Day Two of the Big Show has come and gone, and this lonely writer is sad to say that "real life" pressures only afforded him a half-day visit. That said, I felt it necessary to hit up at least one of the big ticket items of the show: The PlayStation Move. Luckily, time allowed me to I was able to scoop up a few bits on some other choice titles, as well.
No one wants to be outdone in life, so it would seem that keeping up with the Joneses will never go out of style. A perfect example? The PlayStation Move. Since its announcement, the Move has never seemed more than a "me too" device to compete with Nintendo's massive Wii marketshare. The official word, of course, has always been "Just you wait, Joe Gamer." Well, now's its time to shine—it’s time to put it all out on the line.
So? Let's just get right down to it; in a nutshell, all of those 30-somethings who were too cool to buy a Nintendo Wii finally have something to distract their grade-school cousins during their third-Thursday visits. I hate to reduce the device to just that, but after getting my hands on it for a few hours, it fails to be much more than a way to get an HD Wii.
This is somewhat sad news, as every gamer wants to believe that the promises of the gaming gods will always come true and change the way they play. In fact, that very slogan is plastered on huge banners all over the Los Angeles Convention Center. "THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING” say the banners. The sentiment is big and bold, and Sony wants us to believe that what they have is revolutionary. Unfortunately, as with any new hardware, only the software will prove anything. Yes, the controller has a big, shiny ball on the top that can change color, but does it really change the way a game controls? The answer is "yes," but not enough to get your granddad to fork over the hundreds of dollars required to be able to throw some virtual bowling balls again.
Maybe I'm just frustrated that the "average" show-goer couldn't get their hands on every single Move demo available unless they were willing to spend an entire day at the Sony booth. As beautiful and lounge-y as the booth is, I resented the fact that I had to wait in line for up to 30 minutes per demo. (I probably poured too much time into this one, but hey—you deserve some honest reporting, no?)
The first I got to experience was the ping-pong game in their Zendagi-developed sports compilation, Sports Champions. It was good. It was fine. It's table tennis, y'all. The one-to-one motion that they've talked up is there, no question. It felt responsive and real. Truly, though, it didn't feel leaps and bounds better than what we saw (felt?) in Wii Sports Resort…
I asked the demo guy his favorite Move game. "Oh, definitely the sword-and-shield fighting game [from Sports Champions]," says Demo Guy. "Great," I said, "Where is that?" "Oh," he says, "it's not on-display at the show…" Oof. Alright.
Next I got my hands on the archery game featured in Sports Champions. Now, here is where the Move does have an advantage of the Wii: you can use two of the controllers at once. As opposed to the Wii's nunchuck dongle, you've got two full-size controllers with full one-to-one capabilities. Overall, the game felt fine and good in the hands, but not any more than what the Wii has done already.
Twenty minutes later I'm back again, and I'm virtually sparring with a dude in the brawling game, The Fight: Lights Out. Again, I'm using two controllers to brawl with some slow-moving dudes in a gritty black-and-white world. The fighting works just fine, but I'm guessing that the pace of the game is slowed so that it's more easily understood, and so that your character doesn't seem to flail around like a rag doll.
Finally, I got in a little hands-on time with London Studios's EyePet: Move Edition, and it was cute-as-a-button. The wand is used for all sorts of EyePet stuff like feeding, petting, spraying, and generally having fun with your pet. As an EyePet novice, I will say that the kid in me was wowed by the little guy's adorable ways. Kids are sure to dig what's happening here, but it was in playing this one that I could really imagine how slow Sony's crawl out of the gate will be. With the Wii so entrenched in the nurseries around America, I imagine that the market that would most be interested in this product has long owned a Wii system, and that the Move doesn't offer enough differentiation yet to make it THAT much more desirable than the system they've already got.
