Is E3 Still Relevant?

Monday night my boys and I watched the Sony E3 press conference via live streaming over the PS4. I came pretty close to skipping the event in favor of watching whatever Andrew Zimmern was going to digest next in the newest Bizarre Foods. Ultimately the boys were so excited over E3, I decided to watch.

Of course there was a time when I was equally excited, and dare I say enthralled with everything E3 related. Getting “press” credentials when E3 visited ATL for a couple of years in the 90s was certainly a highlight. Back in those days I eagerly awaited each tidbit of news, and wrote countless diatribes on the state of the industry, discussed the next big game, and so on and so forth. E3 was an important part of my gaming life, usenet was a popular means of communication and the web as we know it today was very much in its infancy.

These days, while gaming is still an important part of my life, it is certainly not as consuming, and as I mentioned in the opening, I came pretty close to picking watching the consumption of the latest cow balls dish, over Sony’s E3 press conference. I guess that says a lot about the relevance of E3 to this older gamer. Besides, it’s easy enough to follow E3 news and trends; thanks to the rise of social media, you do not even have to be there to be there.

During this year’s long PlayStation advertisement, err, press conference had a few things that stood out …

Gran Turismo. I was bitterly disappointed that we learned nothing about the next title. Surely it has to be in development.

Vita. I have written enough about Sony screwing the pooch and completely missing the mark with their wonderful gaming system. Disappointing does even begin to describe my feelings.

Final Fantasy VII Remake (Square Enix). As soon as the video started, I told my boys to watch for the crowd go ape shit. I’m really looking forward to this one, but Square Enix has to be in a no win situation. This is the game that all FF VII fans want, so it can never live up to expectations. No matter which direction the game takes (remake, reimaging, same script with updated graphics and similar gameplay to the original PSOne title) some faction of the FF VII fan base will fume over Square Enix messing up their beloved title.

Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games). This new IP looks very promising. I like the concept; a nice mixture of low tech and high tech concepts. One of my first thoughts was that Horizon was Gamma World ish … maybe not exactly, but robotic dinosaurs based in a future earth setting looks solid enough to me.

Dreams (Media Molecule’s). Who knows which direction MM will take their next sandbox game, but I can only imagine that it will be a great creative outlet for fans that were disappointed with the last LittleBigPlanet.

No Man’s Sky (Hello Games). Fantastic infinite universe concept, that pays homage to Elite (at least the version on the C64 that I loved ages ago). I can see this title getting dismissed due to poor, or at least inferior graphics. Similar to RPGs, I love concepts where I can take my time exploring a well-crafted gaming universe; I just can never find enough time to sink my teeth into these types of games

Uncharted 4. Good clean fun for the whole family. It is hard for me to say “system seller” because I think die-hard fans of the Uncharted franchise would pick up a PS4 sooner or later. The real trick is getting someone sitting on the sidelines of this gaming generation to take interest, and buy a PS4 in 2016 just to play this Sony Exclusive.

I’ll wrap things up by mentioning PlayStation Vue. The concept of a la cart is very appealing, but even with PS+ discounts, I think the pricing could be high. While I have a gazillion channels with Charter, I truly only watch a select few, but the problem is the wide variety: Fox Sports 1 and 2, ESPN, NFL and NFL Red Zone, NBC Sports (for Formula One and soccer), Discovery, History Channel, Travel Channel (Bizarre Foods), and during football season, whichever channel offers up the Falcons, Georgia Bulldogs and Texas Longhorns. Even if everything I want to watch is offered, I doubt a la cart pricing will work for me.


Vita RPGs Release Dates Torturously Slow

For RPG fans, the PSP was a godsend, with a huge variety of classics, lots of Final Fantasy (FF) options, and plenty of newer high quality RPG titles to explore. Not so much with the Vita, however at the 5+ month mark, it should be noted that the Vita is still in its early days.

Of course the Vita has the ability to play some PSP RPGs that are offered via PSN, but where do Vita owners that want new RPG experiences, and I might add Trophies, turn?

