Sony follows the lonely path

The new PS3 commercial shows a handful of games set to what sounds like a clip from a Gladiator or Braveheart type movie. A warrior with a middle ages accent (ye olde accent) rallies his comrades before a glorious battle. To Sony this console business is a battle, and a bloody $3 billion one so far.

Only declaring war openly and drawing lines in the sand is not what Sony needs to do now. The call for brotherhood in the commercial clearly creates an us-versus-them image but it is this exclusive mentality (remember, the PS3 is like a fine dining experience) that put Sony in third place this generation. Launching at $600 and offering the bleeding edge of movie playing capabilities did not make the PS3 a very accessible machine and these advertisements only reinforce the idea that if I am not hardcore, if I am not willing to join Sony is a vicious battle against its enemies, then the PS3 is not for me. →  Oreshika: Tainted Postlines

It’s the DLC, stupid!

Recently details came out about Guitar Hero: World Tour. It will have a fancy drum kit with faux cymbals. It will allow for music composition (sweet on paper). It may or may not be backwards compatible with DLC to date (depends on what article you read). It will feature approximately 85 master track songs, and will have a stronger downloadable content stream. It will also feature improved peripherals. Pricing will be “competitive” with Rock Band.

Rock Band 2 was just announced. It will feature improved peripherals, as well as support for third party peripherals. This is a great idea, because the equipment business sucks, and if Harmonix can find someone else to make better equipment, they can focus on their core competency: the music (we’ll get into that later). DLC songs will not only be forwards compatible, they will be backwards compatible: even if you choose not to upgrade to Rock Band 2, you will be able to continue to purchase new DLC and use it. →  Welcome to read zone!

Tales From Behind the Counter – The Walking Dead

I love zombies. I love zombies so much that I would be lying if I said there weren’t nights that I have gone to bed hoping to wake up the following morning in a full-blown zombacalypse. In many ways this column and my video game store are in a state of zombie purgatory, not quite dead but not completely living either. Let me explain:

About two or three weeks ago a series of events transpired that granted me the magical power of telepathy. In the subsequent moments of enlightenment, I learned that the people who own my video game store were running into some serious financial issues in terms of the stores and keeping them running. We are not talking a missed phone bill payment, we are discussing a shambling, fetid, corpse of over $10k debt. →  Look upon my works, ye mighty, and read!

Review – The World Ends with You

Set in present-day Shibuya, a Tokyo ward is famous for its fashion, The World Ends with You (TWEWY) is an RPG that follows the story of Neku Sakuraba as he wakes up in a busy intersection with no memories. A text message informs him that for the next week he will be a participant in the Reaper’s Game; failure to participate risks erasure. Players follow Neku’s journey of self-discovery (turning from emo-punk to… less of an emo-punk) as he meets other players of the Reaper’s Game and tries to discover the stakes of the game, why he’s playing, and how to win.

Now, I may be a bit biased since I can sing along to an unfortunate amount of Utada Hikaru and Rachel Yamagata tunes, but the aesthetic of TWEWY is delicious and expertly executed. →  Words are the towns and cities of letters.

Review – Persona 3 FES

Atlus used to be rather stingy about bringing games over. We received the first Persona, sure, but it was missing a large sidequest and the story was changed to make it take place in the US. We didn’t receive the first half of Persona 2, although the second half came introduced us to Atlus par: a good translation, but a small release that could not match demand. They are finally making up for their earlier slacking with Persona 3: FES.

FES contains the original Persona 3 (called “The Journey” here) with tweaks and improvements as well as an epilogue in the form of “The Answer.” Between them, we get about 100 hours of solid, story-heavy JRPG, all for the wonderful price of $30.

For those who weren’t reading the first time around, Persona 3 is about a group of highschoolers who find themselves wielding a power, called Persona, that they don’t fully understand. →  Theme Postital

Tales From Behind The Counter – A Time of Loathing

When working in retail there is one time of year you dread above all others: the holidays. It means angry customers with no time and no money, pissed off that they have to brave ice covered roads and bumper car parking lots instead of being gleeful and warm in the comfort of their own homes. In video game retail land, there is one other time that I have come to regard in the same way I would a diagnosis of colon cancer: EA Sports Game Release season. Also called, the Unholidays, with a long e sound on that i.

During this time, Electronic Arts decides to rain shit from the sky in the form of a new NCAA everything, new Madden, new baseball whatever, and [shudder] Nascar 09. I would rather play most of these sports over having to deal with the people who come in to buy these games and that, my friends, should tell you something. →  Did I do that?

Review – Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles My Life as a King of the Jews

Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King is a simulation game. When I first saw the name, I thought it would be another delightfully (?) simple RPG. Instead, here we have a delightfully simple sim; in fact, MLAK is hands-off nearly to the point of annoyance.

