Late Night Consoling

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I picked up Dreamfall (Xbox, PC) and Odama (GCN) today. Haven't played the retail versions of either yet, but as a result of plenty of preview time I'm looking forward to both. Dreamfall has had some of the most ridiculously disparate reviews I've ever seen in a high-budget game, with scores ranging from perfect to poor, and some reviewers praising the game for having incredible storytelling, while some say it's basically worthless. I'm pretty sure I know what to expect, though, and I really can't wait to get started. If there's one thing all of the even vaguely reasonable reviews agreed on, it's that the game's storytelling is fantastic. These days I rarely play games "for the story" (modern gaming sans the adventure genre would be pretty depressing if that was my goal) but any game that does anything exceptionally well--innovative gameplay, breathtaking art direction, compelling and meaningful storytelling--in a way that most other games don't is more than worth a look for me.

The concensus on Odama seems to be that it's a clever concept but also rather scattershot and too punishingly difficult for its own good. That's as may be, but honestly my hands on experience with this thing at E3 and other events over the last two years basically confirmed that I would be spending my dollars on it one day. I definitely don't expect a full game's worth of top notch content by any means. Still, this is the kind of game development I just can't help but support. It's not innovative; that is, I really can't see other games drawing from Odama's insane feudal Japan pinball/strategy hybrid. On the other hand it doesn't come off as a senseless attempt at uniqueness for its own sake. It's one of those games where you can really feel how much the developer invested in it. For what reason, I couldn't say--this is Yoot Saito, the guy who made Seaman (DC), so I'll forego any attempts to deciper what goes on inside his head. But whatever the reason, this is obviously a game that was first and foremost driven by the passion of its designer and team without than the slightest shred of demographic research or marketing theory. Though it may not gel together into a seamless experience, playing those sorts of games tends to impart its own unique brand of enjoyment. Oh, and as a final note, the box art is gorgeous. Those of you who miss the old days of hand painted video game cover art that was actually conceived by an artist instead of a PR man (old LucasArts adventures were top notch for this--remember the Monkey Island 2 cover?) will surely appreciate it. If you happen to be in a game store, at least take a glance. It's quite awesome. Of course, EB slapped no less than two permanent stickers on this thing, and since it's a custom cardboard box that has to house a microphone, that crap is never coming off. Thanks, gaming retail!

  • One Million Xbox 360s!

    [xbox360]

    Last week, rumors stemming from Taiwanese manufacturers of chips for Xbox 360 indicated that Microsoft plans to boost Xbox 360 production to an ambitious one million units per month, a significant increase from recent figures. The news was vaguely downplayed by Microsoft representatives, but now the Wall Street Journal reports that yet another Taiwanese manufacturer of Xbox 360 components has come out with a similar story.

    If true, Xbox 360s will certainly be on their way to widespread availability. However, it is likely Microsoft will also want to hoard many of the units--which is perhaps why they have yet to confirm these rumors--in order to ensure that holiday season shelves are packed with Xbox 360s. Microsoft recently used a similar strategy to promote a "second launch" for the machine, during which retailers nationwide released stocked up consoles simultaneously. It might serve the company well to take advantage of the inevitable insufficient supply Sony and Nintendo will see this holiday season by having plenty of 360s available for customers unable to secure one of the two competing machines.

  • NiGHTS Into... Revolution?

    [nintendo]

    Sega fans take note. The latest issue of Japanese publication Famitsu reports that Sonic Team's whimsical Sega Saturn flight-simultator-ish title NiGHTS Into Dreams will be seeing a new iteration on Nintendo's upcoming Revolution. With its high-flying acrobatic gameplay, the game seems like a natural fit for the gestural 3D mechanics of the upcoming system's controller. NiGHTS creator and longtime Sega designer Yuji Naka has apparently left Sega to found his own studio, but he plans to maintain close ties with Sega. Famitsu seems to indicate that the game is in the hands of a newly independent developer, and Naka would fit the bill.

    Reports from January indicated that Sega is also working on a Sonic the Hedgehog title for Revolution, and rumor has it there may be a total of three Revolution-exclusive games in the works from Sega.

    Not content to stir the pot with just one new Revolution rumor, Famitsu also stated that next week the magazine will be revealing Revolution's E3 lineup.