With the announcement that FF X HD is miles away, it looks like Xseed’s Ragnarok Odyssey, with an August 21 release, is the closest Vita RPG loving fans are going to get to RPG drought relief. I have had Ragnarok Odyssey on preorder for a while, so hopefully it is decent.

On the Japanese import front, Ys Celceta: Sea of Trees, is being release September 27. There is no word on this one receiving US localization support, but if it does, hopefully the name will be changed to something a little more Western’ish.

Despite the outcry from fans that Atlus is forcibly (via software) region locking Persona 4, it is still rapidly approaching an October release.

Of course RPG fans can always pick up fan-favorite Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention, which is a completely different than normal RPG fare. Disgaea is turn based, over the top, entertaining, and has layers of depth upon layers of depth. Something like that.

To be honest, I have only just touched the surface. While the game is entertaining, amusing may be a better description, I don’t usually have the time commitment required to go in deep for my Vita sessions. One of these days I will have to check out the GPS Mode and see what sort of trinkets the developers embedded for 3GS Vita Disgaea play on the go.


Now Playing (End of May Edition)

As summer starts to bloom, I finally decided to pick up Flower as part of the recent ThatGameCompany sale ($4.89 via PS+ discount). What a wonderful experience; when games become art, they really become immersive media, moving beyond the realm of typical game-playing sessions and evolving into said experience.

I haven’t spent a ton of time with it (too many other distractions as you can see from this post), but I would say that it is a stronger outing than their initial flOw, but not as emotionally captivating as their recent Journey outing. Wow; I’m becoming a softie in my old age.

Final Fantasy XIII (some XIII-2)
I swore to myself (seriously) and told my boys that I wouldn’t start XIII-2 until I finished the mainline FF XIII story. Two years after its initial release, I finally got around to doing the needful.

I’m not sure if I will actually Platinum FF XIII; I probably don’t have the time or strength of character to grind, grind, grind. With that said, I am still plugging along and having a good time with it. At some point I will have to put it down and fully focus of XIII-2; until then, I hope to pick up another “you have put too much time into this game” trophy or two.

Dungeons & Dragons: Daggerdale
Speaking of RPGs, Daggerdale was just released on the PSN. It is the rare purchase for me to actually pick something up day one at full price; in this case $14.99.

I’m a sucker for fun hack-and-slash experiences, and this one carries the full backing of the Dungeons & Dragons 4E rules system.

I’m only a couple of hours in, so I can’t really comment on the game play mechanics, but playing with the human warrior is pretty much what I expected. Pick up a quest, smash barrels for treasure, fight some bad guys (goblins and skeletons so far), rinse and repeat. I’m at level 2, and have only died once by stupidly falling off a high ledge while fighting a skeleton. I forced Mr. Bones off the ledge and thought I would follow; to my death.

Madden 12
I have been playing this one a little here and there in order to satisfy my football gaming jones, but mostly to finish it out and pick up the Platinum. I only need the 2 Ultimate Team (10 and 20) games played and I will score a new shiny. The truth is that I swore I would stay away from Ultimate Team so that I wouldn’t be tempted to throw real money at virtual cards. For the most part that has worked, but I did have one weak moment; money was sitting in my wallet, so I did flip some for a Gold pack. Yes, I’m weak.

For the most part Madden is a super easy Platinum. Over the holiday weekend I finished off a couple of the trophies with help from my two oldest boys – yes, we “gamed” (err cheated) the system by turning down the CPU AI to be weak as a kitten, but we had a good time playing, which is what life (and gaming) is all about. Speaking of quality family gaming …

LittleBigPlanent 2
I haven’t played this one is a while, but it’s a great game to play with my boys (all three – 13, 9.11, and 5). LBP provides infinite possibilities, is fun creative outlet, hilarious at times (watching each other die or do otherwise stupid tricks), etc.

Speaking of LBP, I’m still anxiously looking forward to the Vita version.

