New Tokyo Game Show-trailer for Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer

September 24, 2009

It´s rare these days that I get hyped for a game, but Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer just managed to do this. Thanks to its new Tokyo Game Show-trailer. You can see the video if you click the following link:

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearer TGS – Trailer

Unlike many, i´m not excited about this game because of its resemblance of Zelda, but rather, because this looks like a real Final Fantasy-game to me. I was kinda a fan of the FF-series until Final Fantasy 9. After that, the series, well, took a turn I didn´t like. The Crystal Bearer features a great, sympathic main character, likeable other characters and fun-looking gameplay. If Square Enix had named this game “Final Fantasy 13“, I doubt anyone could complain at this point. Let´s hope the game delivers, when it´s released on the 26th of December in the USA. So far, no confirmed release date for Europa, though it´s confirmed to be released there, too, as far as i know.

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Wii Too in 2011 – Says Yoichi Wada

September 21, 2009

The Financial Times published an interview with Yoichi Wada, chief executive of Square Enix. The relevant quote is as follows:

Mr Wada expected Nintendo to release a new Wii by 2011, with functionality more like that of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or Sony’s PlayStation 3, and possibly a different controller.

So 2011, eh? Unlike many gamers, I´d certainly welcome the next generation as soon as it comes. By 2011, the Wii would be out for five years already, having reached the typical active time of a home console system. It seems likely that Microsoft and Sony will put a stop to the hardware-spec-race and hang on to similiar hardware they already have for a few more years, that and the current global recession are reasons for a lot of gamers to think that the current generation of consoles will last until 2014/15.  Personally, I´d hate that. I want a Nintendo-system with more power, and I want a Microsoft/Sony-system that evolves in one or another way, too. Hanging on the same system for ten years is a horrible thought. This generation of HD-consoles disappointed me already, when developers decided to use all the extra power for HD and visuals, instead of realizing new game concepts (read my blog for examples). The Wii does have what it takes for new game concepts, but with the exception of a handful of games, it simply doesn´t get the kind of support to make the system´s potential bloom.

Now, I took this interview with Wada as a chance to talk about Nintendo´s future in terms of home console systems. I do not believe that Nintendo will release a WiiHD as a small upgrade like Michael Pachter, sales analyst, predicts. I do, however, believe that the next Nintendo-system will come rather sooner than later, AND will be released before Microsoft or Sony proceed with some new hardware. Of course, usually the market leader releases its new system last, having no reason to block his own money-making first place system. If I´m allowed to take a look at the past, however, I see the following: Nintendo was market leader with the SNES. Sony released its Playstation 1 before the Nintendo 64 and won the generation. Several years into the future, Sony released its next system, the Playstation 2, before their competition (poor Sega got stomped by Sony´s and their own marketing). Again, Sony won the generation when they came out before the GameCube and the XBox. Now looking at the present, Microsoft came out first and won over Sony. Wii being the exception because of its totally different, fresh, new control feature. So, what i can see is that whoever releases his nextgen-system first, has got a big, big advantage.

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This kind of historical theory isn´t the only reason for an “earlier” launch of Nintendo´s nextgen-system. It´s also because of Nintendo´s new philosophy. A philosophy that is very similiar to Apple, the famous Ipod-company. Apple releases new hardware every year. Whenever a new Ipod is announced, the previous Ipod´s price is cut and the new one takes the old one´s place. In terms of software, Nintendo is even stricter than Apple, already. Nintendo-games rarely fall in price. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for Wii costs now the same 50 bucks it did cost at the end of 2006. It´s 2009 by the way, so no price cut for a game in three years. And Zelda isn´t the only one. Nintendo´s started being Apple-like in their hardware-business, too. See the DS lite and now the DSi (which´s name alone is very Apple-esque). Instead of launching some brand new hardware that needs its very own software-support, Nintendo just upgraded the existing hardware and added some neat features. If that isn´t Apple-like nothing is. The Wii has been sold for the same price since its launch in late 2006. Now, at the end of September 2009 we have first rumors of a price cut to 199 bucks. This kind of price stability is unprecedent. The Wii has proven to be an everymen´s system, a system for everyone. The Wii has become a popular, well-known brand. This is where Nintendo wanted to go to. Now, it´s chance time.

Nintendo surely knows that a lot of gaming enthusiasts aren´t exactly happy with neither their own nor 3rd-partie´s software output. The former can be speculated much, the latter finds its roots in the lack of power and HD.

