tempest in a teacup

the pointless musings of a strange recluse

More Sonic Unleashed stuff

I’ve more or less gotten everything I can out of the Wii version of Sonic Unleashed – I haven’t gotten all the medals, but I have pretty much S-ranked every stage (a few Werehog stages being the exception), so I think I can set it aside.

That said, the first thing I did after getting back from Singapore (literally the first thing – just a few minutes after I walked in the door) was download the demo for the PS3 version. I’ve taken it for a few spins since then (I’ve A-ranked it at least) and I have some…thoughts.

The game does look rather nice in terms of lighting, modeling and texture quality, but the PS3 version has a few hitches – for one, the framerate is rather inconsistent. Unlike the framerate-locked 360 version, the framerate on the PS3 version can go from 30 to 60 in an instant. On the one hand this is kind of annoying since it kills the sensation of speed that you get…on the other hand it means that someone at Sega has finally figured out how to program a variable framerate engine! Not that I’d want to be licensing it to anyone, given how crappily it seems to run on the PS3…

The game itself is a little uneven. The controls are somewhat floatier than the Wii version for some reason – they’re not as bad as the ‘twitch and fall off a cliff’ controls in Sonic Heroes and Sonic 2006, though. The demo only contains one level – the first level, Windmill Isle. The PS3/360 version of this stage is rather straightforward and linear compared to the Wii version, which has at least 3 alternate routes through the stage that I can think of. The stage also feels very cramped, and this affects the game to some degree, in that you can’t really see what’s coming up ahead of you. In that respect it’s somewhat disappointing.

As I already knew, the boost system in the PS3/360 version is plucked straight out of Sonic Rush, so you can hold down X as long as you like to continue speeding through the stage. There are a few obstacles placed in the stage to prevent you from doing this, like spike traps, bumps in the road that will trip you up, and, well, walls. The actual amount of platforming you have to do in the first level is rather minimal, but there is some of it.

Overall, I can’t say I was blown away, but at least it wasn’t awful like I was expecting it to be. That said, I have no idea how the later levels are (some people have told me that they’re significantly more challenging, although I have yet to verify this), and of course the demo contains none of the Werehog levels, town missions or any of that other stuff which most people regard as a drag on the whole experience. I’ll probably seek out the PS3 version when it’s down to $30 or less (right now it’s still full price at Amazon.com).

On another note, in the comments on my last entry Neochaos just pointed out something interesting to me regarding Street Fighter 4 – the game will in fact feature a full-featured training mode, and from this article it sounds like it’s very much in the vein of Virtua Fighter 4′s excellent Training Mode on PS2.

I stand by my earlier point that the game itself is not made more accessible to newbies by removing stuff like parries, but extra modes like this can help them deal with the learning curve somewhat. It won’t eliminate it, but it should at least show them what they need to master.


Razor sharp

A demo for Mirror’s Edge hit PSN today, so I took it out for a spin.

The demo consists of a tutorial level and what I assume is the first level of the game, that takes place on a series of building rooftops. Incidentally, this is the same level that was shown when the game was revealed for the first time.

Amazingly, I must say, the demo lived up to my expectations. Somehow DICE has managed to craft a first-person platformer that feels right. It reminds me of old-school (read: Genesis) Sonic the Hedgehog games a whole lot, as in there are multiple intertwining routes you can use to navigate the level (although the progression is still very much linear) and there’s a heavy focus on maintaining momentum through good timing and using it to pull off platforming stunts in the game world.

Where it differs, of course, is in elements like combat (which, again, focuses on disarming and incapacitating your opponents quickly rather than engaging in shootouts with them). Combat is fairly simple, in that you have a single button for melee attacks and another button for disarming. The trick is to combine your melee attacks, jumps/slides and disarming moves in such a way as to get the opponent out of your way as quickly as possible – in other words, to minimise their impact to your momentum.

In addition, there’s a mode called ‘reaction time’ that lets you slow down time briefly, allowing you to execute maneuvres like frontal disarms or precise jumps with more leeway. This ties neatly back into the core platforming since the ability to use reaction time is granted when you successfully manage to maintain your momentum for an extended period of time.

