What's the thing you love most about Christmas? Is it being with your family? Is it the obscene amounts of delicious food and sweets? Is it the christmas spirit? It's the presents, isn't it. Yea, for me too. No matter whether you get them of buy them yourself, Christmas has to be celebrated with tons of presents and here are some of the gifts I got for myself this season. A bunch of Andreas comics, including first four Capricorne albums and the final Rork album, and NiGHTS: Journey of dreams for the Wii, plus SNK vs Capcom: SVC Chaos for the Xbox.
I'll talk about NiGHTS soon enough, but this time I wanted to focus on SVC Chaos. I absolutely adore SNK, their platforms and I don't think I would be lying if I said I love each and every one of their games. SNK are the true kings of 2D and they have proven it time and time again, even now when Capcom has moved to 3D with their Street Fighter IV, SNK's King of Fighters XII will be all 2D, hand drawn, mindblowing hi resolution monster of a game with some serious attachment to the old school.
Getting back to SVC Chaos though, you might remember the famed Capcom vs SNK series which had some great success, especially with the arrival of second installment. This title gathered fighters from several Capcom and SNK games and put them together in one great game. It was developed by the Capcom and being lazy bums, the developers just took the sprites of all possible characters and put them in one game. The gameplay system was almost flawless, but the character sprites were sometimes mismatched because of different resolutions and art styles.
In 2003 it was time for SNK to try it their way and so, they had developed SVC Chaos, a game build from ground up, again, featuring fighters from both Capcom and SNK titles. What SNK did that Capcom didn't however, was to redraw every single character so that they would match. Every Capcom fighter present in the game got a new sprite drawn by SNK artists and if you ever played this game, you know what a fantastic job SNK did. Even though there are precious few stages in SNK's production, the sprites make up for it.
Since the game was released by SNK Playmore, not only did it use their sprites, it also used the four button system, even for the Capcom characters. This change, however shocking it might be for Capcom fans, did not make too big of an impact on the gameplay complexity. On the contrary, decreased number of buttons and much more faster battle pace than what was seen in Capcom vs SNK 2 made SVC Chaos come on top. If you own an Xbox or a PS2, aswell as an arcade stick, it would be a sin not to own this title.
SVC Chaos was one of the last titles released for the Neo Geo [the absolute last one being サムライスピリッツ零 Special / Samurai Spirits Zero Special, released in 2004]. It's clear that SNK cared for their platform up until the very end and ensured it gets the highest quality games possible. SVC Chaos might not be as colorful and as impressive graphically as some other titles out there, but once you try it, you'll see why it is safe to call it one of the best fighting games out there.
To show you just how fast the game is and how complex it can get, here is a combo video [of a questionable picture quality, unfortunately] for all of you to enjoy. It was snatched off YouTube so if you're not one of the cool people with a Nico Nico account, you can look for SVC Chaos combo videos there. If you do have a Nico Nico account, click on the thumbnail above and enjoy the show.
So that's it for this time. I feel a cold creeping up on me so I've decided to fight off the germs with some gin to disinfect myself from the inside, some lemons to provide the much needed vitamins and some tonic to add flavour. Let's hope this will be enough because I'm not in the mood to get sick right now.
I was expecting many things from Rockstar. Mobsters, vendettas and ten dollar hookers in the back of your car - in other words, all the wholesome entertainment the company is known for. Noone however expected that this bad boy of a developer would release a table tennis game, but they did and it's pretty damn good.
Who knows what was the original reason behind this project. Maybe it was intended as a test platform for the RAGE engine, later used in Grand Theft Auto IV or maybe guys at Rockstar San Diego are serious ping pong fans. Still, the fact is, that Rockstar's Table Tennis came out to be one superb title with nice graphics and addictive gameplay. I'm not a huge fan of sports but I won't miss out on a good game when I see one. I got hooked on Sega's Virtua Tennis games few years back, but now it's time for some table tennis instead.
The game plays like similarly to many other tennis games I have previously tries. If playing the previously mentioned Virtua Tennis, Top Spin or even Smash Court Tennis came easy to you and you found it enjoyable, you'll feel at home once you boot Rockstar's Table Tennis. The game plays exactly how you'd expect it to play and that in itself is something worthy of an applause. The San Diego team really put some time and effort into polishing the gameplay aspect and the game does not dissapoint.
You'll be bouncing the ping pong ball back and forward using all of the Xbox 360 controller buttons, each one corresponding to a different type of strike. Right and left curved balls, slams and so on. There's even a gauge that once leveled, can be used to slow down time, allowing you to act quickly in dealing with tough opponents. Once you master the power of all the buttons, you'll be able to put up a fight against a stronger player and there's nothing equally rewarding to a lenghty battle ending with your advantage.
Table Tennis was first released for the Xbox 360 and that's the version I bought. A year later the game was ported to Nintendo's Wii, featuring all new wiimote controls, but I decided to go with the first release, mostly due to its price. One thing that I always found appealing in the Xbox 360 version are the character details. Even though the players look pretty generic with little to none personality, their polygonal models are extremely detailed. For obvious reasons, the graphics got simplified when the game got ported to the Wii and that was that for neat t-shirt physics and reflections on the floor.