Nobody can know for sure what Nintendo is planning, but I strongly think that they´ll launch their new, real Wii-successor soon. At the latest in 2011. Rather sooner, though. This won´t be a problem, because the Wii´s successor, which I call “Wii Too“, will be fully backwards-compatible. It will bring new features, most of which will be upgradeable on older Wiis via WiiUpdate-function. It will feature new Wiimote´s with built-in MotionPlus that, too, are backwards-compatible. Basically, Nintendo will take the market, their market, onto the next step. All that while not leaving the first step. Look at Ipod Classic and the new Ipods and you get what I am picturing here. This new way of distributing a home console system will be an opportunity for everyone. There will be high budget games exclusively for the Wii Too. There will be Wii-games with an HD-option for crisper textures and bonus-features. And there will be Wii-only games, that can also be played on the Wii Too, that don´t cost as much money to develop them and thus giving smaller developers a chance. Sure, you could argue that WiiWare, XboxLive Arcade and PSN already do that today, but by having the whole Wii-userbase as a potentional audience, things will be different.

Three ways to create games. That is the future Nintendo could initiate. In a way, Apple is already doing that, though having the advantage of not having to deal with different gaming-generations. MP3-files remain MP3-files. But the chance is there for Nintendo. It has to bee seen what they´ll make of it.


Be or not to be – Nintendo´s October Conference 2009

September 17, 2009

Just two days ago, Denise Kagler, Nintendo´s vice president of corporate affairs, announced that there wouldn´t be an American Business Media Summit this year. Meanwhile, the European event already happened, though focused on WiiWare and DSiWare exclusively. Then there´s the next event, the Tokyo Game Show 09, though, of course, Nintendo won´t attend it. That leaves us with two possible opportunities. One is the Kyoto Cmet, the other one is a rumored Nintendo-event beforehand the TGS. At this point, noone knows if there is any kind of big announcements-event at all.

But it would be disappointing if there wasn´t. After all, the last years brought us Monster Hunter 3, Punch-Out, the NDSi, Sin and Punishment 2 or Endless Ocean 2. Some people have speculated how there´s still a lot of unreleased titles, so that another event isn´t necessary. Though, if you look at the games, the only two games with chances for a western release are Sin and Punishment 2 and Endless Ocean 2. Then there´s Super Mario Galaxy 2 at the end of 2010 and an out-sourced Metroid-game. That can´t be all, both because it´d be too few games and because Nintendo has much bigger ressources than that. Still, keep in mind that nothing´s for sure at the moment and it´s all just speculation.

Some popular rumors say that a Wii-price cut is coming. There are certain advertisings showing a 199,99$ price tag, though it´s unsure if those are real. Nintendo already denied those rumors, but if they had a conference before October, it´d be a good opportunity to announce it now, for Ocotober 1st. Beating the competition isn´t that much of a reason for a price cut as that´s still happening. But to reach Nintendo´s own goals for the fiscal year, lowering the price would be necessary. And it´d be an event-worthy announcement. Of course, being a Japanese event, it´d be the equivalent of a 50$-drop, and later on being announced by NoA.

What´s most important for gamers, though, are the games. A totally un-sourced rumor said that a Zelda Wii-trailer would be shown at Nintendo´s 2009 event. Even though the rumor is probably completely made-up, I could imagine Nintendo doing that. Two or three big announcements are within the realm of reality, so such a trailer combined with the price cut-announcement…why not. As for smaller games, I could also see a new StarFox-game or the long-rumored Kid Icarus-game. On the Nintendo DS-side, a big announcement could be Super Smash Bros. DS, which is long overdue.

Now, my personal crazy-prediction is that Nintendo will announce a completely new hardware. Or at least start talk about it. I´m not talking about some Wii-add on like the Zapper, no, a totally new device. And a portable one. Nintendo´s goal with the Wii was to intrude everyone´s everyday-life, and they did that by having fitness-software, an Internet-channel, a news-channel, a weather-channel, or even channels to see the TV-programme and order food (Japan-exclusive). Nintendo made the Wii a system you can use for various reasons besides gaming. Not so much the Nintendo DS. While you can buy certain software like Cooking Mama, the NDS is a very limited device. Gaming and basic music-player features, that´s it. Even though the NDS has more features than just gaming, using the non-gaming features isn´t that comfortable. That´s why I think that Nintendo could announce a Game Boy-successor in the vein of the Sony PSP. Or a fully backwards-compatible NDS-successor. I´d imagine it to be more powerful for at least PSP-quality-like games and, even more important, to feature channels like the Wii. Think of a PMP, a portable multimedia player, that let´s you play games, watch videos, listen to music, but also features internet browsing, GPS, and the specific services of Nintendo´s channel-concept. Add in a camera and it´s perfect. Maybe even, though that´s going a bit too far, including a mobile phone-feature. Whatever else, I think Nintendo has yet to conquer the everyday-life that is NOT in front of the TV at home. And the NDS won´t be the system to achieve that.

