastly, I love how the game encourages you to play the levels again; it doesn't just do this through the ranking that the game gives you at the end of each level. It also does it by making a lot of the acts optional. Yes, you heard me right. When you play the game, there's a linear progression for the story, which you advance by playing day and night levels alternately. However, in each 'level select area', there are other acts which you can opt to play (or not to play) if you wish. I haven't found all of the unlockable areas in each level select area, but I do admire the design decision to make the other acts 'optional'. It gives you a small degree of freedom to explore each 'country' in the world, so the game as a whole does not have to advance in a linear fashion if you don't want it to. Want to go back to Spagonia to try a different Sonic Day level? You can just go do that anytime you like. You don't have to follow the linear progression of the story if you don't really feel like that when you load up the game. Maybe it's this facet of the game which has caused me to take so much time to finish it.....oops....
....I'll admit one slight misdeed that I have in writing this review. I haven't finished the game. It's Christmas time and I have a lot of deadlines to meet, so I've only been able to devote a little time to playing this game. But at least I'm not writing it after playing just two levels. With over seven out of nine 'countries' already unlocked, I just thought it best to talk about the game now, while it's still relevant and while gamers are still pondering on whether or not to buy this game. Sonic Unleashed offers a good, traditional platforming gaming experience with the really good polish offered by the capabilities of today's next generation systems. I miss this kind of game. I've been playing a lot of the more hardcore fighting, shooting, and racing games for a long while now and I'm really liking the change of pace this game offers. For gamers who are already married with kids, I think this is also a great game that everyone in the family can play and enjoy.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Playstation 2 206k
Playstation 3 378k
Xbox 360 836k
GEARS OF WAR 2* (360) 1.56 million
CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR* (360) 1.41 million
WII PLAY W/ REMOTE (WII) 796K
WII FIT (WII) 697K
MARIO KART (WII) 637K
CALL OF DUTY: WORLD AT WAR (PS3) 597K
GUITAR HERO WORLD TOUR* (WII) 475K
LEFT 4 DEAD (360) 410K
RESISTANCE 2* (PS3) 385K
WII MUSIC (WII) 297K
Some other figures were posted on NEOGAF today:
These include sales data on games that weren't listed in the top 20 of the November 2008 NPD Sales Figures.
360 FABLE II: ~185K
PS3 LITTLE BIG PLANET: ~140K
PS3 VALKYRIA CHRONICLES: ~35K
WII MARIO KART WII: ~4.0 million
WII WII FIT W/BALANCE BOARD NINTENDO OF AMERICA: ~3.5 million
WII WII MUSIC: ~380K
360 FABLE II: ~975K
PS3 LITTLE BIG PLANET: ~355K
WII PLAY W/REMOTE - 22 months in the top 10 and counting:
February 07 - 371K
March 07 - 273K
April 07 - 249K
May 07 - 227K
June 07 - 293K
July 07 - 278K
August 07 - 257K
September 07 - 282K
October 07 - 240K
November 07 - 564K
December 07 - 1.1 million
January 08 - 298K
February 08 - 290K
March 08 - 410K
April 08 - 360K
May 08 - 295K
June 08 - 295K
July 08 - 285K
August 08 - 200K
September 08 - 245K
October 08 - 280K
November 08 - 795K
LTD: ~7.93 million
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
How could I be having such a good time with a game that's rated a 3.0/10 (or worse) in some review sites? Have I lost my mind? Or is it that gaming review sites have COMPLETELY lost touch with what their audience wants?
Sonic Unleashed, perhaps....had it been released for a Sega console, or perhaps had Sega sent more freebies to reviewers, maybe it would have received the coveted "OSCAR AWARD WINNING PLOT!" quote for its review.
I just don't understand it. Are my standards just lower? Or do I just know how to have fun with a game and look at the BIG PICTURE? The Sonic sections of the game are just mind-blowing. They're exactly how I pictured Sonic 1 / Sonic 2/ Sonic 3 / Sonic and Knuckles should play like in the next generation of consoles.
And the Werehog sections; I'll admit not initially liking it at first, but then it only took figuring out that you could level up the Werehog to make those sections more enjoyable for me. Surely it's no Devil May Cry, but I did enjoy the change in pace. The Werehog sections contrast well with the Sonic running sections----they make the Sonic daytime sections even more SPECTACULAR, breath-taking, and well-worth looking forward to.
I recall the original trailer for Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) for the Xbox 360....and how THAT game turned out quite poorly. It had so many bugs and was extremely frustrating.
Contrast that game....with THIS. Good Lord, Sonic 2006 makes Sonic Unleashed feel like a masterpiece in comparison. And this game approximates what those original trailers for Sonic 2006 were promising for gamers everywhere.
