Sunday, March 28, 2010

Persona 5 announced: I am far too masculine and dignified to make “squee” noises, but if that were not the case I would do so here

Katsura Hashino of Atlus, director of Persona 3 and producer of Persona 4, has announced that work is now under way on the fifth game in the popular RPG series. Virtually nothing else is known at this point; even the system it's being made for is still a mystery. Atlus USA has been doing a nice job making the various Shin Megami Tensei-related games available in America, and Persona 3 and 4 were two of my favorite games on the PS2, so confirmation that there will be a Persona 5 is great news for me.

I'm curious to see where they take it. One of the interesting things about parts 3 and 4 was that, despite sharing a setting and having the same basic mechanics, the tone of the games was strikingly different. This extended from the plot and characters into subtle things like the color of the in-game menus (dark and somber-looking in 3, lots of cheery yellow and orange for 4) and whether the majority of the game's important events too place at night (Persona 3) or during the day (Persona 4). It was quite a shift.

Which made sense, given that the dominant theme of Persona 4 was the pursuit of truth, self-understanding and acceptance, and the overcoming of illusions and ignorance, whereas the theme of Persona 3 was DEATH IS INEVITABLE AND INESCAPABLE, ESPECIALLY FOR YOU. (I hasten to add that the game is much more fun than that probably makes it sound.) I thought that they did both styles extremely well, so I look forward to seeing what's next.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just Cause 2: The Grappling Hookening

The release is just a few days away, so I wanted to put in a good word for Just Cause 2. I downloaded the PS3 version of the demo, and it blew me away like nothing else has in years. The demo has a half-hour time limit in which you can run around a small portion of the game world, and I have played it at least eight times; that's how addicted to it I am. I'm incredibly cheap and usually have a decent-sized backlog of games to play through, so I rarely buy games as soon as they come out; Just Cause 2 is the first game released by a company not named Atlus that I've ever been excited enough about to actually preorder.

It's a third-person open world action game game where you roam around the fictional island nation of Panau, destroying facilities, assassinating enemy leaders, and doing missions for various factions to overthrow the tyrannical government of the island. In addition to the various weapons you can wield and vehicles you can commandeer, you have a grappling hook and reloadable parachute you can use to rapidly travel across the terrain, zip to advantageous positions to attack, escape from pursuing enemies, and destroy things in various creative ways. It's sort of like Mercenaries meets Red Faction: Guerrilla meets Bionic Commando meets gleefully over-the-top action movies like The Transporter.

Based on my experiences with the demo, I would enthusiastically recommend this game if you are interested in any of the following:

Zipping from building to building and vehicle to vehicle with a grappling hook while your enemies are in hot pursuit, sort of like Spider-Man if Spider-Man spent more time killing people in Third World countries.

Blowing lots of things up.

Advancing beyond mundane forms of transport acquisition like running up to vehicles and carjacking them at intersections, and having the option of alternative methods such as parachuting off a cliff that overlooks a busy road, landing on the roof of a moving car, forcing your way in through the window, and seizing the wheel, all while the car continues barreling down the highway at fifty miles an hour.

An open-world game where you run around kicking ass, wreaking havoc, and fleeing from the pursuing authorities with a main character who's not a sociopathic hooker-killing gangster.

Leaping off the roof of a four-story building, firing a grappling hook at an attacking enemy helicopter in mid-air, reeling yourself in, spraying submachine gun fire at the crew while hanging on to the outside of the cockpit, hauling the pilot out of his seat and hurling him to his doom, seizing control of the helicopter in mid air, and unleashing a torrent of rockets and gatling gun fire at the enemy troops gathered below.

If you own a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, or PC, try out the demo if you haven't already. The full game is coming out on March 23rd. has a nice deal where you get $15 credit towards the next game you buy from them if you preorder Just Cause 2, so if you do any new game shopping there you can essentially get it for $45. I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

(Note: This ought to go without saying, but I receive no compensation from either Square Enix or Eidos for this post. Sadly, despite the boundless potential for niche marketing offered by the internet, the "video game fans who like jokes about particle physics and Oliver Cromwell" demographic is not large enough to make corrupting me worthwhile. I do get a small percentage through if anyone buys the game via the Amazon link in this post, but be assured that the emotional and spiritual satisfaction I would gain from the knowledge that I helped someone find a game they enjoyed would vastly overshadow any merely material gain that... Hell, I can't even type that sentence with a straight face.)

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Must.... resist... disgusting... Wiimote joke...

Microsoft is going to try to market the Xbox360's motion control system, Project Natal, through celebrity endorsements in women's fashion/relationship/celebrity magazines such as Vogue and Glamour, presumedly in the hope of using motion-controlled games to reach beyond the existing gamer market in the same way the Nintendo Wii has done. It really is quite remarkable, when you think about it. The idea of stuff about video games in something like Vogue really drives home how much things have changed since I was a kid. I grew up in a time and place where a significant interest in gaming was extremely uncool, and where female gamers were like alien civilizations or tachyons- we didn't rule out the theoretical possibility of such a thing, but the idea had no empirical support and the actual sighting of one would have been a major discovery.

It does seem like an interesting idea- if it works, it would give Microsoft an untapped new market that the more family-focused Wii doesn't already dominate. I'm really not sure how many different games you can make in the Top 14 Positions to Make Your Man A Groveling Sex Slave/Summer Outfits to Conceal Your Colossal Buttocks/Yet Another Goddamn Article About Anne Hathaway's Hair genre before the market is oversaturated, so hopefully Microsoft will show a little more imagination than we've seen in past attempts to market games to women.

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Star Trek Online not yet making players suffer enough, executive producer says

In response to complaints about the new Star Trek Online MMORPG's lack of a significant penalty for death, Craig Zinkievich of Cryptic has said that the developers are looking into ways to “give players a deeper sense of loss when something bad happens,” but that he doesn't like the the type of penalties usually used by the genre, saying:

“I get that people want to feel a sense of risk when they’re fighting in battles, but if the only emotion you feel when you’re playing a game is fear that you’re going to lose some time due to an arbitrary gameplay mechanic, we’re probably not doing something right, ” he said.
Originally, I was going to suggest that Cryptic buy the rights to Star Trek: Insurrection and force players to sit through a brief clip of it while their characters respawn. Then I remembered that he said he wanted to create a “sense of loss,” not a “sense of dismay, nausea, and revulsion, coupled with indignation that Paramount tried to pass off a really bad rejected script from the TV show as a feature film.” So, back to the drawing board.

You know, the first time I glanced at the source article, I immediately thought, “Wait, the Federation doesn't have the death penalty anymore. It's one of those things they've somehow 'evolved beyond,' like greed and racism and dignified military uniforms that don't look like something from the Men's Sleepwear section at Sears.” I hate it when I get my wires crossed like that.

(Yes, I'm aware of General Order 7. Don't imagine you can outgeek me on this, poindexter.)

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