Friday, 25 September 2009

Chocobo Tales

Chocobo Tales is personally one of the few mini-games based games that I can stand (Even If I do secretly hate It), this is probably due to the fact that I'm an outrageously dense Final Fantasy fan boy and I'll buy into anything that's branded Square/SquareEnix (Except when you bang in a series of 12 year old scene kids and Disney characters).
Chocobo Tales is mini-game based series; With two games within the series, but I'll be reviewing only the first one, as clearly the first Chocobo Tales was not good enough to inspire me to buy the sequel.
The game stars you as a Chibi Chocobo living within a small village with a bunch of other Chocobos, a black Mage and a girl; Which really didn't make much sense to me, but considering the ideal demographic of this game was 10 year olds that enjoy Kingdom Hearts, I had to reconsider my standards and work out that the plot wasn't the main selling point for this game, instead the chibi graphics and touch screen gimmick mini-games were.




The actual plot for the game is rather confusing, but does some how have a little charm which comes from the actual mini-games and how they're implemented within the game, within the medium of Children's stories and nursery rhymes; These are within books placed around the map that you can travel around, all with their own Final Fantasy version of the stories, such as Cactuar and Adamantoise/Turtle and The Hare, The boy who cried Leviathan/The boy who cried Wolf, etc.
For me, this is where the charm of the game stopped; I personally found the idea of playing these Mini-games a chore first time round, let alone the three or four extra times that you may have to play through on harder difficulties to unlock the next mini-game.




The game also features Micro-games, which are basically mini-games that have no real effect on the story and simply give you bonus items or cards (We'll get to the card system soon), these Micro-games are usually the most frustrating experience you'll ever have as they're usually 30-60 second long challenges, such as stopping at Adamantoise before it falls off a cliff, solving mini-puzzles and other such ridiculous tasks that you won't enjoy, but you'll find yourself playing through them because you know that you're only wasting a short amount of your life in doing so, which for some strange reason justifies it.

Another feature of the game is the card battle system; Which I guess somewhat qualifies this game as an RPG, but very loosely. With the card battle feature you have to use the cards that you've gathered from playing Micro and Mini-games within the main game, these can only be acquired from completing the games with high enough scores to qualify you for a gold or silver medal (Because apparently Bronze = fuck all; In fact, Bronze is so inadequate, that Square didn't even include a Bronze medal, merely a "Failure"), depending on the level of your medal, the more or higher quality card you get.

The actual card battling is one of the most boring RPG systems that I've ever taken part in; Whilst it is simple, it's boring and really doesn't do the Final Fantasy series and justice - A series known for it's RPG talent - And whilst you may argue that Chocobo Tales is not a main part of the Final Fantasy series, it is still under the development of Square and should therefore; You know - Be atleast bearable to play.
It has you using cards that you've gathered against bosses that only appear a few times in the game, which to me destroys the entire point of an RPG, especially considering you spend 80% of the game gathering these cards to battle with and in the end only actually battle with them about ten times throughout the entire game.

As stated before, it's only defining feature are the way that mini-games are presented to you, which to me doesn't qualify the need to pay £40 for; I honestly struggle to accept this game as anything except a rather small collection of mini-games that doesn't quite know what it wants to be; Another mediocre RPG on the market, a small mini-game collection or a rather pitiful Trading card game - It was as if Square put together a rather poor quality RPG, answering only fan service by placing a Chocobo as the main character, then realised that the game lacked any depth and any depth that it did has was wasted on 10 year olds; So they threw in some basic mini-games and a card system and BAM~! Some more money into the big pot of Gil.

And as a Final Fantasy fan, I honestly felt this didn't answer my fan service needs; Which presumably was the entire point of this game series? Where were the other critters that we all love within the Final Fantasy series? Mogs/Moogles weren't there - And if there were any that I missed in my IN DEPTH play through of this mini-game collection with a pitiful story, then they weren't a large enough part..Or had really bad sprites?

