Gaming News and Notes

Over the last three weeks, starting right before the Thanksgiving break, I have been on a torrid (for me) gaming rampage. I think I have logged more hours on my PS3 (and even a few on the oft forgotten PSP – Ghost of Sparta) than I did in total January through October.

I have to say it has been fun. Almost like a kid in a candy store. Gaming nirvana if you please. I have found this latest zone has helped me decompress and even get in some quality time with the kids. These days I don’t question how long this ride will last; I just keep on plugging, enjoying it until I put down the controllers.

Crazy Taxi
After pickup up my PS3 Slim for Father’s Day, I flipped Crazy Taxi on eBay. Not because I no longer enjoyed the game; I consider it one of the ultimate pick and play titles. It is just a damn good arcade gaming experience, which blends the perfect elements of short bursts of gaming excitement and the pursuit of high scores.

Besides, the PS3 Slim more or less forced my hand, since it is not PS2 backwards compatible. Of course in my back pocket I knew Crazy Taxi would be headed towards the PSN.

The PSN edition seems to be the same game, minus the licenses (Levi’s, KFC, music, etc), with slightly harder controls compared to the PS2 and Dreamcast versions. Crazy Taxi is still a fun arcade experience; one that the boys enjoy playing with dad. As an added bonus, the PSN version also provides the pleasure (or frustration – take your pick) of pursuing Trophies.

Shame on me for not playing this one more over the past year. FIFA 10 is a fantastic sports game, and the virtual pro feature being balls out fun. In my dotage, I have a hard time pulling off decent skill moves, so my pro still seems a little stiff and rough around the edges. As a striker, I am all offense, with almost no defensive skills. I think my rating is currently 72 and climbing.

Rumor has it Santa is bringing me FIFA 11 ($29.99 during one of the Thanksgiving deals), so I figured I better maximize my FIFA 10 experience before Christmas so I will not feel so guilty when I trade in or eBay FIFA 10. And maximize I have; in fact I have probably spent more time with FIFA 10 than any other game in this article. Fun and highly addicting!

Gran Turismo 5
After waiting an eternity (at least it seemed that way), we finally have a proper Gran Turismo on the PS3. I picked up the Gran Turismo 5 Collector’s Edition – I love the series, even if it is not the best pure “racing” experience around.

After starting off with one of the 25+ versions (or whatever) of a Toyota Corolla, I have been slowly making my way through the game. Due to so many other games in my rotation (or call it my gaming backlog) I have not started the long slow GT grind. I have picked up my B and A licenses, and while I could keep on trying to progress, I have been working on locking up all B and A license Gold trophies, which seems damn near impossible for some.  I actually find this pursuit more relaxing than frustrating; I get in a zone and keep plugging away, slowly decreasing my times until I strike Gold.

The only GT game that I managed to “complete” at 100% was the first release – Gran Turismo for the PSOne.  It has been a long time since those days!  I doubt I have that much spare time to really go after that mark with GT5; however I am sure I will maximize my value (gaming dollar).

I think the game has already been patched 3 times, so the developers did end up rushing the game, which is a bit of a surprise considering the long delay. Over ambitious? Probably.  At least the developers are supporting the game and trying to make things right by the fans.

Sports Champions
My family has discovered the joy of playing Bocce. At least we are enjoying Sports Champions version of Bocce, and we are having a blast learning the rules and associated skills.  My mother is giving my oldest son a Bocce set for the backyard. I love it when videogames cross pollinate real life!

I think my kids’ favorite is volley ball, closely followed by disc golf. My favorites are archery and disc golf, and I also find gladiator duel an interesting diversion. Ping pong is the favorite of my 3.11 year old, but I find it damn near impossible.

On a side note, I need to get two more Move controllers for some serious volley ball and archery dual Move head-to-head action. What would that investment be? Almost $325? I have already “invested” $100 camera + Move controller, $50 second move controller, $35 Navigation controller, $30 Move charge station. Ouch. Archery is a blast with two controllers, so I can only imagine how much fun it would be to have a two-player archery duel with 4 Move controllers!

On more side note. The Navigation controller seems poorly supported. I think the only Move game I have that takes advantage of it is Heavy Rain. Need to come back to Heavy Rain in a future article.

