Nick's Gaming Blog

8 Gaming Tidbits (Week of 4-7-2010)

I figured while working on my review of The Saboteur that I’d give all of you something else to peruse meanwhile, something akin to that all-too sticky issue of Highlights! in your dentist’s waiting room.  Sure, it’s not the Swimsuit Edition of Sports Illustrated, but it’ll still keep you from having to make small talk with the 70+ old geezer whose been creepily staring your way for the past nine minutes, and who is no doubt envisioning X-rated fantasies involving the two of you.  Was that analogy too in-depth?  Oh, well.

We’re long overdue for another installment in the “8 Gaming Tidbits” series anyway.  As par usual, I’ve pulled roughly two handful’s worth (give or take) of gaming news announced in the past week or so and compiled them into this convenient single-post format.

I just care about all of you that much.

And we’re off.

#1 Xbox 360 Owners Need CONSOLEing After Star Wars: The Old Republic Rumors Are Quashed–So on March 29th the website VG247 got a memo from the UK’s equivalent of GameStop, GAME (this already sounds really reputable, doesn’t it?) that included a release list for Microsoft’s wunderconsole, the 360.  Now, this sure doesn’t sound like anything remarkable…except that it included Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Yes, I leafed through pages and pages of screenshots so that I could find one awesome enough that us console players would be depressed about not getting the game. Mission accomplished.

Within hours, developers addressed the issue and, to save you the wonderful PR “let’s not burn any bridges-speak” that was employed, I’ll give you the summary: Bioware said it shouldn’t have been on the list, as the game is currently “specific” to the Windows operating system “at this time.”

Few things to point out, first, let’s clearly note that Bioware has not ruled out the chance of it appearing on consoles, nothing seems to indicate that they’ve ruled out the notion or that they’re disinclined toward the thought of such.

Secondly, how many more times does this sort of thing have to happen?  GAME and the slightly-longer-named GameSpot put out these release date lists way way before the debuts are remotely solidified and sometimes, as in this case, the systems they’re put out on aren’t correct either.  I’d like to suggest that we stop attempting to take any of these lists seriously at all, but when they keep ladling out wonderful morsels of gaming hopefulness like this, it just gets harder and harder.

#2 Nintendo Takes Over From Micro$oft in Denying Sony its JRPG Supremacy–So remember when Final Fantasy VII came along and more or less pronounced to the world that the Sony PlayStation and its progeny would be heirs to the turn-based throne of random encounters and impossible-to-hoist weaponry?  Remember when the Gamecube had to make do with the likes of small children dragging around chalices of magical water when their Moogle got too tired to do it (which was about every 45 seconds) and the Xbox’s role-playing integrity (as well as Star Wars games in general) was miraculously saved by Bioware’s Knights of the Old Republic (Jade Empire helped too, for the record…Fable too, if you’re up for half-assed promises)?

Dear God, why did we think a Moogle could carry this, or that I would want to carry it? "Here, you guys pick up gold and fight things...I'll...lug this around."

Yeah…well…those days are over.  Sure, the PS3 has gotten some quality RPG titles in Demon’s Souls, Valkyria Chronicles, and Folklore, but Microsoft has held its own this generation with both entries in the Mass Effect series, Fable II, and Lost Odyssey, amongst others.  This, accompanied by the multi-platform approach of third-party RPGs, has resulted in neither being declared the outright victor of what I will only less-than-cleverly name the “RPG Wars.”  That, in itself, is a victory for Micro$oft.

But what about the Wii?  One cannot live on Paper Mario and the semi-sorta-kinda RPG-esque elements of Zelda alone (though I’m sure fanboys would love to argue this point).  And, apparently, this is exactly the sort of thing that several esteemed (and some not-so-much) developers have come upon lately.  Now, I’ll save you the trouble of having to listen to the “it won’t be a traditional ‘save the world’ narrative…but probably will” press release of Imageepoch’s title-in-development, Arc Rise Fantasia, but suffice to say, it looks like a quality title. And by that, I mean the main character looks like Sora from Kingdom Hearts. Amiright?

Photoshop in a keyblade and you've got the protagonist of the Disney/Squeenix franchise...or at least, something frighteningly similar. Click on the pic for a closer look.

If you’re looking for a developer with a decade’s-old pedigree in the genre, perhaps The Last Story by Mistwalker (aka, and to the tune of the Transformer’s theme, “Mist-walker…Square Enix in disguise!”) seems like less of a risk.  We don’t know much about it, but we have been clued-in to the fact that it’ll have a real-time battle system, take place on a series of islands, the architecture of the towns emulates France and Italy, town inhabitants moods will be dynamic, and that the game will include a class dynamic between the prestigious Knights, and the “on the front line” Mercenaries, who dream of becoming Knights.  Beyond that (and some very pretty concept art) and that more about the game will be revealed in “Spring 2010″..which is…now…we don’t know much.  So, keep those eyes peeled.