Waiting Game …
As I wait on my “Atelier Meruru: The Apprentice of Arland Limited Edition: Grand Finale Set” NIS America store, to arrive today or tomorrow, I keep looking at my backlog of RPGs and shake my head. I’ll never get to them all, but it is a nice problem to have. At the same time, I start looking forward to the next round of Gust instant classics (i.e. Atelier Ayesha). I’m hopeless …

Same for Gravity Rush (Vita – June 12); it has received extremely positive reviews, but not sure that it will be a system seller or marketed as such. I’ll be happy with a quality game that provides some new Vita experiences.


FF XIII-2 (Rewarding FFF XIII Fans)

I love the concept of getting bonus goodies as a ‘reward’ of sorts for playing previous versions of a game. As long as the reward doesn’t cause game balance issues – either too powerful or you are shit out of luck because you didn’t play the previous installments.

PSB: Are there any special treats reserved for those who are holding on to their Final Fantasy XIII save files? Can you share any details on how that will work?

Toriyama-san: If you have any save files from XIII, they will be recognized upon the start of XIII-2, and you can get extras. Some of the bonuses include adornments for monsters that can be used in-game, and a bonus that can be obtained from the title screen. You don’t necessarily have to have save data of the finished game; you can still get something even if you’ve only played a little.

Cool concept. Now just have to actually find some time to watch, play, and finish FF XIII.


Final (Sexual) Fantasy XIII-2

A semi triumphant of T&A Sunday; there is some ‘good’ news coming out of the ESRB, via PlayStation LifeStyle:

During the course of the game, a handful of female characters wear revealing outfits (e.g., low-cut at the pelvis, moderate amounts of cleavage)

Seriously, everyone has to be happy about this decision because now we can draw attention away from the quality of the next Final Fantasy game, instead concentrating on T&A, and how the game industry betrays female gamers. Yes, definitely ‘good’ news all around.

Of course the way some young girls dress (or rather don’t dress) these days makes the argument of sexualizing female digital characters almost pointless; however I think I will not digress into social commentary. Besides, I’m confident that some nut-wing conservative group will do us all proud and pick up the cause, thus further encouraging gamers, and increasing sells. See, everyone comes out a winner.

Happy Sunday morning!



Not sure WTF I am doing up at 1:30AM to write that this apparently mediocre (by Final Fantasy standards) game shipped.

Amazon is also giving me a $10 credit towards a future game with my order. I am becoming so far backlogged that I am not sure when I will actually look at this game, much less when to consider my next purchase at a $10 discount. For those keeping score at home, I have not finished a Final Fantasy game since FFVII, so this does not look very promising.

BTW, the PS3 version is current tracking at 82% (36 reviews) to 84% (17 reviews) on the 360. Go figure.


The 360 Beat Down Continues

Another day gives us more flaming articles on how the 360 version of Final Fantasy XIII does not feature all the graphical goodness of the PS3. The funny thing about these “FFXIII 360 is not HD” articles is that they all shoot up the N4G charts even though they basically say the same thing.

I guess all the 360 owners are busy playing their exclusive games and third-party multiplatform titles that dare I say for the most part feature better graphical ports than their PS3 counter parts. Meanwhile the PS3 gamers are actively in defense of their wunderkind, posting articles near and wide about how the 360 version of FFXIII features inferior graphics. Don’t tell me to look in a mirror; I’m just making an attempt at providing entertaining op-eds for your reading pleasure at o’dark-thirty in the morning!

Of course from the best I can tell none of the mainstream mega web sites are actually releasing reviews for the 360 version; Square Enix may have some sort of embargo at play. A couple of screens do not make or break a game, but tell that to all these folks following the madness [raises hand]. Following my typical contrarian view, if I had a 360 I would buy that version to help rain on the PS3 parade. No; I probably wouldn’t – not if all things being equal the PS3 features better graphics on a single Blu-ray.

Capcom – 360 Content Removal
In more anti-360 news, Sankaku Complex [Warning: Very Much Not Safe for Work] posted an article about Capcom cutting content from its latest 360 title.

