Rants and raves about all the latest in video games and other forms of mindless entertainment.

December 29, 2005

The orgy of fantastic: 2006

It's true, VGPundit has lacked in the update department for the last two weeks. Lacking as in, not at all. Working in the lab and updating was just proving to be a job I needed a vacation from. So like any good Christian, I took a couple weeks off for the Christmas season and all the fluff and burdens that come with that, ie: shopping, eating, spending, and familying.

It has proven to be a great year though. This year has seen the announcement of all 3 next-gen consoles, a bevy of quality software, most of which residing on the Playstation 2 and Nintendo DS. However, the launch of the PSP proved to give us some quality software, as did the Gamecube. Xbox was all but barren with Xbox 360 looming on the horizon, yet with all of these high profile games overloading the minds of nerds everywhere the year wasn't without it's fair share of controversy and suprises. The Revolution Remote being the most notable event of the year.

It would almost seem like this year kicked so much ass, that the blood shed could never be matched by any other annual-contender. Yet, lo and behold, 2006 comes out from the darkness to deliver what could very well be the best year the gaming industry has ever seen in all of it's long, gory history. Kingdom Hearts 2, Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, the launch of both the Ps3 and Revoloution, Super Smash Bros. Online and an E3 and TGS that will showcase all of these things in the greatest detail yet. What's so exciting about all of these things, is that Zelda could very well be the best game the game the GC has ever seen, and the same for Kingdom Hearts and it's philial Ps2. And who could forget, Metal Gear Solid 4...

...If 2005 was sex, 2006 is going to be a full on orgy!

The annual VGP awards will be handed out first thing in the new year, and a batch of reviews will be posted in the mean time, since some of the years late comers are also the years best. Just keep in mind, most of this years games have had time to digest in the hearts and minds of gamers everywhere, even my own. So don't be expecting a direct score to award conversion, a game is not always the sum of it's parts, and each game has it's own ying and yang. See you then.

December 11, 2005

A few orders of business (12/12/05)

Xbox 360 -- Japanese Launch Update

Looks like Microsoft has decided to bite off more than they can chew. The console first retailed for 38 800 yen, and now after only 4 days on the market, Xbox 360 is practically being given away at 18 800 yen. This is a rather big deal for poor old Microsoft, yet not entirely suprising. They launched with a paltrey 6 titles, and have done nothing to prove to the Nihon people that Xbox 360 is going to be any different than Xbox. Four days in and prices are being slashed to less than half, in turn for some retailer kick-back who can't give the things away? Oh the smell of success...if only Microsoft Japan knew what that smell was. I bet it's cherries. I bet!

Wise words from a wise man: "In my studio, 360 degrees means that nothing changes."

I'm not going out on a limb here and calling Xbox 360 a failure. I'm really not. It's just not suprising that our friends in the land of the rising sun have no interest in this thing. When it comes to videogames, if it isn't a Sony or Nintendo product, people just don't seem to care. Similar in fashion to the declining popularity of Nintendo's once dominant rule over home consoles here in North America.

REVIEW: Kingdom Hearts (Ps2) -- (9.5)

My mouth waters every moment KH2 peaks it's head out from the hole it hides in.

"I'm now a believer. I can certainly say that Kingdom Hearts, even though a game with some hard to miss flaws, is a fantastic and euphoric trip down memory lane. It teaches us so many things we didn't realize about games, Disney and the depth of both children's literature and RPG's." Read the full review

Review Retro Recall: Devil May Cry (9.3) and Devil May Cry 2 (7.2)

December 02, 2005

One, Two Punch: DS takes 2005 with a last minute victory!

Undeniably, the PSP's launch line-up was spectacular. Representing at least one game from every major genre, and most of the titles were fairly good, if not incredibly satisfying to boot. Admittedly, I was wowed by Lumines and Metal Gear AC!D. Both titles were the killer apps the PSP needed. Both worthy of a system purchase, even if both were fairly niche (and at moments, mildly underwhelming: MGA). So it was a shoe-in: Nintendo had nothing but Zoo Keeper and a ported rehash of an N64 classic - aged 10 years of course - and now Sony's wonder machine was poised to unleash upon the gaming community real next-gen handheld gaming. To a point, I'd say they succeeded. A new standard for graphical excellence has been marked. A mark no current Nintendo handheld can reach, but only yearn for. Post-launch, the PSP lost it's momentum, though. Software was steadily released, eventually trickling into a drought (a common thing for any new piece of gaming technology), and most of the games were "okay" at best.

Yet, without any real high profile titles of it's own, the DS was left behind in Default Second place, since really the best titles for each came in the launch pack, with PSP easily trumping the DS' offerings. That's not to say the DS didn't have any reasons to play, they just weren't worth the 200 dollar investment. Then came along Kirby: Canvas Curse. Wow, the game just blew me away. Ostensibly it was nothing special, but mechanically and practically it was genius. Pure genius. Hands down, Canvas Curse's curlicue's of destruction were ultimately more addicting than the trance-mix antics of Lumines. Of course it's presentation as a product was more streamlined towards "minors" and the cutesy people out there, but it was a damned good game, and still is, even after almost half a year of incubation.

It still wasn't enough though. As the whole package, the PSP still had better games, and was still leading, leaving the DS in it's wake. Months pass, and the DS is still without it's reason to live. Yearning for that higher calling. Then August rolls around...and the DS finds it's inner beauty. Nintendogs and Advance Wars: Dual Strike swoop down and rescue our dual-screened friend from iminent drowning. Like most Nintendo gaming machines, it had obtained it's completed Tri-Force. Power, Wisdom and Courage...Nintendogs, Advance Wars and Kirby. While no individual title would be called better than Lumines, I would gladly take those three over any single killer app on the market. The DS had finally caught up, and was finally putting up a fight. Dukes raised, mouth guard in...let the fight begin.

Months passed again, and still no clear winner. This was getting exhausting. Then that glimmer, that light, that something that renews the meaning of "Gamer", that ignites what small spark of excitement, laying dormant. You begin to realize that through thick and thin, there will always be a saviour: that game is Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow. Easily the best handheld game the DS had, and even easier, the best game amongst the rubbish and rubies of the PSP and DS software lineup. It was That edge the DS needed. Solidifying the Nintendo DS as 2005's "must own handheld", Castlevania DoS could very well be one of the greatest handheld games ever made. And with that, the Nintendo DS pushes forward in a momentous leap of faith, to take the title of "Handheld of the Year". Proving itself to be more than a contender with software, rather than hardware, the PSP was left wallowing in it's own pool of excessive UMDs, as it's killer apps were ecclipsed one after the other. While the PSP is still a stand-out piece of technology - being the publicly advertised tech-nut that I am - the DS just has more fire power. With some hot 2006 salvos coming from the Sony camp, I wouldn't be suprised if the DS is given a run for it's money once again, but right now, the crown jewel is firmly centred on the DS.