Finally, Xenoblade from Monolith Software (Baiten Kaitos, Xenosaga) looks very, very, pretty…and apparently isn’t an entry in the Xenosaga series.  Clearly this little point has gone on for far too long, so let me say this; those inquiring minds that want more info on Xenoblade would be wise to check out this interview with the director.

Yes, it's concept art, but it doesn't make Xenoblade any less beautiful.

P.S.  Isn’t it kinda funny that a game headed/made by many ex-Square Enix employees, known for games titled Final Fantasy…is titled The Last Story? I think it is.

#3 Microsoft Allows For Use of Flash Drives, Also Permits Hell to Freeze Over–So, remember late last Fall when Microsoft informed us that their latest software update was going to lock out “unauthorized storage devices” for the Xbox 360?  I think the one thing that disgusted most of us, more than this crack-down, was the fact that none of us even knew how/where to get our hands on this supposedly inferior third-party gear in the first place.

Well, Microsoft came around (three to four years after they probably should have) and on April 6th they started supporting USB flash drives. Now, being the entrepreneurial company that they are, Microsoft has teamed up with SanDisc to offer “first-party” USB devices with the added perks that they are “pre-formatted” and come with a free month of Gold.

Perhaps these sound like remotely convincing reasons to slip Bill Gates a couple bucks…until you realize that, as Tor Thorsen’s article points out, a month of Gold is realistically worth about $2.50, and the “formatting process” amounts to plugging the thing in, going to the System Settings tab, selecting the device, and saying “configure now.”

With deals like these...well, you won't be buying one. At least, not unless meth is involved.

What’s that?  We haven’t even discussed pricing?  Well, Tor does all the number crunching, but I’ll leave you with the bottom line.  Let’s take the Microsoft brand SanDisc 16GB flash drive and put it up against a 16GB non-official (but also a SanDisc) flash drive.  The unbranded, according to Amazon prices, is 59% cheaper.  Huh?  You demand another reason to be morally outraged at Microsoft?  How about the fact that the 16GB flash drive above-mentioned retails at 70 dollars.  They’re also offering an 8 GB drive…but that’s 40 dollars…even though I think you and I both thought such wouldn’t be any different than its larger counterpart.

Oh, and a few more details (though you likely won’t enjoy these either) that flash drive you’re considering as your new de-facto memory card?  It’s going to need at least need a minimum of 1 GB free to function, and no matter how large it is, no more than 16 GB can be allocated to Xbox 360 storage.  “That doesn’t matter, I have a shit-ton of flash drives,” you say.  Well, you can only officially register two flash drives to every console.

Hold on, do you hear that siren?

That’s the Fun Police.

And we’re all getting pulled over.

#4 Some People Love Games, Others Tattoo Them On Their Bodies–On a slightly less melodramatic note, allow me to present something shocking.  Sure, we’ve all seen umpteen Mario, Pac-Man, and Zelda/Triforce tattoos.  Questionable?  Sometimes…but these games are timeless, and proven their mettle.

How about getting a rather large tattoo of a game that hasn’t even hit store shelves?  Now, I’m not saying that I think Red Dead Redemption will be a bad game…in fact, alongside Alan Wake, it’s one of the few games I’m looking forward to in the upcoming months.  I am saying that etching the game’s box art, in all its Technicolor glory, into your skin…might be something one might regret down the line.  So, for my sake (but mostly HIS) let’s all join together in hoping that Red Dead Redemption doesn’t suck.

...Because who wouldn't want to have a ton of conversations with their kids about why Daddy's leg is attempting to murder them?

Otherwise, dude, you better find some huge-ass socks.

#5 Name Your Shit Game After a Lady Gaga Song…and Apparently It’ll Sell–As a general rule, games panned by most critics still stand a decent chance of selling decently.  Just look at a fair amount of the movie tie-in titles out there.  However, few titles universally detested by critics sell two million copies in a little under five months.  They also don’t tend to end up as the fastest-selling new IP on the Wii.

But…that’s exactly what Just Dance has done. The premise?  You put the Wiimote in your right hand, pick a song to dance to from a list of only 32, and imitate the movements of the on-screen dancer.  But the controls and grading system have been labeled as “sloppy,” and the Wii’s motion detection system is apparently just as “wonky” in Just Dance as it has been in other titles where it was poorly implemented.

Now, I'll be honest...I'm not ashamed, I do like Katy Perry's "Hot and Cold." Don't judge me. When all else fails, ignore the music and stare at her.

The game has a “47″ overall from 19 critics on Metacritic, for those wondering.