Time will tell whether the Move is a success at retail, but if you ask this writer, it's going to take a PS3 purchase as a home's first game system for kids to want to get a hold of what the Move has to offer. Otherwise, it's going to take some really amazing new features (or just a lot of spending money) to get consumers to fork over the green for another physical gaming device. I've yet to get my hands on the Microsoft Kinect, but tomorrow I'll throw in my two cents on that one, and we'll see who's got the best motion control idea out there…
Picking up back at the booth of one of my favorite big developers, I couldn't help but try out Okamiden from Capcom. As a fan of Okami for the PS2, I was interested to see how the game might play out on a system more suited to the motions associated with the game's painting feature, the Celestial Brush. The answer? Not much has changed in that area, as the game's basic brush controls return to split rocks, fight enemies, and bring flowers into bloom.
The distinctive art style that set apart the first one is back in a big way, so Okami fans like myself will be very happy that the game's whimsical design and characters remain intact—though a bit too blocky on the DS's small screen. Although I couldn't see how Okamiden will vary from the first game aside from the stylus controls, I do know that the game had its share of rabid fans who'll be overjoyed to experience the next chapter in the story…
While at the Capcom booth, I couldn't help but be drawn into the kooky joy that was Sengoku Basara: Samurai Heroes. Coming soon for PS3 and Wii, it's basically Capcom's version of the Dynasty Warriors series, and it's a barrel fulla good times.
While the first game in the series was brought to the States as the retooled Devil Kings (which tanked at retail) the developers of Capcom Japan thought to try their luck again by leaving all of the historical trappings in place, and seeing what America had to say. My guess? It’ll be a hilarious time-sink for any fan of beat-'em-up games.
My own experience with Dynasty Warriors has been based on a few very brief encounters over the years, but Sengoku Basara caught my eye with its vibrant color palette and extreme combos that made your hero look completely unstoppable. The demo had me hacking and slashing my way through hundreds of enemies in just minutes, which was pretty exciting. By the end of the demo, however, I was already feeling a little drained by the same mindless combos I kept churning out. There are four main characters to choose from, as well as several ways to upgrade your character's move-sets, so perhaps things won't feel too samey for the entire run. It's a pure sugar rush of a game, and the fact that it's exclusive to PS3 and Wii is a possible testament to the creators' idea of its perceived shallowness…
Speaking of brawlers, I rushed back over to Sega's booth to check out Yakuza 4, which also strangely featured four main characters and tons and tons of fisticuffs. Unfamiliar with the recently-released third game in the series, I was interested to see some hints of this entry's story, and what I might have missed. Sadly, there were no story elements to speak of in the demo. It was a solid fighting segment from start to finish, featuring the characters going through the motions, and doing not too much to differentiate themselves… In this instance, it looks as if Sega's not doing too much to change an old series, yet I still couldn't resist the brutal finishing moves of the combat, or the delightfully simple grade-school fantasy of a dozen men taking part in a pistol-less street fight in this modern world…
Finally, I got a look at Valkyria Chronicles II before the show closed its doors. For those who loved the first comes another heaping helping of delightful anime-styled action-strategy.
While I only played through the first dozen hours of the first game, I was curious to see what Sega was bringing back to the table. Strangely, the sequel is appearing on the PSP system. Perhaps development costs relegated the "smaller" title to a smaller system? Who knows, but the original's beautiful graphics have naturally taken a hit in the conversion. That said, it looks to be very much the same game as the first, progressing the story of Avan and the crew.
The only truly new feature that the demo person could offer me was that many of the enemy animations are now absent to make battles more brisk. In other words, the actions of the units not seen by your party will remain unseen, so your turn comes up in a much quicker fashion. Based on the game's first mission, it looks as if the same addictive strategy goodness that oozed out of the first will back in stellar form.
So, that's it for my short Day Two on the floor. I was distressed that it wasn't longer, but Day Three remains! I'm planning on hitting up Nintendo's booth for the 3DS, then some quality time with Kinect, and finally a treasure hunt for some of the smaller games of the show. See you then!