After all is said, let´s hope that Nintendo will announce anything at all. They didn´t promise anything, but of course they set up expectations over the last few years. Nintendo, do it now!


District 9 – A Special Moment

September 14, 2009

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Just came back from the theater. I tried to see this film for many days, but now it finally happened. I saw District 9. The movie was produced by Peter Jackson and directed by Neill Blomkamp. Thank you two, so much.

The reason why District 9 is that special is because it does so many things that other movies never dared to do. And it is what i wished for a very long time. I´m talking about perfectly blending realistic and fantastic content into one great mix. Many movies tried doing this, one of my favourite examples is the first half of Hancock. Most, if not all, movies fail, though. They ultimately come off as either too realistic or too fantastic. Take I am Legend as an example for the former and Transformers as one for the latter. District 9 manages to do both at the same time.

On the one hand, we have the whole fantastic setting. Aliens! Aliens on earth. We have those alien weapons and the strange look of the aliens. On the other hand, we are shown a believable handling of the whole situation. We are shown aliens that aren´t evil monsters or wise visitors…they´re just aliens in terms of origin, but they behave like…like us.

The most important positive about District 9, though, is that the movie isn´t afraid of enjoying itself. Or should i say Neill Blomkamp wasn´t afraid to have fun. This is just a personal opinion, but I highly doubt that ANY other film maker would have dared to to a film like District 9. As mentioned above, it would have become either a complete realistic, “deep” movie, or the director would have gone all out for a Star Wars-like fantasy-story. District 9 dares to be both. Giving a realistic setting and situation, but showing action that is pure fun to watch…and never turning the movie into generic fantasy-stuff.

Now, why am I talking about a movie on a gaming blog? Well, because that´s part of why this movie was that good. It felt like a game story, a story that has to constantly motivate the player. I´m not going to spoil anything in detail, but this movie does stuff that any scifi-game-fan or even anime-fan would love to see. And STILL it manages to come off as a believable movie overall. I´m kind of sad that we have only this movie at the moment. Hopefully there will be more. I´d love a video game, heck, a TV-series. At least, a sequel seems highly likely. But that will take time. In the meanwhile, I´m bound to rewatch this movie, buy it instantly once it reaches the DVD-shelfs. And after all is said, I can but recommend this movie to you from the bottom of my heart. Some people said that this movie is a revolution like once Terminator 2 or The Matrix. Others said that it isn´t. I have to agree with both groups. No, District 9 doesn´t change the movie-industry. But it is a, if not a revolution, a special film that takes influence on your mind, on your thoughts. It´s the message of the film that´s just so strong, that it makes me feel sad even though it´s not really the stuff that happens in the movie that makes me sad. District 9 shows the worst side of humanity, but it isn´t overdoing that picture. And that´s what´s the saddest thing about it all. So let me end this blog entry by saying this: Should we come in contact with aliens once…don´t be a stupid asshole. Thanks.


“The Last Story” – Nintendo´s newest trademark

September 13, 2009

So Siliconera reported that Nintendo registered a new trademark, called “The Last Story“. Like anything Nintendo does, this new little piece of information pass by untalked. Before I go into full-speculation-mode, I´d like to point out that this could be litterally anything. From a Wii-game, a Nintendo DS-game, a Wii-channel, to even some completely new product. We don´t know any of that. But we can do one thing: Let “the right side of our brain run wild“.

thelaststory

When first hearing this title, the last story, it carries a certain epic feeling that makes you think about some kind of adventure-game. So, there´s certainly a chance that this turns out to be some great new action-adventure franchise. Maybe the first Western RPG from Nintendo themselves?

Chances are, too, that it´s the subtitle for an existing franchise. “The Legend of Zelda: The Last Story” doesn´t sound so bad. Or “Mario and Luigi: The Last Story”. It probably won´t be for Fire Emblem, doesn´t really fit the past subtitles of this series. Or it is simply the subtitle for Metroid: Other M. “Other M” is a bad title, anyways, and depending on what´s going on in Other M´s story, “The Last Story” could fit, especially if it´s about killing the last Metroids or something like that…or Samus Aran dying.

The third, and my last, theory is, that this is going to be an interactive story-book for the Nintendo DS. That would fit right into Nintendo´s casual programm, though, depending on how much effort is put into, could make gamers happy as well. I came to this idea, because when i read “The Last Story”, it could imply that you´ll never need another story again. So that´s where the interactive story-idea stems from. There´s lots of creativity going on on the NDS at the moment, with Scribblenauts right around the corner. And a real interactive story is something yet to be seen. There are books that let you make choices, where you jump from page to page, but getting this into video game form is something else. I´m sorry if I come off being too visionary, but again, depending on how much effort is put into such a concept, this could mark the beginning of a whole new entertainment world. Of course, something like that is just an out-of-the-box thought that has little chance of becoming reality.