If I had to nitpick, there are a couple of things I would mention:

  • The game uses Unreal Engine 3, meaning that things like dynamic shadows have aliased/jagged edges, which impairs the look of the game for me somewhat. On top of that, while the NPCs are modeled and animated extremely well, they seem rather crap at emoting, much like Mass Effect and other UE3 games I’ve seen.
  • I found it a little tricky to use the right analogue stick to line myself up correctly for precision jumping – this is probably more of a personal preference, though, and I imagine you can tweak the sensitivity settings to get them exactly where you want them.

Overall, though, if the final product manages to maintain the quality of the level design through to the end, this should end up being a pretty damn good game. I imagine time trial nuts (myself included) will have a blast exploring the levels, trying to find that one improvement to their route that knocks precious seconds off their best times.

(Speaking of time trials, the demo also has a time trial mode, but to unlock it you need to have preordered the game on either Xbox 360 or PS3. I’ve already decided to wait the extra two months for the PC version, so I wasn’t able to try it out)


Am I missing something?

Someone really needs to tell me what the fuss over LittleBigPlanet is about, because I don’t see it. It’s a level design toolbox for a fairly average platformer, and it looks like you can’t modify the basic mechanics in any way, so…what’s the big deal?

The only thing I can think of at this point that might get me to buy the game is the fact that Stephen Fry does the tutorial voiceovers.

(Next post will be about King of Fighters XII, now that I’ve had some time to sit and think about the ramifications of the new system)


Convention Tales

I spent most of the day at PAX today, since I’d never been to a gaming convention and there were a few games I wanted to check out. I actually didn’t get to play too many of them (the lines were way too long for me to be standing around) but I did get a reasonable idea of how some of the games I’m looking forward to are shaping up.

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The list of doom, August edition

Here’s last month’s edition.

Games that have been knocked off the list due to completion:

  • Devil May Cry 4 – Beat it on Devil Hunter, although honestly I don’t think I’m really done with it yet. I can’t say that I’ve really mastered any aspect of the game (except maybe Nero’s Devil Buster but it’s LOL EZ anyway).
  • NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams – I’ve gotten all my C ranks and unlocked the true ending to the game, so it’s leaving the list. I’ll still keep trying for A ranks and better scores from time to time, though (it’s a freaking score attack game – who wouldn’t). Maybe I’ll put some footage up here when I try it out.
  • Zack & Wiki – I’ve beaten the main story quest, but I haven’t found any of the hidden treasures yet. Still, that’s good enough for me for now.
  • Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition – Beat it shortly after my last list of doom post. I’ve fiddled around a bit with the other modes (the Ada side missions and the Mercenaries minigame) but I haven’t gone back to the game yet.

Games still being played:

  • Super Mario Galaxy – Would you believe I’m still stuck on that one Luigi purple coin mission?
  • Advance Wars: Days of Ruin – Really haven’t touched it at all.
  • Sonic Rush Adventure – That last Sol Emerald is a bitch.
  • Mass Effect – I’ve just finished up the Noveria story quests. It seems that there really aren’t that many main story quests which is a little alarming, but I’ll see what happens. I’ve started to get a good feel for my final opinion on the game, too…and it’s a little uneven.
  • Beyond Good & Evil – Still fun – I’m right after the part where Pey’j gets kidnapped (spoiler).

Games that were started and beaten over the course of the month:

  • Metal Gear Solid – Great boss fights, great sneaking areas, terrible gun controls, WALL OF PLOT is annoying.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance – Boss fights are somewhat less great, sneaking is much more fun, gun controls are better, WALL OF PLOT is still annoying.

New entries on the list:

  • Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence – Not too far in. I can’t say I’ve gotten the hang of CQC yet – for some reason every time I try to grab someone from behind I end up throwing them and setting off an alarm.
  • Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword – this is surprisingly good for a handheld conversion of Ninja Gaiden. There are some cutbacks (simplified combos, only one melee weapon and two ranged weapons) but otherwise it’s fast and furious just like the console versions.
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – my first PS3 game! Think Gears of War crossed with Resident Evil 4 with a minimal bit of Tomb Raider splashed in for good measure. Very polished and slick – nothing to complain about so far.
  • Bionic Commando: Rearmed – I never played the NES version, but even so this game is pretty cool. While the levels and bosses themselves are pretty well-designed, I particularly like the Portal-style Challenge Rooms.

And that’s it for August!

It just occurred to me that my Wii backlog is basically empty now (except for Galaxy). Any Wii game recommendations? Keep in mind that I’m a lonely bastard who plays games by himself all the time.