Capcom has publically lamented having to cut large amounts of content from Lost Planet 2 in order to fit it onto the Xbox 360’s piddling DVD capacity without the game turning into a swapfest, but promises users will be able to buy everything they cut as DLC.

Speaking with rag Famitsu about the production of Lost Planet 2, now in the fine-tuning stages, producer Jun Takeuchi complains of the constraints imposed by Microsoft’s refusal to employ Blu-ray; in previous interviews he made much the same comments about Resident Evil 5, saying he would like to see a “complete” version on the PS3…

While this may trouble the developer, and to some extent the gamers that think they are getting screwed, I am sure that Microsoft and Capcom [wearing the publisher hat] very much appreciate all the DLC they can muster from any title released, regardless of platform. Any revenue earned post game sale is a major asset to the bottom-line.

Reading between the lines, as games get increasingly larger, more and more content may have to get removed. This may not be a problem for 360 exclusives, but any multiplatform release may be perceived as better on the PS3 if the Blu-ray release features more gaming elements that matter – i.e. levels, missions, extra boats, airplanes, trains, and Legos. It is a travesty if the rumors about content removal from FFXIII prove true – the PS3 could have had more stuff [just what TBD], but it was removed in the name of multiplatform parity.

This speculation on my part will largely depend on how long this console generation lasts; with a piss poor economy I doubt we will see any new hardware in the next 18 months. Regardless of PS3 capacity advantages [thanks to Blu-ray] publishers near and far are increasingly going in the premium DLC direction, which sucks for all gamers if content that would normally be included on a game is getting removed in favor of future revenue opportunities.


Final Fantasy XIII – The 360 Implodes

It has been a long time since I remember seeing this much fervor over a game, but I guess that is what happens when Final Fantasy goes multi-console.

Why so much fervor? I guess it is an emotional reaction from youngsters that grew up with the PlayStation. Of course they probably do not realize or understand that once upon a time Nintendo was the home of all things Final Fantasy.

In the case of the PS3 vs. 360 debate, Square Enix has not helped the situation by releasing doctored graphics, which PS3 conspiracy theorists say indicates that all things 360 must suck. Never mind some of the piss poor ports on the PS3 that have gone in the other direction.

Me? I will continue to watch it unfold and chime in from time-to-time as I see fit. Some of debate is actually interesting and does matter – Blu-ray capacity, disc swapping, HD graphics, and the removal of content. I can appreciate that the developer made every attempt at platform parity, but from what I have read too many compromises were made.


Final Fantasy XIII – Inside The Technical Details

While looking for more news, notes, and whatnots of the upcoming Final Fantasy XIII (FFXIII), I came across this great article on the DigitalFoundry blog (EuroGamer) that takes us inside the math, art, and science of FFXIII. I don’t think I have every come across an article that goes to this length, with this much detail, comparing the PS3 demo of FFXIII against the actual Japanese release of FFXIII. If you are interested in this type of technical details, this article is definitely worth a read.

For me two things stood out, neither of which are part of the detailed technical feature analysis.

Overall, the leaps made by Final Fantasy XIII over its predecessors are mostly visual in nature and that’s clearly been the focus of this tech analysis. However, bearing in mind the four-year gestation period Final Fantasy XIII has had, it’s disappointing that all the key improvements have been in the audio-visuals.

Of course, these are hugely important factors in FFXIII’s make-up, but gameplay-wise this feels like it could’ve been done on PS2. Clearly, there’s much to enjoy in the nature of sumptuous visuals and what is clearly the best-quality CG we’ve seen on a Square-Enix videogame, but early importers of the Japanese version of the game are divided about the merits of the actual game underneath.

To be completely fair, I think this can be said about many of the games in this generation. They are just visual upgrades over their PS2 and Xbox predecessors.

The other item of note fills the entirety of the last page of the three page article, covering speculation on the potential compromises made to port the PS3 originated title to the 360.