Whatever this trademark turns out to be, chances are good that we´ll get to know about it at the beginning of October. There won´t be an American Business Media Summit this year, but Nintendo´s going to attend the Kyoto Cmet fair. I also heard word about a European Business Media Summit happening. I´m not sure about that info i got, though. Then again, we Europeans got quite some games that were never released in the USA, so maybe it just shows the bigger importance of the European market these days. I´d love to publish my personal full-blown expectations of Nintendo´s October conference 2009, but until there´s confirmation of anything like that happening, I´ll hold off. Have fun talking about The Last Story.


First trailer of Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga

September 11, 2009

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The past record of developer XSeed isn´t that great, but I´d like to point towards the debut trailer of Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga for the Nintendo Wii.

Valhalla Knights: Eldar Saga – Debut-trailer

On the tech-side it looks extremly bland and simply bad. But if you let the shown scenes sink, then it looks quite promising. My initial reaction was “Zelda meets Monster Hunter meets Ico“. Certainly not a bad mix. It has to be seen if the gameplay is any fun or if it´s just another brainless brawler in bland environments, but the way the character climbs and stays on top of rocks makes me look forward the this title. If the current gaming-industry has proven one thing, it´s that you cannot trust the hype for big games. Not saying that this game is going to turn out being Goty-material, but just because its visuals aren´t on par with Mario Galaxy doesn´t mean anything. Thanks to Rising Star Games, the game will be released in Europe, probably in 2009.


Animal Crossing for “Mature Gamers”

September 11, 2009

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It just so happened that i´m rewatching the Lost-series right now. Actually, i just began to do that, not even having finished the whole first episode. But it made me remember what I love so much about this series: Each week it puts you into this mysterious world, and each week it confronts the audience with a new, little secret while maintaining the progress for the main story. That´s what makes Lost that enjoyable. It gives you something new each time you watch it. The same, so I believe, could be achieved in the realms of videogames.

When I talked about my demand for video games to break the 4th wall, I already touched on this kind of concept. Basically, allowing the gamer to experience only so much on one day. Almost all games that are released nowadays can be finished within a few days. To further elaborate: There are people that, once they get a highly anticipated game, will not stop playing that game until they´re finished. That´s not because they want to get it over with, but because they enjoy it that much. Of course, that´s quite unfortunate, as even a longer game can only last a few days by using such a play-habit. I´m personally guilty of that, having finished Twilight Princess in 2,5 days after its release. I´m in no way rushing the game, i simply play the whole day. Where other players spend maybe two hours a day, and not every day of the week, and thus will have several weeks of fun with the same title, I´m finished after a few days by having played eight hours or more a day.  There are only two concepts that break from that tradition: MMORPGs and Animal Crossing. The former, because no human  being can finish a MMORPG in just a few days (at least so I think). The latter, because it uses real-time. That is what I want to talk about.

Let´s forget how horribly disappointing Animal Crossing: Let´s go to the City was for all veteran AC-fans. What´s great about the franchise, is, that every day contains new stuff. For the most part nothing big, but still a little bit exploration of something new, be it finding a new fossil, meeting new NPCs or simply enjoying the changed weather. Every day you enter the world of Animal Crossing, you´re bound to find something new. You could litterally play the game 365 days and you would most likely still experience new stuff. Of course, there´s a downside to all that: You´ll never play Animal Crossing for too long in one session, as it gets repetitive after having looked around everywhere. Then all you can do is go fishing or bug-hunting. Still, for at least 30 minutes, you´ll have fresh fun each and every day.

This has to be done for a more “mature” game. By “mature” I don´t mean Gears of War-“mature”, but simply…look at Animal Crossing. Just not like “that”, got it? The next step would be to apply a gigantic story to this game, that can be told in many little episodes. Start the game and you´re introduce to your apartment and some people. You´ll go out and somewhere in the far a shadow is running away. You can´t see who it was. That marks the end of that day´s adventure. But if you wanted you could further explore the world around you and do stuff.

That is, as far as I see it, the big challenge to that concept: Featuring a long-running, episodic story, but STILL managing to give the player enough freedom so he can play beyond the day´s story if he wants to.

It would be a drastic concept, forcing the player to keep on going day after day, but it would grant gamers like me longer-lasting fun AND give the game more suspense. Whoever followed the Lost-series knows how great it feels having just seen something great, then being given a steep cliffhanger, but knowing that it´ll be only a week to find out what will happen next. I´d love to see a game doing exactly that.