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Heads up, and something to look at

Amazon is going to be having PS3 deals all day today (August 27th), starting at 12am PST for the big daily deal and then lightning deals every four hours starting at 6am PST. Just a heads up in case there’s some PS3 game or accessory that you’ve been on the lookout for.

And no, I don’t know what the deals are going to be in advance, so don’t bother asking. You can usually make a pretty good guess from the clues on the Gold Box page anyway.

EDIT: The list of deals is up – the daily deal is Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. The lightning deals haven’t been revealed yet, but here are my educated guesses:

6AM: Resistance: Fall of Man
10AM: Ridge Racer 6
12PM: Ratchet & Clank Future
2PM: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune
4PM: Devil May Cry 4
6PM: Warhawk

Looks like either games I have no interest in or that I already own. Urgh…

And now to pad out this post a little more, here’s what my desktop currently looks like (click to view full-sized version).

Why yes, I am rather obsessed with sandviches at the moment.


Five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars

I’ve been hearing rumours that the 80GB Metal Gear Solid 4 PlayStation 3 bundle was soon to go the way of the dodo, and with it all backwards compatibility from the product line. I was pondering whether or not to take the plunge and shell out the cash for one of these bundles, but an e-mail that popped into my inbox at work swiftly resolved those thoughts.

A guy at work was selling his 60GB PS3 along with a few games, for the bargain price (relatively speaking) of $450. I wasn’t particularly interested in some of the games he was offering (Tiger Woods and Madden…right), but I realised that that sort of price for the long-discontinued 60GB model was a pretty damn good deal, so I jumped at it. Hence the shiny black monster now perched next to my 32″ HDTV.

The machine is remarkably quiet, even with a disc inside it – noise elimination was clearly one of their priorities in developing the hardware. Heat is another story, though – I tried to reposition the console slightly to make space for something else and the underside was almost too hot to touch.

That said, I don’t have much else to complain about. I’ll probably put Ubuntu on it so that I can use it as a media center (without being restricted to the formats that the PS3 supports natively). And now that I have something that can actually use the hi-def capabilities of my TV, I might start buying more DVDs (and downloading content from the PlayStation Store – I hear Xam’d is particularly good).

Games? Err, I got Guitar Hero III along with it, but until I clear my existing PC and PS2 backlog I’m probably not going to buy anything else for it. I’m still halfway through Devil May Cry 4 and I suspect I’ve barely scratched the surface of Mass Effect.

On a somewhat related note, I beat Metal Gear Solid at last (after disovering the first-person aiming option in the escape level which was never revealed to me, and in any case was rather difficult to use). Of course, the game rewarded me by freezing up right after the credits, preventing me from saving my complete file. Joy.

Overall thoughts? Rather rough around the edges, but it did have enjoyable moments.

I put a few minutes into Metal Gear Solid 2 – the two main things I brought away from it were

  1. Yay aiming doesn’t suck as much!
  2. Boo the cutscenes are still way too long.

I’ll probably only continue once I get the PS2 memory card adapter I ordered from Amazon tomorrow, so I can move all my save data onto the PS3. I’m not sure what I’ll do with the PS2 yet, but I’ll probably take it back to Singapore the next time I go.

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No more excuses

OK, Sonic fanboys. You know how everyone claims that Sonic the Hedgehog for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 is a bad game? And how so many of you claim that it isn’t really as bad as everyone says it is?

Watch and learn.

I really wish this series of videos had been around last year when I decided to play through the game for myself. I can say with 100% certainty that I experienced just about all the issues they run into (and unleash a torrent of curses at) throughout the entire game.

I recommend the Radical Train videos in particular for their unwashed display of jaw-droppingly bad game design and mechanics.


Rock Band: Weeaboo edition

Q Entertainment is localising Rock Band for Japan

Rock Band is one of those games I’ve had my eye on for a while – one of those games that could spur me into getting a HD-enabled current-generation console, high cost notwithstanding. The biggest obstacle for me is the soundtrack, and how I don’t know any of the songs featured in the game, but a Japanese edition of the game might very well address that problem. Hopefully Q Entertainment (founded by Sega/UGA alumnus Tetsuya Mizuguchi, the creator of Rez, Lumines and Meteos, among other things) will do their due diligence and pick deserving songs for the soundtrack.

As for me, it looks like I have another reason to consider getting a PS3 now – yay for easy imports.

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