And how could this game have failed with the reviews? I can't imagine why...Does a game have to be so dumbed down and casual these days to succeed with the press? Admittedly some parts of Sonic Unleashed are pretty hard....but not anything that a bit of patience and slowing down can't fix. If you're Sonic and you're missing that crucial jump or two, SLOW. DOWN. Just for a second. Or time it right with a proper brake (or drift! lol) and then jump, and then off you go again; HOLD X for an extreme blast of SPEED!
And with the Werehog, I read a good tip for those sections online which improved the platforming sections somewhat. When trying to grab onto ledges as the Werehog, hold B even before the green prompt appears onscreen. Most of the time that works, and it makes the platforming sections more fun.
Granted that's a point against the game that I had to find that out from reading a few forums like GameFAQs and the like....but why should it be a point against the game? Do we gamers live in a disconnected bubble? If you can't figure out how to get past something, SEARCH THE 'NET. Google is all over the news everyday....if you have an Xbox 360 then at the very least you should know how to search online for game tips.
For the most part, the game, even with the high difficulty....it works. It has that SEGA shine. It's very polished. Not many bugs; I've seen a slight bit of framerate stutter as the Werehog but it never affects the gameplay. And I've NEVER seen any slowdown at all when playing as Sonic in the daytime sections. That has to count for SOMETHING. I don't know if the high difficulty counts as a point against the game...wait, no, it DOES NOT. In fact, that's probably the very thing that makes completing every level all the more satisfying.
Is there room for improvement? Sure! Maybe sometimes the game should give a bit more guidance to the player as to where to go next. Should they make some of the platforming bits even easier? I disagree; the sense of satisfaction when finishing a level will dissapate. What the reviews called FRUSTRATION, I call CHALLENGE. Initially I had a few frustrating bits, true; but over time, you just figure out how to play the game right, and then it just clicks.
A game like Sonic Unleashed CANNOT deserve a 6/10, nor a 3/10. I'd say an 8 if you're nitpicky. It's just too polished and well made to be called a bad game. Perhaps in terms of accessibility it could have some room for improvement. But then, had I started out with the gaming hobby in my youth, playing games as easy as Wario Ware Smooth Moves or Guitar Hero on Easy difficulty, would I become as passionate as I am about games today? Should the gaming industry spoonfeed its audience? What is the gaming press telling the gaming industry? Make EASIER games? Make our grandmothers/parents/non-gaming siblings play games? I believe that, as much as being inclusive is an important factor in game design, addressing the needs of the existing audience is still important. We're the ones who'll still buy games tomorrow after we've finished the games we bought today. Those casual gamers will just buy a console for that one game, and then move on to the next big distraction. Who's going to stick around to pay the game industry's bills? We hardcore, real gamers are.
These horrible reviews for Sonic Unleashed have proved yet again how out of touch the gaming press is with what the gamers want, and how obssessed they are with getting mainstream respect, to the point that they'll screw over some well-developed games. I think bad reviews send all the wrong signals to SEGA. Who knows, this could be the last Sonic game ever made; I mean, if something as fantastic as THIS just can't win over the influential gaming press, then perhaps we should just be stuck with the Mario brothers for the rest of our days.
I signed it.
SEGA deserves a lot more credit for their efforts on Sonic Unleashed. I think they did a great job, and to watch them trashed by the press just seems so unfair to me.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
The building security at the venue will ask for your REAL NAME before you are allowed to enter.
ATTENDEES WHOSE REAL NAME IS NOT PROVIDED IN THE LIST I WILL BE GIVING TO THE BUILDING SECURITY WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO ATTEND THE PARTY.
Note that to be on the list, you also have to pay the Entrance fee earlier before December 11. So, to be clear, the requirements for the party are:
1. Entrance fee of P300.00 paid before December 11.
2. Send a private message with your real name to Scytherage at Pinoyxbox.com.
THE LAST DAY FOR PAYMENTS FOR THE PINOYXBOX GRAND EB/CHRISTMAS PARTY IS ON DECEMBER 11, 2008 (THURSDAY, THIS WEEK). Signing up to attend the party is not enough to allow you to join the party. You must provide the payment so we can take care of paying for the food. The people who signed up for the party but do not pay the entrance fee will NOT be allowed to join the party. This is in fairness to the ones who do pay the entrance fee.
Once again, please pay the entrance fee of P300.00 on or before Thursday, December 11, this week.
For more details on how you can pay for the entrance fee, please see the Pinoyxbox Events forum thread for the party here.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Based on what I've read, the low scores for Sonic Unleashed are because a lot of the critics don't want to play as the Werehog, they want to play as Sonic. But judging from what I've actually seen of the game, the Werehog sections aren't so bad. SEGA probably added those in to add variety to the gameplay; they probably didn't anticipate it would have the opposite effect (with people looking for Sonic half the time). SEGA even gave the Werehog some cool bits like being able to string together moves to create combos (DMC4 style? perhaps a 'lite' version of it). You can also level up your Werehog to unlock even more moves.