Overall, it’s just interesting to see this sort of highly polarizing reaction between critics and consumers, the likes of which hardly happens in the gaming industry.  People will buy CDs or go to films almost without seeking any conforming opinions from critics, because it’s an experience that tends to find itself costing ten dollars or less.

Video games, obviously, are usually five to six times that, and any semi-concerned gamer seeks affirmation from “those with the advance copies.”  But…that’s the key…most of these Just Dance purchasers probably aren’t anything close to such.

Still…two million?  Really?

#6 Magicka Brings Back the co-op Dungeon Crawling Fun–I’m a sucker for awesome XBLA games, especially those that happen to revive some of gaming’s finest moments that I was either too young to appreciate at their point of inception, or wasn’t around at all for, period.  Sure, I played Diablo, but that didn’t scream co-op fun, and, well, Crystal Chronicles wasn’t super fun in the first place.  It was expensive, did happen to have a super kiddy art design, and lacked a compelling storyline or likable characters that resonated with the player.

This was awesome. Having to play it in a cabin in the woods that closely resembled that of the one in Evil Dead? Not so awesome.

I was going to try the new Gauntlet game, (Seven Sorrows) but, if I recall correctly, Zander steered me away from that (though I didn’t have either a PS2 or Xbox at the time, so it wasn’t like I was going to purchase it anyway).  I guess what I’m getting at is that its been a long, long time since I stumbled on that Gauntlet arcade machine up at Interlochen Arts Academy, and I’ve been eager to see something successfully capture that experience.

It looks like Arrowhead Games’ (please note their awesome logo) Magicka just might accomplish exactly that.  There’s a pretty cool preview on Joystiq that you can peruse at your leisure right here, but I’ll highlight some of the more interesting points.

One of the main emphases for the game is stackable and elemental-based spell casting, which is completely handled with the right analogue stick, and allows for co-op spell casting, too.  For example, you could simply stack up two fire spells and create a stronger one, or stack fire and water to create a steam attack spell, interesting, no?

Otherwise, just take a gander at the trailer included here, I love the sense of humor it uses, as well as the Castle Crashers sense of madness it embraces, but the game apparently emphasizes 4 member party strategies in which players are advised to divvy up roles as offensive spell-caster, party bodyguard, healer…etc.  Alternately, they could all just team up and cast one huge spell, but you probably already figured that out.

It’s hard to talk at great lengths about a game that isn’t so much trying to make an artistic or intellectual statement, but simply create hours and hours of fun.  And lighting your friends on fire.

So…what I’m trying to say is…it looks fun…amiright?

#7 How Alan Wake Moved Up The European Release Date OR Why I Will be Hating Europe Until May 18th–Until yesterday when I first read a certain article, all was right with the world…then I discovered that Alan Wake’s European release date of May 21st was bumped up to May 14th.  I get it.  Remedy Entertainment is a European (Finnish, to be specific) studio.  Does that entitle them to get the first peek?

It's Alan Wake. It's moody. And it borrows heavily from the tradition of Twin Peaks.


I am an American.

Notable Exports: Freedom.  Fast Food.  Explosions.  Witty HBO Programs.

Notable Imports: Whatever I want.

And right now, that’s Alan Wake. And their refusal to also bump up the American release date is…downright un-American.  And wrong.  The only think that makes me feel moderately okay about the whole mess is that the title recently passed Microsoft certification, meaning that the release date of May 18th, as unpleasant as it might be, isn’t likely to get worse.  If anything else, we’ve at least got this wonderful new Alan Wake trailer to work with.

#8 Because Everyone Else Cares About Gears…Even Though I Don’t–So Cliffy B (I’m not going to call him “Dude Huge,” okay?) was supposed to premiere his new title on Jimmy Fallon’s show tonight.  Then, for reasons that have been vaguely categorized as “scheduling issues” (some say Cliffy got bumped back a couple days for teenage heartthrob Justin Bieber)  Gears of War’s biggest fan ended up getting penciled in for April 12th.

That’s all we knew until a couple hours ago…but now EDGE magazine has Cliffy B suggesting that the studio wanted more time to polish the title. Of course, this is responsible journalism, free of rumors and gossip (as well as anything most people are remotely interested in hearing) and that’s not the kind of club I want to be a member of.

Name: Cliffy B...Occupation: Game Designer...Hobbies: Murder.

So, let’s dispense with some unconfirmed reports.  EDGE has also heard from an obviously unnamed source several key details about Gears of War 3.  This includes the fact that the game will take place in summer, include underwater levels as well as mech suits, and also new weapons for both the Covenant the Locust Horde, as well as Mr. Fenix’s Posse of Testosterone Embodiment.


Also, Cliffy B?  Please don’t harm Jimmy Fallon with any of your life size working weapon replicas, please.  He’s still funnier than Leno.


    On the picture of Dude Huge with the chainsaw-> I think it’s fine if he kills Major Nelson.

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