Game Eaters

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Shadow of the Colossus has bad graphics...

...if you're high, that is. We just got the demo at work today, and some people--the Xbox owners--were remarking at how bad its textures were.

Maybe I'm weird, but I think Shadow of the Colossus has some of the best art design I've ever seen in a game. It follows the lead of Ico with breathtaking imagination. It's like a painting, a child's storybook come to life. And people look at this and all they can think of is texture quality? What planet do I live on? Can somebody tell me?

Of course everyone's entitled to their own opinion. If the visual design of Shadow of the Colossus doesn't grab some people, that's fine. But I'd chalk that up to just basic subjective taste. I am very, very tired of people poo-pooing graphics based on poly-counts, shading tricks, and wachamafuck. God forbid we should have a holistic view of game design.

Oh well. I suppose it's to be expected. Most people think Ray Harryhausen's work is lame compared to the latest CG special effects, so I guess that's just par for the course when you're talking about how the mainstream culture reacts aesthetically to evolving technology.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

It's like the stamina mechanic, only harsher.

An article about China's new (apparently mandatory) scheme to limit MMO gameplay. Basically, it cuts your characters' levels if you're playing for more than three hours, and after five hours you've basically at Level Pathetic. It tracks how long you've played and, since it should be able to tell whether you've just logged out and back in again, I'm assuming they're also planning to have it monitor a player's game-playing time across games.

The number of distributors who've agreed to the scheme is pretty decent, although given that some probably don't have source code access, the ability of the companies to deliver on their pledge is questionable. Still, no MMO developer wants to lose the Chinese market, I'd bet. Plus, as one of my friends noted, this might have an interesting impact on gold farming.

Shenmue 3 "nearly complete?" Whaa...?

Here's a little article about Shenmue 3's next-gen plans. It's still not targeted to any chosen platform and code apparently needs to be "ported". To me, this sounds like either (a) they've completed pre-production design but haven't started production besides character and environment modelling and skinning or (b) they've actually finished coding up game functionality for some internal development environment and they really just need to do a porting job.

Frankly, I hope it's (a) since that'll leave them with the ability to incorporate next-gen specific enhancements (HDR lighting? better hair dynamics? vertex shaders? better environmental audio effects?), since we've seen what (b) looks like, and it looks like Shenmue 2 on the Xbox. A good game, to be sure, but without that extra layer of technical polish to distinguish it from the competition. If they really go whole hog and release the entire Shenmue story on a single SKU, it could really be a compelling product for a lot of adventure-game lovers, but people throwing US$399 at an Xbox 360 will want something that's going to, frankly, look and act like something that couldn't be executed on current-gen consoles with a few extra discs.

Using models that are on par with their publicity posters would be a good first step but "just add polygons" only gets you so far. I'll buy it regardless, since I want to see how the story ends, but I'd rather Shenmue expand its appeal to the visually-hungry mainstream than simply cater to the existing fanbase.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Hmm...George Romero has apparently licensed Land of the Dead to Groove Games, the publisher of Pariah. I wonder who they'll get to develop it.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan!

I just picked up Ossu! Tatakae! Ouendan! for the Nintendo DS and noticed that english-language reviews are pretty hard to come by. 1UP's preview gives you a pretty good idea of what the game's like. Having actually played it, I can tell you it's a lot of fun, as long as you're not one to equate polygon count to fun. I'm not sure how long its appeal will last but a good bit of it is playable without any Japanese knowledge. It even appears to have some multiplayer functionality.

Ouendan! is a rhythm game that has the player tapping and dragging on the touch screen in time with music. There's quite a lot of licensed J-pop in there, although they're probably not the actual artistes. The DS speakers do get a good workout with the music, and unless you're using earphones, you probably won't notice the audio compression. Buttons appear on the screen for you to tap as gradually-shrinking concentric circles cue you in as to the timing. For that reason, it's reminiscent of Technic Beat.

When I bought it, I had no idea that this game was developed by the makers of Gitaroo-man, but in reflection, it makes sense. Unlike Bemani games, iNiS's music games have narratives and characters. The "cheerleaders" in the game are three men in long black jackets, reminiscent of overzealous Japanese school pep squad leaders. Their formal appearances, combined with their Power Rangers-ey sentai-anime poses, make for fun juxtapositions. Marching band whistles and cymbals triggered by successful taps add to the cheerleading flavor. Do really well and the background will be lit with flames of passion and close-ups of the cheerers.

While the gameplay is functional and the music is good, one unique element is the game's use of cutscenes. Like Gitaroo-man, bridges in the music are filled with noninteractive animated sequences. However, Ouendan! uses an over-the-top manga/old-fashioned anime style that not only endear the characters to you but also give you an idea of how you're doing. If you play well, the characters accomplish epic-level challenges of the most everyday sort that bring them closer to forming their romances or completing their homework, with a big "O" or "X" capping each cutscene to let you know if you've done well or poorly. These breaks in incessant screen-tapping are also a good chance to give your eyelids a short rest.

Games don't get more culturally specific than Ouendan! but, if you dig bold manga art and the sound of J-pop and are looking for a rhythm game for your DS, you can't miss this one. You'll even be able to play it on your US-bought handheld without a hack.