As a round up of Chocobo Tales; I'd say buy it if you're REALLY into Final Fantasy - And I mean - REALLY, REALLY into Final Fantasy. Or of course If you enjoyed the other parts of the series or you're really into Mini-games; But be warned, If you're really into Mini-games, then perhaps it's best to pick up Mario Party or another mini-game series.

4/10

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Media within the Video game industry?

Media within the Video game industry
Introduction
Recently I've been considering how the media industry could be used effectively in the video game industry; And by this, I mean more effectively than your monthly magazines or Internet blogs.
Media is a BIG industry, covering some of the most important inventions that formed and shaped our current life styles and cultures; TV, Radio, Magazines and the internet. All of these sources are viable sources of information and media, but only two are really used effectively in the form of video game press coverage; Magazines and the Internet, which whilst both are important and extremely effective forms of press coverage, what about the other two forms of media? I'm going to concentrate this article (Which is written and published on the internet) on the advantages, disadvantages and the general idea of video game press coverage on the Radio.

The Market
The Video game industry has grown a lot since It was first created, it's potential as a selling point for radio journalism has only grown within the past few years since online gaming really took off, allowing gamers to game online not only on their PCs, but on their Xbox360s, PS3s and even their Wiis. And whilst the PC scene would be the place to aim Video game based radio, Microsoft and Sony's online services could also be exploited to provide gamers with online radio through their console.

Working with the market
The idea of a Video game based Radio station would be to provide not only music based around the tastes of gamers, but to also allow journalists to get their reviews out to gamers in an audio form, something which has become quite big since the creation of Pod casts and Voice blogs online.
Getting the radio station out there to gamers could be a challenge as gamers are possibly the most awkward market to work with, each gamer wanting to specify their tastes and take a choice on either this or that, Horde or Alliance, Good or bad, Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo and even in their Pokemon adventures.
Whilst most people would see this as a disadvantage to work with, it would merely require a rival in the market to get gamers taking sides, something that would be acquired within months If the Station could get enough popularity and income to keep open whilst others followed in trend opening up similar radio stations.
Gamers can be swung round by merely having people they can relate to run things that they enjoy; This can be seen within the video game industry with prime examples being Gabe Newell, Peter Molyneux, Cliff Bleszinski, Hideo Kojima and Goichi Suda who'm all present themselves to their audiences by putting themselves out there and saying "Hey, I'm just like you" And charming gamers round to their side - And whilst the more logical gamer would nay say upon this and say that it is merely a marketing scheme (Which it is) it's an effective one and one that could assure future products to succeed.

The actual Product
The actual Radio Station would be available over a series of methods including; DAB, Ipods, Phones, the internet and your gaming console's dashboard.
Presenting the station on Ipods, phones and DAB may seem pointless seeing as the product would be aimed at gamers currently gaming, but it would also cover those gamers that are desperate to keep up with their gaming or gamers that are merely fans of the show or music which is played.
Whilst DAB, Ipods and phones would cover a small part of the market, the main point of this station would be to apply to those gamers that are currently gaming, which makes the PCs, Xbox360s and PS3s perfect. They would allow the radio station to be streamed whilst gaming, taking up very little RAM, the same would go for the PC version, a down loadable client would be made available allowing gamers to run the station with very little RAM taken up, it would also be compatible with Steam and Xfire ideally.

How would the product start off
The Station would start small, very small; Possibly with two to four presenters with a weekly line up of interviews, music catered to gamer's tastes, requests, shout outs, competitions, reviews and press event coverage - All of which would hopefully appertain to gamers.
Soon after official sponsors would hopefully be interested if enough attention was brought to the station, allowing the station to be presented over Microsoft's and Sony's online dashboard.
Hopefully getting the MMORPG crowds onboard as a lot of MMORPG-ers require background noise and such when on the low leveling periods of games, perhaps the higher level based activities would not want radio playing in the background, but of course there's always time outside of the raid.
FPS gamers would also be an effective crowd to get on board, which would be a challenge as anyone could see that with a little research, that FPS gamers are the most awkward people to entertain as there will always be a sense of elitism with any FPSer, the same can be said for RTSers and possibly fanatical MMORPGs, this means that you would really have to grab their attention and have something there to keep them all interested, such as a feature that would apply to all of them.