  • Final Fantasy XI-2?

    [ps3]

    A GameSpot paraphrased translation of a report from Japanese language site Impress reveals that Square Enix may be working on a new massively multiplayer game for PlayStation 3 and Windows Vista. Final Fantasy XI (PS2, X360, PC) producer Hiromichi Tanaka described the reasoning behind developing those two specific platforms and, oddly enough, it is indirectly a result of Xbox 360 development being less intensive than PS3 development.

    The Xbox 360 version of Final Fantasy XI, he explained, was quite straightforward; working from the PC version of the game, it was a trivial matter to get it up and running on 360, which has been one of Microsoft's big cross-platform seling points to developers. Putting Final Fantasy XI on PS3, however, would require essentially a ground up approach that could take years, meaning it will absolutely not be launching with Sony's next-gen platform and may never end up on the system at all. Instead, the considerable time and development resources his team would have to invest in such a project would be better used developing a new MMO for PS3 and Windows. Then, if there is demand for a 360 version, it would be easy to engineer from the PC product.

    As far as any details about this potential game or whether it would be related to Final Fantasy at all, Tanaka was silent. It's possible more will be revealed at E3 in a few weeks, but since it sounds like development is still in the planning stages, don't bet on it.

  • SOCOM Strikes Again

    [ps2] [psp]

    What appeas to be a slipup at EBGames has resulted in the premature unveiling of two new SOCOM titles from Sony's recently acquired development studio Zipper Interactive. EB quickly pulled the two product pages from its online site, but not before word of the games got out.

    SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault is apparently in the works for PlayStation 2. The game will contain single-player and online multiplayer modes, with new four player online cooperative mode. Both the single- and multiplayer components will feature new vehicles and weapons.

    SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Fireteam Bravo 2 is a PSP sequel to the first Fireteam Bravo game. It contains ten new multiplayer maps playable both online and via local wireless, a single-player campaign, and new types of weapons, enemies, and terrain. The game also features new Crosstalk connectivity features with the Combined Assault title on PS2, unlocking a new story arc and more.

    Both games are expected later this year. While they have yet to be confirmed, it is safe to say that both projects are in development. When it comes to release dates and ambiguous unannounced game titles, retail sites have a less than stellar reputation, but the product pages in question here were detailed and complete, with far more information than could have been reasonably predicted.

  • Ace Combat X to North America

    [psp]

    Last week, Famitsu revealed Namco Bandai's upcoming Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception (PSP). The game was confirmed for a fall release in Japan and an eventual release in North America. Today, just for good measure, Namco Bandai officially confirmed the North American version of the game, tacking on a fall release period as well.

  • Misc. Q&As/Features

    Game Informer has a chat with RedOctane's John Tam, speaking about Harmonix's upcoming Guitar Hero II (PS2).

    Brian Crescente of Kotaku did an interview with fashion designer and, more recently, game designer Marc Ecko about reactions to Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (PS2, Xbox, PC) and future plans.

Misc. Media/Previews

PS2

Screenshots: Monster Rancher EVO (PS2).

Xbox/X360

GameSpy Presents a Preview of Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis (X360).

Portable

Screenshots: New Super Mario Bros. (DS). Big Brain Academy (DS). Ace Combat X (PSP).

Multi

GameSpot goes hands on with Rebellion's Rogue Trooper (PS2, Xbox, PC). GameSpy checks out Bugbear's FlatOut 2 (PS2, Xbox, PC).

Screenshots: Super Monkey Ball Adventure (PS2, GCN, PSP). Family Guy (PS2, Xbox, GCN, PC). The Da Vinci Code (PS2, Xbox, PC). Sensible Soccer 2006 (PS2, Xbox, PC).

Movies: Super Monkey Ball Adventure (PS2, GCN, PSP). Over the Hedge (PS2, Xbox, GCN, DS, GBA, PC).

Console Game Of The Evening [Submit Yours!]

Drakkhen for the Super Nintendo. "Got it for $9 at Toys R Us years ago. Shoddy RPG. Your gear broke randomly, the sound effects blew... But it was worth going up north to meet the evil shadow man who comes out the floor and kills everyone." (submitted by volitionism)

From The Chatty