Tuesday, November 19, 2013

In our forum thread for last update's Mickey Mania article, we spent a bit of time discussing how 8/16-bit European developed platformers had elements which very clearly gave away their origins, and, on a broad level, just weren't as good as many Japanese developed ones. To counter that, Derboo wrote up an article on Lionheart, a forgotten Amiga classic that has the virtue of that gorgeous bright European style while still being an excellent game in its own right.

In general, we have a fascination with American or European games that get ported to Japanese platforms to see how they handle it. Law of the West originated on the Commodore 64 and Apple II, but also ended up on the Famicom and PC88, with some minor changes in the former's case to accomodate the console audience. The game itself is interesting because it might very well be the first instance of dialogue trees, even though it's not explicitly an adventure game or an RPG, but rather, more of a broad "sheriff simulator". I also posted the article for Murder on the Mississippi, which again originated on the Commodore 64 and Apple II platforms, but was ported to the Famicom and MSX2 courtesy of Jaleco, probably to capitalize on the murder mystery crazy due to the success of Yuji Horii's Portopia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken. In both of these cases, the Nintendo versions were not re-released out of Japan, making them weird little exclusives. I'd like to run a feature on more of these, someday!

We're rounding out these with an article on Trog, a single screen action game from Midway that uses claymation, and is generally like a more violent version of Pac-Man. It's probably most remembered for being featured prominently in the arcade scene in Terminator 2. The Secret Files article has also been updated to include a review of the third game in the popular German adventure game series, though unfortunately it seems to be pretty terrible.

The iOS Shooter article has been updated with more arena shooters, most of them taking after Asteroids in some way. The most interesting (or bizarre) of these is Facetroids, which makes enemies out of pictures from your Facebook account. And episode 23 of Game Club 199X discusses Sweet Home, Capcom's ur-survival horror game for the Famicom, which was also based on a movie from around the same time.

Finally, the HG101 Guide to Classic Graphic Adventures is featured as part of the Video Game StoryBundle, which includes eight quality video game related books and zines packed together for a low price. You can pay $3 or more to get our book plus Dreamcast Worlds by Zoya Street, Kill Screen Issues 1 and 7, Blue Wizard Is About To Die by Seth Barkan (a lovably goofy poetry book) and Vaporware by Richard Dansky. Pay $10 or more and get Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy, A Slow Year by Ian Bogost, and Replay: The History of Video Games by Tristan Donovan. It's a great selection of stuff for a low price, so please do check it out!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Sony Gamer's Day 2013 in Saudi Arabia

So despite the disastrous first try in 2012, Sony decided to take another shot at their Gamer Day convention in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

The event once again took place at the Riyadh Exhibition Center (RICEC), and this time all four exhibition halls were used for a grand total of 15,000 square meters of floor space. The event organizers didn't spare any expenses this time. On top of that, they hired a security company and imposed a proper ticketing system at approximately 20$ to attend per day in order to lessen the flow of rabble that plagued last year’s event.

When my friend and I arrived at the event location, we were orderly ushered into a line that led into the exhibition hall. We discovered that half the rented floor space was actually used as an area to properly check in attendees, which worked wonders for keeping things organized.

After receiving our passes and free PSN Plus monthly trials, we finally entered the convention area. The layout wasn’t terribly different from last year, but not having to wade through a sea of people was an improvement.

On display was the usual smattering of demos for upcoming games. The first I tried out was Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Having completely ignored the DMC-style hack n’slash genre for the better part of this console generation, I didn’t find anything particularly worth noting about the gameplay. There were a few amusing touches though, like clearing obstacles by sticking zombies into vehicles. This leads to grin-inducing bit near the end where you destroy a strip club by having a zombie drive a truck straight through the roof between a pair of giant stocking-clad legs followed by your character standing under a shower of panties. I wasn’t able to finish off the boss because I couldn’t do anything beyond stunning him with a charge attack.

The other group of games that caught my eye was an entire corner of the convention reserved for Namco Bandai releases, including the upcoming Young Justice Legacy game which Namco Bandai will be publishing for Little Orbit outside the US. There was also the upcoming but unaffiliated Ben 10 game which was probably placed there because they couldn’t find a better location for it. The rest of the demos were comprised of Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 Full Burst, Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z and Dark Souls 2. Someone decided that the demo character for Dark Souls 2 should be equipped with an incredibly unwieldy zweihander, so that any poor fool not familiar with the unforgiving intricacies of the series will just flail around and die horribly at the first enemy encounter (or maybe that just happened to me and I’m being a bitter sore loser about it).

The real stars of the show of course were the playable PS4 demos of Knack, Drive Club and The Playroom, the latter of which was enclosed in a separate room and had the longest waiting line in the entire convention. I got to try out Knack for a bit, but unfortunately I was tossed right into where the previous player left off so all I ended up doing was some generic platforming with no hint of the game’s Katamari-inspired growth gimmick. On that note, I should mention that apart from games that had very small or non-existent lines like Yaiba, demo times were still much too short.

I also tried out Tearaway for the Vita, which relied almost entirely on the handheld’s touchscreens to get anything done like drawing a paper crown (a segment I regretted not trying to do something more obscene with). I did like the camera gimmick that projected my face as an all-seeing deity upon the game world so I could play out my fantasy of being the Eye of Sauron or that creepy baby-faced sun from Teletubbies.

Since there weren’t any kid-unfriendly games that needed to be enclosed behind walls, the increased space allowed for a dedicated panel area (that doubled as the game tournament venue) and an indie developer booth, which were both missing from last year. What was missing from this year though were big name celebrity guests.

Speaking of tournaments, they actually happened this time but not without a few sloppy management hiccups. The Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 tournament had the in-game spectator audio and commentary blasted over all the convention floor speakers from some unfathomable reason, while the Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 3 tournament happened quietly in the Namco Bandai corner and caused it be closed off to the people who wanted to try the other games. The sheer backwardness with which Sony KSA is handling a simple tournament setup that TGXPO got right the first time two whole years ago is bad enough without them indirectly telling non-Call of Duty tournaments how irrelevant they are.

The first two days were generally the same, but once again I couldn't attend the third day due to car troubles.

On the whole, this convention fared much better than the last thanks to some honest-to-God planning this time. While the increased floor space and pricey entrance fee definitely played a role in reducing the amount of chaos, it’s still unknown if they would have been enough had there been an actual celebrity guest or two. This is probably the biggest challenge that conventions here need to overcome before we can brag to the rest of the world about our local flavor of nerd gatherings.