However, porting the game across to the 360 must have been a daunting proposition. Taking a look at the structure of the Blu-ray disc, we see an absolutely colossal 32.6GB of what looks to be pre-rendered movies, while the actual gameplay content itself is a more reasonable 6.8GB. Co-incidentally, 6.8GB is also the maximum usable space developers have on the dual-layer DVD (yes, Xbox 360 games theoretically have less storage available than PS2 and Wii titles).

The article mentions that 360 users will only have to switch games at two points in the game, so that does not seem to be much of a burden. I also doubt that 360 owners will care (maybe not even notice) if the movies are not pre-rendered, if they are compressed, or if the sound is compressed. I also think that dual system owners will pick up FFXIII for the PS3 over the 360. In the U.S., due to its larger install base, 360 numbers will slightly surpass the PS3, but elsewhere FFXIII will lead the charge on the PS3.


FFXIII Sucks on the 360

OK, not really, but as I said earlier today, just for the hell of it I will fan the flames. According to NOWGamer, some sacrifices had to be made in order to accommodate this game on the 360:

* While facial detail appears largely unchanged, the characters’ clothes appear at first glance to be lacking finer details, with notably lower resolution textures.
* Incidental environmental objects and enemies appear less detailed, both in texture and geometry.
* The game’s CG is extremely compressed and pales alongside the stunning HD goodness which blu-ray offers.

It would be a travesty if 360 gamers had to experience less detailed incidental environmental objects. You have been warned! Now go have a cold one and celebrate the goodness of Blu-ray. It is calling your name, even if Sony is not allowed to advertise how much goodness awaits your cotton candy, graphic whoring FFXIII pleasure.


FFXIII – Console Debates Rage As Release Draws Near

This morning I was looking for some new information on FFXIII and came across some interesting articles via N4G. The console wars are far from over, and FFXIII is at the center of the latest rounds of internet fodder. Meanwhile, as a self respecting Final Fantasy fan and Sony loyalists [I don’t own a 360], I am just fanning the flames.

This op-ed from Ironstar discusses Microsoft’s willingness to throw a ton of cash at the 360 release of FFXIII.

Those who look at FFXIII from Sony’s perspective shouldn’t care one bit about Microsoft’s desperate marketing. For one, God of War 3 releases no less than a week after that title; if Sony were to market that game as much Microsoft probably will they would be competing with themselves. Pretty much every enthusiastic Final Fantasy fan will purchase XIII on the PlayStation 3 regardless of it appearing on other platforms. The capacity of Blu-Ray relieves the hassle of having to deal with the tedious disc swapping of 360’s FFXIII. Its 2010 nobody wants to get out of their seat to switch a DVD because the game can’t fit on 1 disc, we dealt with disc swapping 10 years ago via Final Fantasy 7.

The fanboys are all aglow that Microsoft is attempting to “trick” consumers into thinking that FFXIII is a Microsoft exclusive. I did not really think this was the case until I saw this article from the Unofficial Final Fantasy Site that furthers this claim.

Sony should somehow market the FFXIII as the true home of FF titles with references back to all the previous releases, especially bestsellers such as FFVII and FFX. Unless Sony cannot advertise FFXIII for the PS3 due to an exclusive marketing window wrapped up by Microsoft, which would be a new one on me.

After the poor reception of White Knight Chronicles: International I have to wonder if PS3 owners even care about JRPGs. Who I am kidding? FFXIII will sell like hotcakes.

In this article from ConnectedConsoles FFXIII producer Yoshinori Kitase claims that there are no differences in the PS3 and 360 version of the game beyond the number of discs.

“The development team created the PS3 version first, of course, but they didn’t alter the content at all in order to bring it to the 360.” said Kitase in an interview with GamingTarget. “It’s the exact same experience and the same gaming experience that they had set out to create is present on both the PS3 and 360 versions.”

He then added: “Graphics wise as well, they’re comparable there. There’s no difference there in the experience. And, I guess the only minor difference would be the fact that for the 360 version, you have to switch out the discs every once in a while.”