The game doesn't offer much except for the always present tournament mode and multiplayer, so once you score gold on all difficulty settings, you better find yourself someone to play against. And they better be at least as good as you are, otherwise they'll get tired of losing and leave, and that's a lesson learnt from life, boys and girls.
Like in most decent Xbox 360 titles, you can of course play online and upload your scores to internet leaderboards. If your Xbox 360 is connected to the world wide web, you'll never have to worry about the lack of opponents and the game will gain almost infinite replay value. Table tennis might seem like a simple game, but believe me, there's more depth to Rockstar's title than meets the eye.
Above you'll find a trailer for the Xbox 360 version of the game. If what I wrote about this title is up your alley, don't think twice and get it. Rockstar was nice enough to slap a lower price on this game, and since it was overlooked by many, it's not a rare sight in bargain bins. It might not be as entertaining as a ten dollar hooker, but you will enjoy it. After all, everyone loves ping pong.
It feels so great when good things happen to good people and being a good person, I'm pretty pleased with what happend today. I never get any real mail, and by real mail I mean letters from people who care about me. I do however get bills, catalogues, supermarket flyers and offers on daily basis. Usually I just throw most of them away, even bills, but luckily today I took the time to find this sweet deal.
Guitar Hero 3: Aerosmith for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 or Wii, guitar included, could be mine for 299 Swedish kronas. That's roughly 38 US dollars. I called the supermarket up to check how many copies for the Xbox 360 they had in stock and "plenty" was the answer, so I rushed to the store to pick one up. I even took a picture of the nicely looking Guitar Hero pile.
Christmas is just around the corner and it's only natural for deals such as this one to be seen in bigger stores. They can afford to slash the price and that's exactly what they did. Strangely enough, they also had standalone copies of Guitar Hero 3: Aerosmith for the Wii, PS3 and the 360, and the pricetag on these was 549 kronas, and that's around 70 US dollars. I already feel sorry for people who will buy these.
After a quick trip to the store and an equally quick trip back home, it was time to take a closer look at what I had purchased. I always liked guitar games, ever since I got the first Guitar Freaks back in '99. "Gadget games" are always fun and easy to get into, so even if you have some friends over and none of them tried Guitar Hero before, playing the game will surely be a blast.
I had three versions of the game to choose from, and while the title is equally good on both PlayStation 3 and Wii, I rarely see major discounts on popular titles for these platforms, thus it's more likely I'll score a cheap Guitar Hero for the 360 when I'm looking for a standalone game with some new songs. Plus, Wii doesn't feature any downloadable content. Sorry Nintendo, but I don't get you. What is the Wii's SD card slot for anyway?
So what's in the box? Most importantly, we have the guitar. It comes in two parts that you connect together and it's, of course, wireless. I really liked the Aerosmith faceplate. I always thought that most of the faceplates sucked, or at least the ones I've seen. This one is quite ok.
There's of course the game itself, packed like any other brand new Xbox title. The game box doesn't say it's a bundle copy and the only thing that makes the it distinguishable from the retail version is the lack of barcode on the back, with "Not For Resale" written in its stead.
There are some extras aswell. Included with the bundle is a "Tour Book" printed in colour on a really thick paper. I just flipped through it and it seems to contain some Aerosmith info in several langiages. Still, a cool addition. We also get some stickers. If you wish to decorate your guitar or your dad's drivers license, there are plenty of stickers to choose from. We also get simple instructions explaining how to connect your guitar to the console, but who reads instructions? I read them only after everything I try by myself fails!
The game features over 40 songs, majority of them by Aerosmith, but there are also a few extra tunes by Joe Perry, plus Lenny Kravitz, The Clash and others. I still haven't played the game properly and all that I had time for was a quick test run, but everything plays just like any other Guitar Hero, minus the glitches previous versions were known for.
In other news, shortly after purchasing Guitar Hero, I picked up a new issue of Game Reactor, a nice free and high quality publication, and a Planet Terror DVD, which I watched today. I have to say, it was more upbeat than Death Proof, and thanks to its pricetag of 15 Swedish kronas [1 US dollar and 90 cents!], it was a nice cherry on top of today's main attraction.
While in the store I also saw some Rock Band sets, but the price on those will have to drop a bit before I'll get one. I'm sure it's tons of fun, especially with the drumset, but fun or not, it will have to wait. Besides, I have a whole guitar game ahead of me.
I make a habit of not updating my blog on regular basis and many of my game purchases never make it onto the site simply because I'm too lazy or the title I bought is just not that interesting. I wanted however to mention Capcom vs SNK 2 EO because it's a kickass game and it's still a great fighter.
As you can see on the photos, I got the Xbox version. I already own the DreamCast one, but when I found this copy in a bargain bin, brand new and shrink-wrapped with a 4 USD pricetag, I just bought it and I'm amazed it was still there and that noone got to it before me. Oh well, their loss is of course my gain.