My Aquarium
Did I really buy this one? Just for the hell of it I downloaded My Aquarium. It is a great concept, with extremely poor execution. The graphics are not acceptable; in fact I was not even sure this was an HD title, but from what I have read, My Aquarium is in fact presented in HD … just without the normal eye popping graphical glory. It really is a damn shame that this virtual screensaver does not look nicer, and to make matters worse, the interface is unbelievable clunky, complete with unresponsive controls.

If a “game” begged for updated graphics with Move support, this is the one. To the good, Trophy whores will find a few almost freebies on offer; apparently you can cheat to get them quickly, however I am earning my Trophies the old fashion way. It will probably be a year before all the fish unlock, giving me a cheap Gold Trophy.

I dismissed this one out of hand when it was previously released, however I did pick it up on sale for $0.99. It is OK at best … I mean it is Uno. I have played a few games online, but I disappointed that a couple of disconnects in the “lobby” counted as game discounts. That or someone figured out a way to hack a couple of wins against me; I am not enough of a junkie at this game to try to follow my statistics to see why the game thinks I have abandon a couple of gaming sessions.

I think you have to really love Uno in order to pick this one up. Not bad for $0.99, but not worth a whole lot more than a single ducket. Then again, this could be a nice diversion if someone wants to get their wife into videogames.

Hustle Kings!
Plus continues to deliver interesting content and discounts. I picked up Hustle Kings! a couple of weeks ago when it was discounted to just under $6. I have only played a few times, but the game seems to offer a really nice pool experience. The bar locations have great aesthetics – music, presentation, and graphics.

I’ll comment more on this one in the future. I picked it up mainly because I suck at pool in real life, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that playing a virtual game will actually help me in real life. To a certain degree it already has, at least when it comes to adding some backspin on pocket shots. In real life I would scratch, following the ball into the pocket, but I am getting the hang of how to avoid this mistake. Hope it carries over!

Hustle Kings! also supports the Move. I am not sure how it compares to playing with a DS controller because I have only used the Move. The game appears to do a good job of supporting the Move, however I have to admit that my poor old fingers and hand gets a little cramped trying to line up fine precession shots. As I said, more on this one later.

Did I just do that? Good grief; that is a lot of gaming playing!

Happy Sunday!


Catching the Move

I have not written much about the PlayStation Move. Mostly because I have been somewhat indifferent, and I am not really sure that I want to invest a sizable chunk of coin into a new system (really accessory) ad-on that may or may not be well supported over the next 18-24 months.

As we move closer to September 17 I am becoming anxious.  Am I going to miss out on something?  Do I need to get my Day 1 Jones going?  Should I Move?

Do I really want to spend $100 for the Move/Eye/Sports Champion bundle, another $50 for a second Move controller (for those games that require two moves and to allow for multi-player games with my kids), and another $30 for the Move Navigation accessory? $180 is a serious investment when gaming dollars are at an all time premium. Not sure about you, but unless I am getting a great bargain, I have become fairly selective in my gaming purchases.  The economy and three growing boys sometimes put a check on my past carefree spending ways.

It will be interesting to see how well the Move is supported in upcoming games. Hopefully we will see a lot of meaningful patches that will allow for somewhat unique experiences over typical PS3 games. The real question for me – does the Move provide for a better experience over the Wii? All signs point to HD gaming with more precision than the Wii. Is the Move worth $100-180 to see if gaming progresses past the typical casual Wii experience? Will the Move be more than a HD Wii?

Lots of questions and hardly any answers for this jaded gamer. If I decide to go with a Move, in addition to Sports Champion, I should have a couple of Move compatible games: Heavy Rain and High Velocity Bowling (HVB).

I haven’t touched Heavy Rain since I switched to my PS3 Slim in June. The Heavy Rain save file was not transferable; and to be perfectly honest I haven’t been in the mood to start over. Every time I think of picking it back up, I think that I should probably hold out until I make a decision on the Move because I could see Heavy Rain’s controls really benefiting from the Move.

HVB should get a nice boost of new reply value with Move support. In my opinion HVB is really an underrated game, but even with the addition of Move support, it would be difficult to call a Move compatible HVB a reason to invest in the Move.