Does anyone actually believe this statement? While on the surface that may be a true statement, PS3 fans are buzzing that making FFXIII available on the 360 compromised the game. Development to the lowest common dominator does that to a multiplatform game.

It will be interesting to see which console wins out – the one with the strongest advertisement and installed base, or the recognized home of FF titles from the last two console generations.


Final Fantasy XIII – And A Whole Heaping Helping of Incoming Games

Speaking of not having enough time to play games, I just pre-ordered FFXIII from amazon, which has a nice $10 off a future video game purchase promotion.

Get a $10 Video Games Credit
Order Final Fantasy XIII and get $10 off a future video game purchase. The promotional code will be placed directly into your account within 2 business days after the product ships. Offer valid when shipped and sold by Promotion valid on all existing orders. Limit one per household. Amazon reserves the right to change or terminate this promotion at any time.

It is about to be a crazy-stupid time for videogames. Besides being loaded up on current games, an unbelievable amount of gaming goodness is headed my way over the next few weeks.

Upcoming – Preorder and “Watch List” Games:

  • White Knight Chronicles International (will arrive today)
  • MLB 10: The Show (March 2)
  • Heavy Rain (February 23) – Interesting title; will probably wait for a sale, price drop, or other buying incentive.
  • FFXIII (March 9)
  • God of War III (March 16) – I should really play God of War Collection before jumping on the GoW bandwagon.
  • 2010 FIFA World Cup (April 27) – Probably do not need this and FIFA 10.

Good grief! It looks like I am all set for gaming for a long time except for a new quality racer. Gran Turismo 5 Prologue just never did it for me. I guess F1: Championship Edition and Ferrari Challenge can hold me over until the next great racing title lands in my laps.


More Final Fantasy Conundrums

There is nothing like a PS3 vs. Xbox 360 controversy to heat up the N4G charts. Add in a dash of Final Fantasy XIII is being compromised due to the limited capabilities of the non Blu-ray system, and you have the makings for a serious chart topper. This story from PS3Center makes the case that the PS3 version, which is the ideal platform for FFXIII, is not going to be perfect.

Many PS3 fans were looking forward to playing the PS3 version of the game with the Japanese voices with English subtitles. It was safe to assume that this would be the case at least for the PS3 version, because it didn’t have the size constraints of a DVD, Naruto Ultimate Ninja Storm has this so why wouldn’t Final Fantasy right? Wrong. Due to the limitations of the DVD, the PS3 version of the game has been compromised in order to “keep both versions of the game identical.” This was confirmed with Final Fantasy XIII’s producer in an interview with GameTrailers.

He specifically mentions here that it is because they want to keep the game the same on both platforms, is that the Xbox 360 version not affecting the PS3 version? How hard can it be to include the Japanese audio track in the game? It will most likely include English subtitles anyway; the Japanese language track would simply replace the English language track. Well we can at least hope this will be coming as DLC at a later stage…

What a conundrum for the FF developers/publishers. Keep the game true to form on the PS3 or go after a wider audience and “compromise” FF XIII with a release on the Xbox 360. In the end the potential to make more $$$ always wins out.


FF13 graphics controversy

I love a good controversy; especially when it involves Final Fantasy, graphics doctoring, and console wars. Well not really, but I did get a kick out of all the comments.

When asked by RPGSite staff about the graphics changes that have been shown in screenshots, the game director Motomu Toriyama admitted changes have happened but also downplayed their significance.

“Initial screenshots of the game may well look different to what we have now. This is part of the process of making the game – we have to get a feel for what the system can and can’t handle – sometimes things are made better, sometimes things like the number of polygons on a model are reduced to make it more easy to display,” he said, giving the reasons for the changes.

Producer Yoshinori Kitase added to the explanation. “The important thing for us is that the game runs smoothly on both systems. We have made changes to the game, but nothing because of one system specifically – all changes have been made to get maximum performance.”

I guess I am reaching. Bottom of the barrel stuff here.