Conclusion
In conclusion; There is a LARGE slot in the marketplace for Radio stations that are made for gamers that are successful and that apply to gamer's tastes.
There would be plenty of challenges in setting up such a station such as difficulty in gamer's tastes and how much different game genre players all have highly different tastes, but I still believe it is humanly possible to get something like this going with just the right amount of will power and luck behind you.

Who knows, give it 10 years and I might be looking back at this and saying "Wow, I sure was wrong"

Thursday, 17 September 2009

+10 To Blogging Skills. Issue 1.

Hey-Hey, welcome to my first blog/newsletter. This is something I've wanted to try out for a while, I've been a big follower of video games for a lifetime now and I've always had a passion for them and journalism based around them - So here we are, my first shot at this, excuse my awful writing, lets just hope that I increase in skill over time.


Hey there gamers; Are you excited? We've nearly reached Q4 of the year, which means the biggest, baddest, most kick ass games of the year are just under one month away~! But I'll cover that when we get there, for now - This week's gaming news~!
Kicking us off is the American release of Scribblenauts for DS; A game I've personally been waiting ages to play since I saw the first footage of it back at E3; You can find my P/review on it here
It's a fab game and has it's European release date set to October 9th.
Another DS hit came out just recently in Japan; Pokemon Soul Silver and Heart Gold, both remakes of the classic games set in the Johto region, I got my hands on a Japanese version earlier this week and I'm still playing around with it (And roughly trying to guess what everyone's saying in Japanese). The game really gives you the classic feeling that the originals had - And as a HUGE fan of the original Johto region based games, that's a pretty big pair of shoes to fill. It has it's release date for both America and Europe as "Spring 2010" and I can assure you I'll be buying this on day one.

Brutal Legend has received a new trailer; Which features presumably the first opening cut scene from the game; The trailer can be seen here
Whilst on the subject of Brutal Legend, any one across the pond that pre-ordered Brutal Legend will have exclusive access to a demo containing an entire 'chapter' of the game.

Good news for PS3 owners; Fallout 3 DLC is coming to you soon~! Bethesda has confirmed that Broken Steel will be available on the 24th September, Operation Anchorage and The Pitt will be released on the 1st of October, which will be followed by Point Lookout and Mothership Zeta on October 8th; Presumably these will be released as disks available in shops and online? Also the GOTY edition will be out soon, including all DLC and the original game, probably retailing at about £30 - £40/$40 - $50.

Another update in the Love VS Activision case; According to the blogs that I've been reading recently, Jon Bon Jovi has spoken to the BBC about the whole ordeal and is apparently in favour of Love in this case; even if we do all agree she's bat shit crazy and probably fucked off her head 99% of the time; You can't help but feel that Activision probably did fuck around with the contract and took liberties, I only say this because I looked into stories about it - And the fact that both Jon Bon Jovi and Dave Grohl, two musicians that I greatly respect back Courtney Love up, seems odd. Perhaps it's because I prefer Harmonix greatly, mainly for their awesome DLC and games - But because they seem to be real people rather than business men I guess.
In other music game related news; Pink Floyd are allegedly interested in creating a Rock Band/Guitar hero game - I personally can't see it; Perhaps because I'm not a fan of Pink Floyd - And probably because I hate the idea of Harmonix creating more "Rock band -Band name here-" games; I was kinda sick with the idea of a Beatles game, I'd have liked the idea of Beatles DLC, but the idea that they have to release another entire game just frustrates me - I follow Harmonix for a reason, and that reason is because they're not Activision, I'd like to keep it that way.
Oh~ And this week's Rock Band DLC contains both Rock your socks off and Tribute by Tenacious D
As well as some Metal tracks by Anvil, some indie rock from Dinosaur Jr. and classic rock from The Guess Who.