Two supported games for $180 is a little steep for my tastes. Of course getting Sports Champions in the Move bundle would bring my supported library to a grand total of three games. That helps a little on the value front, but very little in the way of ammunition towards convincing my wife that this is money well spent.

So all I am doing is writing about reasons why I should not get a Move, but we all know that I will probably say “f-it” and do it anyway, right? That’s just how I roll.


What is the big fuss over motion control?

Until we see something innovative, I could care less about Sony’s and Microsoft’s efforts to captivate the gaming community with motion capture games.

From a PS3 centric perspective, PlayStation LifeStyle thinks Microsoft just screwed the pooch.

Fans and media alike were present earlier tonight as Microsoft decided to go ahead and present their upcoming motion sensor, essentially EyeToy clone, Kinect. Well, it appears that things got very strange very fast and may have just cemented the PlayStation Move’s victory.

Many of the titles bore an awfully close resemblance to the titles included with Nintendo’s Wii Sports title, accompanied by supposed lag issues and an overall lackluster experience. One new Star Wars title did make it’s debut, although many have stated that the preview was almost definitely pre-rendered.

What does this mean for Sony? It means that Sony has a breakaway with an empty net wide open, all they have to do is tap it home, and by “it” we mean the PlayStation Move. If Sony can manage a solid presentation while making the key component of their presentation quality games, they will most definitely have earned big points in the motion controller (or lack thereof) battle.

I really have not been following the Move and Kinect (formally Natal) too closely, but it will be interesting to see if either publisher can move past the “been there, done that with the Wii” feel. According to kotaku, out of the gate, Microsoft’s entry does not sound too promising. Will we see similar opinions on Sony’s Move?


Sony follows common sense approach to launch new motion controller.

In what I thought was a “duh” moment for Sony, I found this article from somewhat amusing.

Launch titles for the PlayStation 3 motion controller will be compatible with either one controller or two, Sony president Shuhei Yoshida has told Eurogamer.

“We are approaching the launch by making sure that all games that we create can be played with one controller and the camera,” he revealed.

“We will also introduce options for if you happen to have more than one controller available. Experiences will be enhanced if you purchase a second. We are trying to make the entry barrier as low as possible, but I’m looking forward to introducing more advanced things you can do with having two in your hands.”

Could you imagine the reaction from gamers if Sony required you to have two new motion controllers? I am not sure how much these will cost, but assume somewhere in the $39-54 price range. It would be suicide for Sony to force PS3 users to pick up two controllers. If the eyetoy camera thing is also required, the entry fee is going to be pretty steep. I hope the new motion offerings will be far better than average.


Wii Fit Price Breakdown

The September 2009 issue of Money has an interesting page that gives a breakdown of the cost of Wii Fit, which retails for $90.

  • $45 Profit – Half of the cost of Wii Fit is pure profit for Nintendo.
  • $20 Manufacturing – Balance board is ~$19 while the software (and I assume case, manual, inserts) is ~$1.
  • $18 Retailers – The article states retailers usually get 20% while larger big box stores may get a little more.
  • $5 Marketing – print, TV, etc.
  • $2 R&D – It takes a lot of duckets to come up with this stuff!

The article states that 20 million copies of Wii Fit have been sold worldwide. Do the math. Nintendo is rich thanks to the popularity of the Wii Fit.


Net Yaroze for Sale – Fund my Marauder

I want to flip my Net Yaroze into a Benjamin Sheridan Marauder. Well, I at least want to sell my Net Yaroze to fund a Marauder. If you are interested, go to the eBay listing and bid. The Net Yaroze is complete, in box, and in great shape!

I have also added a near mint (like new) Namco neGcon controller for the original PlayStation. Yes, I am whoring myself out to get the Marauder.

Probably more to come. I really want to go PCP, so hopefully some of my older videogame stuff will help fund this purchase.


Wii will dominate Christmas. Does New Super Mario Bros Wii stand a chance?

I did not realize a battle for the ages was looming this holiday season. Australian based site Gameplayer posted a highly entertaining read: Fat Bastards versus Game Nerds

You can bet your left nut/ovary that the Wii will be laying claim to most of the top 10 in the best selling games chart when the curtains draw to a close on 2009 and we all get shit-faced on New Year’s Eve.