Another thing which is debatable as either an issue or a gameplay mechanic is the game's camera, which is stuck in a certain angle and can't be spun 360 degrees when you're playing the werehog sections. This makes some of the platforming jumps extra hard. But then, it's debatable because....you can figure them out after three or more tries. It just takes a little extra patience. And when you play further into the game (which I'm sure many "professional" game critics didn't even bother doing) the difficulty of some of the jumps adds to how much more satisfying the game can get when you actually do accomplish some of the platforming sections.
Maybe all the casual games that have been released lately have really lowered people's standards for game-playing skill...perhaps one thing that most game critics consider now is that their non-gaming sister/girlfriend/grandmother should be able to play a game in order for it to deserve more than a 6/10. I, for one, disagree with this expectation; if you're going to pay 60 dollars for a game, it might as well last long, and it has to provide some kind of thrill. If there's no sense of danger or challenge, then that just reduces a game's lifespan, and I'm not a big proponent of that. I'm all for the trend for 'inclusive' gaming but I think there's room for both casual games and challenging games to co-exist. I wouldn't want every game to be developed with just a casual audience in mind.
Another thing that stands out with this Sonic game is how very few bugs are present in it. Me and my wife played (okay, TRIED to play) "Sonic the Hedgehog", the game released in 2006 for the Xbox 360 (we got it at a discount!). That game was a sad, horrible, buggy mess. I can't remember a game as buggy as that game....literally Sonic would bounce all over the place in some portions and you could see that the game was just incomplete. Now, I'm sure that THAT game deserved a 3.0/10.
But this Sonic game...I disagree that it deserves such a low score. This game is 10x better than the previous Sonic game for the Xbox 360, and it has little to no graphical / physics glitches. The environment is solidly rendered and in many, many cases, is very, very gorgeous looking. The framerate is solid at 60 FPS during the Sonic running stages. It only takes a few dips below 30 FPS during the Werehog stages but this happens very rarely and only when there's a lot of action onscreen (and I noticed the game was still playable even when it does have a framerate dip). I haven't found any parts of the game where your character can get stuck on a wall (Sonic 2006 had those), or any parts where you fall to your death for no other fault than your own. This game is quite solidly designed and well polished for a Sonic game.
And I haven't mentioned the running parts of this game yet.
The running parts of Sonic Unleashed are exactly how I imagined a Sonic 3D game with CG-quality graphics must look like. They're fast, they have tons of variety, and they're flexible (there's a path but there's opportunities to leave that path every so often). It's a visual feast just to see Sonic blazing through each stage. It's perhaps the stark contrast between these stunning sections (which end up short BECAUSE Sonic is just so damn fast) and the platforming Werehog sections which may have swayed reviewers to be so negative about the game.
I personally feel they haven't been fair because here we have a polished product, practically bug-free and arguably fun in many sections....getting scored worse than most other bug-ridden titles.
I just hope that the game doesn't get bad sales; I wouldn't want SEGA to get killed off because of these game reviewers who just don't know how to do their jobs. It would be a real loss to have SEGA disappear from the industry completely, and it would be horrible if the reason for that was a game that wasn't fairly reviewed by the game press which people just rely upon too much.
This game is a stellar effort; I'll be honest and say it's not a perfect game, but it's a damn fine Sonic game. I'd rate it an 8/10.
Sunday, December 07, 2008
I found the trailer here: http://sdtekken.com/2008/12/06/new-tekken-6-bloodline-rebellion-trailer/
Impressions from Gamespot here: http://www.gamespot.com/ps3/action/tekken6/news.html?sid=6201891
Saturday, December 06, 2008
The Pinoyxbox Community is giving players a rare glimpse at one of next year's BIGGEST releases:
At the Playground Magazine event "Playground On Air Launch Party" on December 19th, at Eastwood City, from 4:00PM onwards, the Pinoyxbox Community will have not one but TWO booths for Resident Evil 5, where gamers can get an exclusive chance to try out the game for the Xbox 360!
Players can also be a part of a GEARS OF WAR 2 HORDE MODE CHALLENGE Tournament where they can get a chance to win some prizes courtesy of Playground Magazine!
Can't make it on December 19th? You can get another chance to sample RESIDENT EVIL 5 at the PINOYXBOX GRAND EB and CHRISTMAS PARTY 2008 on December 20th, where the Pinoyxbox community will gather to celebrate yet another great year in Xbox gaming! At the Grand EB, there will be a huge raffle where one lucky Gamehopper subscriber can get to win a BRICO 32" HIGH DEFINITION LCD TV courtesy of GAMEHOPPER!
For more information, check out these threads on PINOYXBOX.COM!