That sums up this week's big gaming stories - Hopefully you enjoyed this and HOPEFULLY I'll be doing this again this time next week.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Scribblenauts

This week I'll be reviewing Scribblenauts, which received an American release earlier this week and has a European release set for October 9th.
Scribblenauts is somewhat of a ground breaking idea in the gaming industry, it allows the gamer to take control of what they want to do, spawning creatures, weapons, vehicles, buildings, deities and even Internet memes, sadly it's limitations are drawn as to how all of the weird creatures react with each other, generally speaking it's just a "Kill, run away, watch or ignore", but even with such limitations you are offered a lot of fun merely in the way you spawn things, a prime example of this would be if you were to spawn a Werewolf and then a Man - the Werewolf would attack the Man and upon hitting him, turn him into a Werewolf, the same thing would happen with a Zombie and a Man. I also found out that people will interact with instruments, which then lead to me forming a little (Somewhat useless) band, where no one played their instrument at the same time and apparently the drummer required other people to hit his drum kit.



Scribblenauts does allow you to play around with lots of things though, it has a built in dictionary which contains over 22,000 words, of course there are some repeats such as simple things like box and crate, items that are too similar to be able to define - Or at least, worth bothering to define.
The aspect of the game that really attracted me was the idea of messing around and seeing what words they'd included; Back when they started showing videos of footage with God fighting a Kraken I was obviously interested, my interests were perked even more when someone showed me a video of Rick Astley popping up out of nowhere, doing a little dance and exploding - This was followed by footage of LongCat and TacGnol fighting; This of course lead to my first experience on Scribblenauts seeing how many internet memes they'd included - I can personally certify that Longcat, Rickroll, TacGnol, Ceiling cat, keyboard cat, Leeroy Jenkins, All your base are belong to us, Over 9000 and a bunch of other Caturday cats are included within the game.



The actual main aspect of the game isn't ACTUALLY dossing around and playing with the engine; It's more about puzzles, with 220 levels based over 10 themes, all of which rate you upon how many moves it takes you to finish that puzzle. These puzzles can range from anything from getting past a witch that you aren't allowed to hurt to saving a Lumberjack from a forest. Within these puzzles you have the entire 22,000+ words to play with and to help solve the puzzles - The problem with this is you can spawn some ridiculous items to cheat through the levels; I personally found that when ever your task is to kill something, you simply spawn a black hole and watch them get sucked into, which always works as long as there isn't anything valuable around the thing you need to kill.

The graphics within the game are not especially impressive, but the game's engine and gameplay make up for that, and whilst I'd like to defend the game based on how much fun it is, the graphics really do bug me, I'd have been much more happy with this game If they'd have been a LITTLE more attractive and whilst they are quite cute and do look like they've been drawn by a seven year old with a little bit of talent, they lack something; And whilst I don't think the graphics should have been amazing, I'd have liked a little more form to the sprites.



Another issue I found with the game is restriction on how much you could spawn within the free play mode. At one point I went to spawn a group of Zombies, a shotgun, a helpless child and a chainsaw, but 5 Zombies in and I'd pretty much hit my limit this lead to many tears, but I still ripped some Zombie's a new one.



All in all the game is highly entertaining and you'll find yourself sitting and playing with the sandbox mode more than the puzzle mode, I doubt you'll even want to play through the entire puzzle mode, I know I sure as hell didn't. As much as I'd like to say "DAY ONE PURCHASE, GO, GO, GO!" I'd be misleading you, wait for it to hit the bargain buckets and get it cheap, it's worth it for the Sandbox and possibly the puzzle mode If you're REALLY into puzzle games.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Why Zombies?