Capcom vs SNK 2 was released on a number of platforms. First were the arcades where it ran from a GD-rom disc on the Naomi system board. Just a few months after the arcade premiere, both DreamCast and PlayStation 2 got their ports, with the DC one being a fan favorite.
It took some time before the EO version appeared on GameCube and Xbox, but when it finally arrived, it came with improvements and the title feature, EO-ism. This version fixed the roll cancel glitch present in all of the previous ports and added the new "Extreme Offence / Easy Operation" mode to join the other "isms". EO-ism allowed the player to use the second analogue stick [for the Xbox] or the C stick [for the GameCube] to perform special attacks.
While this feature was something nobody really cared for, Xbox version brought two more improvements that I welcomed with a big smile on my face: Online play and progressive scan. Xbox is well known for it's online capabilities and good support so it's nice to see that a quality fighting game got an online mode. Progressive scan in 480p boosts the visuals, making the Xbox version a great buy. Xbox releases of Capcom and SNK games are often frowned upon for no reason. They are however fairly cheap so if you own an Xbox, get yourself an arcade stick and buy some Capcom and SNK fighters, or better yet, buy Capcom versus SNK 2. And if you want to see Yuri Sakazaki naked, check out the video linked below. If you don't have a Nico Nico Douga account, read this tutorial to find out how to get one.
"Let's roll up some more stuff" the king of all cosmos said, and so yet another Katamari game was born, this time appearing on a non-Sony platform. I'm sure you all know the story of Beautiful Katamari's development. It was to appear on Sony's PlayStation 3 and on Nintendo's Wii, but when Microsoft couged up some cash, it became an exclusive to the, almost ignored in Japan, Xbox 360.
This game was given to me for my birthday and what a fine present it made. I didn't stop playing it untill I completed the game and uncovered some of the extras. I even took my time to collect some of the crazy cousins [you should know that the main character in the game is Prince, son to the King of all the Cosmos. The Prince has plenty of cousins scattered all over the game, and when you collect them, they become playable characters].
Before Beautiful Katamari came out, there were three other games released [not counting the DoCoMo P904i 塊魂モバイル Phone version which I discussed HERE] in the series. The first, Katamari Damacy, followed by the sequel We Love Katamari and a PSP title Me & My Katamari. As you can see, the series has so far been Sony exclusive.
Beautiful Katamari broke the Sony chain of releases and brought the game as an exclusive treat for Microsoft's Xbox 360. Japan wept and the rest of the world rejoyced. Aside from being the first non-Sony installment, Beautiful Katamari is also the first game in the series to feature full HD resolution support up to 1080p, downloadable content and online multiplayer in both cooperative and competitive modes via Xbox Live.
What about gameplay? Unfortunately, despite being a great game with tons of fun and humor packed into it, Beautiful Katamari seemed rather short. I have managed to complete it faster than any other Katamari game, and that includes the PSP version, again not counting the mobile phone one. Unlocking secrets, collecting various objects and cousins, aswell as beating your own high scores will keep you occupied, but the amount of core gameplay falls short of the previous titles. Luckily, there's the previously mentioned online mode, which makes the fun last longer, gtanted you're a Live subscriber.
Xbox 360 is a powerful gaming platform capable of pushing an impressive amount of polygons per second. How does that affect gameplay? For starters, if you own a LCD or Plasma screen, you'll be able to enjoy crispy crisp, high resolution graphics. This might not be the most important feature, since most objects in Katamari series are low poly, because the game is forced to manage hundreds of bric-a-brac you roll up. While playing in lower resolutions you won't be missing out on the details. Let's just say that the high resolution modes make the image easy on the eyes on quality screens.
More processing power and more video memory made it possible to remove the loading times when the scale is changed. In previous Katamari games, each time your katamari ball would grow and allow you to roll up larger objects, the game changed scale. The scale change came with a few seconds of loading time and a head of King reminding you how much you suck. This time you can just roll and roll and you won't be bothered by the gameplay stopping for a while.
Now, onto the soundtrack. The music throughout the series has been great and was always one of the major selling points. Large portion of Beautiful Katamaris audio content is or feels recycled and the original compositions aren't as catchy as the ones hears in previous titles. Still, the soundtrack is enjoyable, especially for those who haven't played Katamari before and are unfamiliar with its original sound.
So what can one complain about? The first thing would have to be the additional fees that we're forced to pay for the downloadable stages. This has been pointed out by many reviewers. The are exactly six downloadable levels in the european version of the game and none of them exceed 400kb in filesize. Yet, we're forced to pay 200 Microsoft Points for each one of them. This, after you bought the game and pay for your Xbox Live account, is a bit too much. If this wasn't enough, you won't be able to unlock the 1,500,000 km katamari achievement if you don't download the additional levels.
As usual, it's all about profit. The separate content you're forced to pay for would make the game a more complete katamari experience if it was present on the disc from the get go. However, I assure you that what you get on the disc is still worth your money and whether you're a katamari fan or are completly new to the series, I highly recommend this fun and weird game.