Perhaps more intriguing are the two games that are set to vie for the top spot. In the red corner you have Wii Fit Plus, and in the blue you have New Super Mario Bros Wii. Between them they offer a vastly contrasting audience. The former is selling primarily to weight conscious adults, and selling its pants off we might add. At around 22 million global sales, Wii Fit is the third best selling (non-bundled) console game of all time. How’d you like them apples?

My money is on New Super Mario Bros Wii. I think all the cool kids will ask for it for Christmas, while Wii Fit has already been on the market too long to capture the top spot at Christmas.


Here come the PSP Go accessories.

BTW, is it a PSP Go or PSPgo? I have seen both designations, but continue to use PSP Go until I see something contradictory from Sony, but I digress. Gaming Bits has a brief article on some of the PSP Go accessories.

If you’re getting the PSPgo, you should at least consider a Micro M2 Memory Stick and Screen Protective Film. Another couple of accessories you may want to consider is an output cable for displaying PSPgo media on your TV and a cradle for placing the PSPgo on while at your desktop. See the products with links to the items for pre-ordering below, as well as what is and isn’t included with the PSPgo system.

Assuming that I get a PSP Go, I am not sure that I will pick up a M2 stick for day one use, but screen protection is a must.


Wii Sports Resort and Wii MotionPlus enabled controllers.

I picked up Wii Sports Resort for the kids Sunday. They seem to enjoy it, but I have not had time to give some of the new games a try myself. Curiously enough, the game requires you have use the Wii MotionPlus accessory if you are going to have concurrent multiplayer gaming sessions.

If you only have the bundled Wii MotionPlus controller adaptor, multiple player gaming is limited to turn based gaming (you first, then me, then you, etc). I did not check things out to see if that was actually the case, so it is possible that my kids swindled me into ordering another Wii MotionPlus accessory from Amazon, which will arrive today.

I hope to have some time later this week to see how the games play. I am looking forward to basketball, archery (because that seems cool), and to compare how the new bowling game plays vs. HVA (PS3). I know that Wii Sports Resort is just a bunch of mini games, but much like Wii Sports my wife is already playing this one with the kids. I have childhood memories of my dad playing some Colecovision games with us, and my step father playing the various Intellivision sports games, but my mother never stepped up to the TV. Strong days indeed that my wife plays the Wii. Casual gaming has truly arrived.


Air Style Wireless Controller (PS2) – Full of Hot Air

Last summer I imported an Air Style Wireless Controller (produced by Fountech) from LinkSang after reading rave reviews from IGN and PSM. I needed something on the PS2 equivalent to the GameCube’s WaveBird. The Air Style Wireless Controller does fit the bill.

After PSM named the controller one of the best wireless options on the PS2 and IGN gave the controller some sort of 2003 E3 “Best of” award, I figured I could not go wrong. After all, the specs on the box listed the controller as having 50+ hours of battery life, a 30 foot range, and the latest RF technology, I figured I was good to go – wireless I would be – life would be good.

So why am I writing this sad little tale now? After laying out $61.99 ($39.99 + $22.00 shipping) to import this little wireless wonder, I cashed in my losses on eBay last weekend – recovering $17.00 + shipping. Could have been worse I guess.

This controller acted more like IR (line of sight) instead of RF. I had to sit within about 5 feet of my system to get decent response, and even then at times the inputs (button presses) often queued up and really messed up my playing experience. I could go on, and I will…

The controller’s vibration response is almost non-existent, the D-pad is completely flaky when in analog mode, and the controller’s response time complete stinks. Game after game I wondered what I was doing wrong. Gone were my dreams of being untethered from the entertainment center, gone were my hopes of burning a perfect lap, lost were my chances to hit the perfect button combo in pretty much any game.

I found myself frequently changing the 2-AA batteries, and constantly switching between the full-analog mode and the power-saving economy mode. At times the economy mode actually worked better than full-analog mode. Something just did not add up. Maybe my Asia version does not work so well on my US PS2? Maybe the new US version actually performs better? I am not really sure, but I must say that I was completely disappointed in the controller IGN and PSM crowned the would be king of PS2 Wireless.

If you must be wireless, try the Logitech Cordless Action Controller, which is a fabulous alternative to the standard Sony Dual Shock controller, and is actually the real deal when it comes to RF technology.