Rather than reviewing a game this time round; I decided I'd try my best to analyze what's going on with gaming patterns at the moment in the industry - This of course means, I'll be talking about the somewhat sudden Zombie obsession that we've all grown to love.
Zombies games have been around for a looooong time; Whether you'd consider spanning back to "Help! Zombies ate my neighbours" Or whether you'd like to keep it to the survival genre that really started with Silent Hill, Resident Evil and Alone in the dark back in the days when the 3D era was just spawning.

Survival Horror of the early 90's? I really doubt it.


I honestly don't think 8-Bit or 16-Bit games really started the obsession we have with Zombies nowadays, but who knows, they might have been what inspired developers to love Zombies, chances are it was the older Zombie films that inspired the darker, scarier survival horror games; films such as George Romero's Dawn of the dead and Day of the dead (Both of these films having a lot of influence within Dead Rising; A Zombie beat 'em up set within a shopping Mall in Colorado.).



But Zombie games have moved on within the series, to begin with survival horror games were played by fans of Horror films, but it seems that times have moved on and everyone and their mothers are playing Horror games, perhaps not Survival Horror games, but the market for Survival Horror has definitely be enlarged by games such as Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising and Call Of Duty 5; These games - Whilst still supplying the gamer with a certain amount of fear, also take away the factor of fear, because you know that you are ALWAYS within your power to go Evil Dead on some of those Undead Bitches.



Some people might try to blame our love for killing Zombies on some paranoid, sub-conscious Apocalypse syndrome - The fear that we'll all become brain eating, undead cadavers; These are generally the same people that blame wars on Call of Duty and paedophilia on Pokemon games and the such.
I guess I can understand where they're coming from in one angle, I'm not too keen on the idea of being eaten by the living dead, but I wouldn't consider my love for Left 4 Dead as training against the relentless Zombie horde. I honestly think we just play along with Zombie games just because we either love the genre of horror or just enjoy the idea of blasting meaningless dead bodies to pieces.

It seems that when developers want to make anything scary within the video game industry, they add some dark lighting and groaning sound effects and we're all shaking like a shitting poodle and this isn't just within the horror genre of gaming; Everyone is doing it - Fallout, Fable, Half-Life (Props to Half Life for being fairly early with their Zombie stuff), Call of Duty, Time Splitters - I could go on.
I honestly think the fear that games such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil inspired this binge that we're currently having, not that it's a bad thing, but It's been a long time in the works - And it wasn't properly initiated until the latest generation of gaming, when developers must have realised "Whoa, hold the phone..We can fit a lot more than five Zombies on screen at once" And thus games such as Dead Rising and Left 4 Dead were spawned, both expecting a sequel Q4 of this year.



Frank West. He's covered wars ya' know?


Resident Evil and Silent Hill were both here for the rise of 3D gaming, it was all new to us, giving developers an opportunity to make those previously 2D scary monsters, somewhat life like and 3D.
The only fear we could possibly gain from the previous generations would just be something bigger than us, which whilst scary, was boring after several years of "Ofuck. A giant something or the other", course; whilst survival horror delivered scary in a more subtle way, it was never afraid of playing the "Giant bastard" card, which was not only scary, but possibly pant changing scary.

This bastard haunted my dreams for years.


This all leads me to the conclusion that we've got a few years left on the Zombie train; course there will be Zombie games once the bandwagon has been abandoned, but I'm doubting it will ever be as big as what we've got right now.
I guess the real question is "What's next?" Who knows - Maybe developers are already in preparation; I personally highly doubt that, they are probably all too busy trying to pop in a instant-cash Zombie game right now.
Perhaps we'll move onto Aliens; games such as Halo and Resistance tried pushing the whole "KILL THE ALIENS~!" thing - Sad thing was, they both did it so well that they annihilated any competition and thus didn't really spawn a new video game enemy.
Maybe Robots next? It's a weird one that no one's ever really touched on, probably for the best - I don't fancy a series of B-movie based "KILLER ROBOTS FROM MARS~!" games.