Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Namco's Go Vacation for Nintendo Wii

Hey, the Nintendo Wii actually gets a good video game this year!  Remember the Wii?  It was extremely popular at one time.  Then Nintendo got bored and quit.

Ahem, heh heh.  Anyway, here's Namco's Go Vacation, by the makers of Family Ski and Snowboard.  I've had my eye on this title for some time, and it's looking terrific.  Yes, I know, I know, this appears to be yet another mini-game collection, for a console swamped with lazy, get-the-investors-off-our-back mini-game collections.  But Namco is dead serious.  They're gunning for Wii Sport Resort's crown.

The game features dozens of sporting events centered around a large island, which you are free to explore on land, sea or air.  Four players can participate at once, although I'm not entirely certain if they can play different activities (which would be cool).  Right now, my guess is that everyone has to play together, and that's perfectly fine by me.

This highlight reel shows a number of events in Go Vacation, like horseback riding and whitewater rafting.  As I mentioned earlier, this is the same software team responsible for Family Ski and Snowboard, which is one of the more enjoyable family games on the Wii.  Thank goodness that we can always trust Namco to deliver the goods.  Now, if we could only get them to apologize for abandoning the Sega Dreamcast - where's my Tekken, ya jerks?!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Ni no Kuni (PS3) Videos at Tokyo Game Show

At The Ghibli Blog, I promised to show more gameplay videos of Ni no Kuni from the Tokyo Game Show, and these two videos are absolutely perfect, and quite lengthy, too.  I'm interested in hearing your impressions.

The game follows the old school RPG formula, with a few interesting wrinkles like day/night.  When I see that, I'm obviously thinking of Minecraft.  Will players have to battle monsters at night?  That would be cool.  I wonder if I could chop down those trees and build a house?  Yeah, then I could build a train station and lay down some tracks, so I can get to....ah, whoops, wrong game.

The combat looks very interesting.  This is an area where RPG game mechanics haven't changed in 25 years.  It appears that instead of directly fighting, your characters can send pets who will do the fighting for you.  Shades of Pokemon, but also the great Phantasy Star Online, and it does raise a lot of possibilities.  Will you have to train your pet?  Can they be bred and grown?  Can they evolve into new forms?  I think this could be the key element that could enable Ni no Kuni to break out from a very old and tired genre.

Yes, I know that Ni no Kuni has already been released for the Nintendo DS in Japan, but I haven't seen it, so I'm choosing to follow the PS3 version as a new video game.  I'm looking forward to the surprises.  Until then, I have Saturn, Dreamcast and Minecraft to keep me happy. But, hey, that's me. Enjoy the videos!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Happy Sega Dreamcast Day!

Happy Sega Dreamcast Day, everybody!  On September 9, 1999 (9-9-99), Sega released the Dreamcast in the United States to a massively successful launch and rapturous welcome.  It appeared, for a short time, that Sega was back on top after years of self-inflicted wounds crippled the company.  Sadly, it would not last, and only 18 months later, Sega would exit the video game hardware business.  Sega and video games have never been the same ever since.

I remember September 9 perfectly.  I was working at my college job, waiting tables at the Dinkytown Pizza Hut, and when business was slow, I had one of the delivery drivers take us down to the nearest Target.  I purchased a Dreamcast, a second controller, a Virtual Memory Unit (these were cool), and a stack of games.  Which ones?  Let's see...Soul Calibur, NFL 2K, Ready 2 Rumble Boxing, Hydro Thunder and Trickstyle.  All games were fantastic, except for Trickstyle, which was a clunky, half-completed mess.  I later returned it for Sonic Adventure.

Today, the Dreamcast is hailed as a classic, arguably the last true arcade videogames system.  The game industry was pushing relentlessly into the domain of cinematic games, all in a mad pursuit of becoming Digital Hollywood.  Add in an absurd amount of Playstation 2 hype (to this day, I still say DC was better), and the king-maker status of EA, and Sega was just not able to staunch the bleeding from years of financial mismanagement.  It's really unfortunate, and you just wish there was a little more time.

I am a bit surprised to see that Dreamcast never really took off in Japan.  Perhaps it was too similar to the Saturn, which was far more successful over there.  Heck, Sega infamously killed off the Saturn version of Virtua Fighter 3, which was completed and  headed to the pressing plants, because it was superior to Genki's somewhat lackluster DC version.  And while the library of games was stellar, it really wasn't that much different from the Saturn, especially where shoot-em-ups and fighters were concerned.  Also, I'm sure the Sony hype was just as deafening in Japan as in the West.

In any case, you can score a good-as-new Dreamcast and a stack of fantastic games like Soul Calibur and NFL 2K1 for the price of a single $60 retail video game today.  That is a bargain, my friends.  Enjoy!