In MLAK, you build your city structure by structure and converse with your citizens (when they are willing to talk to you, that is). That is just about it. The city is composed of empty green glowing spaces that mark where you can place buildings when you have the resources needed for their construction. These buildings range from houses to various shops for your citizens and adventurers. You commission these adventurers to explore the surrounding wilderness to get more resources and advance the plot, and occasionally they will actually do so. →  Readlevania

Apple and Agents (of the Elite Beat variety)

The Apple/Nintendo rumor mill has existed for a few years now, usually popping up quarterly or biannually with either a rumor about the two companies, or simple posturing about them. This leads to armies of geeks believing a merger is imminent, even though there is no proof or even any grumblings from either company about it. People simply look at how similar the two companies are, and somehow put two and two together (even if there is nothing to put together).

But maybe we are getting smarter about this inane trend. This time around, Forbes looks at how the iPhone might kill the Nintendo DS. The article cites the iPhone’s touch screen and accelerometer abilities as combining the features of the Wii and the DS. It also claims that the ability to quickly and easily download software wirelessly will make gaming simple and painless. →  Shining Post: Legacy of Great intention

The next gen consoles then and now

Folks, it has been some time since the “next gen” was actually the next. I think it is about time to call it the current gen, and on that note, I think it is time to re-evaluate the three major players in the race. Much has changed, and my opinion of each console has changed wildly. Note that this is not an attempt to analyze who is going to “win” the console war. I think that it is quite clear that so long as there are games like Wii Fit and Wii Sports released at the right times, Nintendo is going to be unchallenged in total sales numbers. Meanwhile Sony and Microsoft will claim the Wii is not a true competitor, and then spin the numbers to make it look like they were the true winners. →  Ba da bam ba baa I’m readin’ it.

Short RPGs for fun and profit

Almost a month ago, Persona 3: FES was released. It not only contains the definitive version of my favorite RPG, but it has an extra “epilogue” chapter as well.

This is a cause for much rejoicing. I started playing it immediately, and so far I’d say I would pay the $30 just for the improved first game. But herein lies the problem, and the crux of this article: It has been a month and I am still playing it. Not only that, I’m still in the first section; the remake.

I love RPGs. I love playing lots of RPGs. But I also like having time for other, trivial things, like working, sleeping, eating, and the occasional shower. Most games in the genre are long; sometimes the length necessary for fleshing out the story, but more often it is just padding. →  I got served!

Memorial Day Post

A couple of things on my mind that I decided to condense into a tidy post for you to ponder over the weekend.

-First of all, the biggest piece of gaming news on videolamer for 2008 – I bought Zak and Wiki. For $20 new! I know taking a risk and waiting for a price drop was suicide with this game, but everyone gets lucky sometimes. Now I am part of the club, and can smoke with all the cool kids in the bathroom.

I’ll be honest with you – I think part of the reason I did not jump for the game immediately was my own inability to read more on the subject. I had no idea the game used crazy wii-motions to help solve puzzles. That makes it a little more exciting! →  We have nothing to lose but our games.

Ubisoft publishes crap on Wii, crap doesn’t sell, Ubisoft confused

North American Ubisoft president Laurent Detoc recently showed concern over his company’s Wii titles. According to a recent Gamasutra article –

“He acknowledged the Wii in particular has been difficult for Ubisoft to find success with. Pointing to the console’s generous sales, he noted that games published for the Wii made up only 10 percent of Ubisoft’s sales last year, and added that the company will need to work harder to create games that will ‘sell as well as Nintendo’s own Wii titles.'”

Let us run through the list of games Ubisoft has published for the Wii as it may elucidate the company’s problems.

No More Heroes – A great game, by far Ubisoft’s best reviewed Wii title, also made by a talented developer (so obviously not Ubisoft). Given zero marketing, guaranteeing this quirky ultraviolent title’s demise. →  Speak softly and carry a big post.

Tales From Behind The Counter – Lost Treasures, Trade-Ins, and Drugs

I should preface this installment by saying that I am a pack rat. I always have been and probably always will be. When I die, my relatives will come to clean out my house and find stacks and stacks of old newspapers, every wrapper of the slices of Velveeta cheese I had eaten over the past twenty years, and journals of every major weather event from 2025 on with my hand drawn renditions of how things went down. I keep everything. Having said that, it baffles me that most people have no problem trading in all of their old video games and accessories, and for extremely pathetic prices at that.

The other day, two guys walked into the store and told me they had a couple of items that they only wanted cash for. →  Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing memory cards.