Friday, December 05, 2008
Sure to sell millions of copies worldwide, BIOHAZARD 5 (Resident Evil 5 in the US) now has a demo on the Xbox Live Japan Marketplace, downloadable exclusively by XBL Japan Gold members. It's about 476 MB. It should be available in other XBL regions soon.
Thursday, December 04, 2008
The graphics in this game sure are mindblowing. And the sense of speed on Sonic is exhilirating!
Tried the Werehog level and got owned by the first boss....that was hard! Then realized you could level up the Werehog, hmm, that might work....
So far, seems like a good game. Impressions are early so take these as you will ^_^
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
More details will be posted soon, including mechanics, rules and prizes. Stay tuned!
To sign up for the Gears of War 2 Multiplayer Tournament, go to this thread here on Pinoyxbox.com.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
89 Timog Avenue
Kamuning 1103 Quezon City
For the volunteers, who among you can go, and what is your preferred game? Again, these are the choices:
1. Guitar Hero World Tour (pls bring your own instruments, specify if guitar or drum.)
2. Rock Band 2 (pls bring your own instruments, specify if guitar or drum.)
3. Gears of War 2
4. Soulcalibur IV
Based on who is able to go on the date given, we will determine the game to play for the gamers' battle. If any other details are needed, please let me know. Thanks!
Please visit this thread for more updates:
Gears of War 2 Horde Mode Challenge - Rules / Mechanics
Date: December 19 2008
Venue: Eastwood Central Plaza
Requirements: 2 Xbox 360 consoles, networked
Maximum Number of Players: 8
Brackets for players are generated at random; players draw lots with numbers 1-8 written on them. The brackets will be 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6, 7 vs. 8.
For the first set of brackets, each set of two players will play Gears of War 2 – Horde Mode on a set map for one wave. This should take about 2-5 minutes depending on the skill level of the players. The goal of each player is to score more POINTS than the other player by killing as many Locust monsters as possible. The player with the most points by the end of the wave wins the round.
First set of brackets, ROUND 1: 8 Players
If a player is killed during that wave, he just has to wait it out until the other player either finishes the wave, or also gets killed. At the end of the wave, whether or not the players get killed, the game displays the scores for both players.
In case of a tie, the two players continue to the next wave (Wave 6) and keep on playing until one player emerges with a higher score than the other player.
Second set of brackets, ROUND 2: 4 players
For the second set of brackets, the rules are the same as the first set of brackets. Again, the players play on one wave, and the one with the most points advances to the final round.
Final Bracket, ROUND 3: 2 players
Map: Day One
Wave: 5, 6, 7
For the final round, the top 2 players compete on the map DAY ONE, fighting against THREE WAVES of attacking Locust hordes. The rules are the same as the first two rounds, except that for this round, there will be three waves instead of just one. After each wave, the game displays the score for both players. The scores for each wave are tallied by the referee and added up. By the end of three waves, the player with the most points wins the tournament.
If a player gets killed, the other player continues the wave until he either finishes that wave or also gets killed. At the end of the round, both players’ scores are tallied, whether or not the player has survived the wave. By the start of the next wave, the player that was killed will automatically be respawned by the game to continue the tournament.
In the event that BOTH players are killed on a wave, the score of each player is tallied for that wave, and then the referee proceeds to load the NEXT wave. For example, if both players are killed on Wave 6, the score is displayed and tallied by the referee. After that, the referee will set up a match for the same map held on Wave 7, which is the next wave.
In the event of a tie, the players proceed to the next wave (Wave 8). The players keep on playing waves until one player emerges with a score higher than the other player.
* * *
In the event that very few players join this tournament (for example, 2 – 4 players), only the final round will be held, and all four players will be on the map DAY ONE.
Map: Day One
Waves: 1 – 10
Since there are more players simultaneously on one map, it will take less time to complete each wave. The single player with the highest accumulated score at the end of the series of waves, wins. In case of a tie by the end of wave ten, the players with tied top scores will continue to the next wave (Wave 11, and so on) until one player emerges with the highest number of points.
For both scenarios (4 players or 8 players), there will be a referee present to tally the score at the end of each wave.
* * *
This kind of tournament can also accommodate 16 players, with the same mechanics (one wave for qualifying rounds, three waves for the final round); however, more time would be needed. Accommodating a larger number of players can also be considered if there are no time constraints and if that number of players actually signs up for this tournament. Also, if there are 16 players, the first round would be held with two players on each console, playing in split-screen mode (meaning that there are a maximum of four players playing all at once). Two referees would monitor the matches on both consoles. The only downside to this, is that the game is in split-screen; the game will look less visually appealing since less of the screen is visible for each player. For the final round (in a 16 player scenario), the last two players each play on one console each, similar to the 8 player final round scenario described above.