A survey of 2007s role playing games

Last year was a fairly interesting one for RPG fans. Some of the biggest names in the genre finished their PS2 swan songs long ago, and went off in search of new platforms. This left 2007 as a year for new ideas and lesser known series to take root and grab the hearts and money of fans. 2007 may not have had a big new Final Fantasy, but perhaps that is a good thing, as it allowed these other games to stand out, rough edges and all. While it comes a bit late, the following is an assessment of some of 2007’s biggest RPGs from both Chris (vl’s resident RPG expert) and Christian (who continues to look for the genre’s masterpiece). We also included FF12 in the mix. It may be a bit old to us modern folk living in 2008, but it is such a major departure from Square’s usual offerings that it deserves a bit more discussion on the site. →  Sid Meier’s Alpha Centarticle

Blockbuster gaming – what a difference

You may have seen some of the recent news pieces on how Blockbuster is attempting to get more aggressive with its game offerings, starting with putting GTAIV on their coveted front wall of new releases – the first for a game. An interesting step to be sure, but I had to take a trip down to my waterfront store to see what else was changing.

I have written in the past about this Blockbuster and its lack of quality. Few new games and an absence of organization drove me away from it as a rental avenue. About two months ago this started changing for the better. The games section was reorganized and expanded, and for once it looked like it was supposed to. The store also started selling PS3s, and for a little while actually had two 80GB models (which I would have jumped on if my taxes were done earlier). →  Read like G did.

Gamestop and the Classics

Despite the title, this blog post is another update on the (awesome) shenanigans going on with Atlus USA. About two or so weeks ago, Atlus quietly reprinted some copies of Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne. It was so quiet that not even Atlus employees that often float around the Internet knew the details. The only reliable retailer that seemed to have it was Play Asia, but now we know quite differently. Turns out that a reprint was done for both Nocturne and Digital Devil Saga, and according to some Gamestop employees, almost every store was getting one copy of each game, brand new but labeled (and stickered) as used. Naturally this caused much rejoicing among the Atlus Faithful, and both games as well as Persona 3 FES are the top selling PS2 games on the ‘Spot’s website. →  Shadow of Read

Non-Review Footnote – Persona 3:FES

Last week marked an interesting release on American shores, as Atlus shipped out Persona 3:FES. FES is both an expansion pack and a revision to the original P3 – it mainly serves as an epilogue chapter to the story, but was also served with the original game as a “director’s cut” that added new goodies to the entire quest.

This kind of release is very rare on consoles. For example, whenever Square releases an International Edition of a hit RPG, you can be sure this nation won’t see it. Yet for whatever reason (likely due to success of P3 last fall), Atlus decided to grace us with more of this excellent game, rather than leave Western fans out in the cold as happens so many times. Not only that, but the price is only $30! →  Tony Hawk's Posting Ground

GET PAID TO PLAY VIDEO GAMES!

I like having sex. Who doesn’t, right? (answer: Condoleezza Rice) That said, I don’t think that I would be a ho if it were somehow possible. I like to choose who I have sex with, and I don’t think I could do it all day, and it’s illegal and immoral and dirty and all that. Similarly, I like to play games, but I don’t think I’d want to be a game tester. For as long as I can remember, the reality of my gaming world has been shaped by the fact that most games simply suck, and are less fun than almost anything. I don’t want to play Virtua Tennis 3 for thirty minutes, let alone 40 hours. But there are many among us who believe that because you like doing an activity, then wanting to do it every day for months (and getting paid!) →  Uncharted Waters: New Horeadin’s

Tales From Behind The Counter – The Long Joystick of the Law

Last night I achieved a sales goal that I don’t think will ever be topped by another mortal.

It was a quiet evening and my boss, Jason, and I were being good little worker bees. Alphabetizing and sorting titles, rearranging aisles, trying to restructure the layout of my store so that it may actually generate a couple of bucks profit. One of our big tasks of the night had been to weed the crappy and older games from the shelves and make a bargain bin of marked down titles that was placed prominently in front of the door so would-be customers had to walk right past it. Both of us were sitting on the floor of our empty and serene establishment when the front door burst open and two police officers rushed into the building, hands on guns and tasers. →  The Read Star

Metal Gear Solid: The Settle Collection

As the PS2 winds down, it has become quite popular to release cheap three game collections for it. Until now, the best one out there was the Devil May Cry pack, but now it has been usurped by Metal Gear Solid: The Essential Collection. With the first three MGS games for $30, this is the perfect way for MGS newbies to experience the series before it signs off with its fourth and final entry. Whether it is worth it for long time fans is a tougher question to answer, as this package is shy from perfect.

The content is the toughest question. Metal Gear Solid comes in a nice DVD case, but is the original Playstation pressing, meaning you will need a PS1 memory card. Annoying, but you can’t really ask them to recode a budget release. →  Ba da bam ba baa I’m readin’ it.