Tag Archives: PS3

Back To Console Gaming

Super Mario 3D World for the Wii U just became the first physical console game I bought in… a year maybe? I don’t even know honestly. Playing it and starting a new Demon’s Souls character over the weekend, I thought my return to consoles for a while would be this big contrast against what I’ve been doing on PC for so long but now I’m not so sure. The convergence of PC and console functionality has been prevalent for years now and I guess I can finally say it’s a real thing in my experience. Continue reading

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My Endorsement Of Mega Man Legends

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Mega Man Legends has just received probably the closest thing it will ever get to a second chance — a re-release of the original game on the North American PlayStation Store this week. Even today, with all the outpour from fans, it seems like a relatively underrated game, and I’m here to help make the case for it.

I actually wrote the following back in December 2009 and thought I should freshen this old post up a bit:

The reason Mega Man Legends deserves at least a mention alongside my favorite games of all time is simply because it contains pretty much everything I could ask for in a video game.  If you asked me for a vision of my “perfect game,” it would probably just be a more modern version of this game, which is why the sting of Mega Man Legends 3’s cancellation hurts so bad. Continue reading

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My Top Games Of The Last Console Generation

I think now is the best time to do a final look at the era of the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii. Sure all their successors launched one and two years ago, but do you really feel like the new generation of games started in 2013, or even this past year?

Almost everything significant this past year has still been, on some level, designed with the old consoles in mind. 2014 was a far cry from the PS2’s amazing first year on the market when it quickly received probably near a dozen excellent games to justify the platform. The PS4 and Xbox One feel very early in their game libraries, neither one having received a real killer app yet. The Wii U is the only console that truly seems essential between the three despite its almost total lack of third party games.

Looking forward however, 2015 looks like the year for both the PS4 and Xbox One. That first wave of true high-quality games made specifically for those systems that I’ve mentioned too many times on this blog looks to arrive in the first half of the year. The PS3 and 360 still got a huge number of significant games in 2014, but that number in 2015 looks to be dropping to near zero. I thought the end of 2013 was a bit too early to close the curtain on them, but now is about time as we start to get the final vapors from their tailpipes.

I should stress this is just my own personal list of favorite games of that generation. I’m not necessarily counting games I think might be the best. I’m not counting games because they were the most influential or most representative of that era of gaming. This really isn’t even a review of that console generation, I’m just saying what my favorite games from it are. There are a lot of games I enjoyed immensely that aren’t on this list because I needed to lock it down to my absolute top-tier favorites.

These are the games I will always look back to first when I think of the PS3 and 360. These are the games that will be the reason I ever plug in my PS3 again, the games that manage to keep pulling me back and stand the test of time going forward. It’s not about what the games of the moment were. It’s about what games I’ll still want to play in 10 years. I guess PC games count if they came out between 2005 and 2014, but I think every PC game on my list also had a console version. These games are listed in no particular order. Continue reading

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On Its Anniversary, Just What Does PlayStation Mean Today?

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Maybe this should have been my response last week about the 20th anniversary of PlayStation, but Sony and other people still seem to be celebrating it all season long. For some reason the whole event has fallen kind of flat on me. Last week I suggested it was because I never got into Sony hardware until 2005, but I think the real reason is what the PlayStation brand looks and feels like today.

I’ve noted it in previous blog posts about console exclusives, but I kind of feel like PlayStation doesn’t have as much of an identity today as it did 15 or 10 years ago. I feel like the 20th anniversary celebrations are more a celebration of the past than of what PlayStation is right now. In the past PlayStation was a unique library of entertainment. Today I feel like it’s just another box. I actually don’t think this is a bad thing, but I do think it’s a sign of where console gaming is going, because Xbox is no less susceptible to the change. Continue reading

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You Done With PS3 and 360 Yet?

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I feel like this fall is about the right time to really start looking back on the last generation of console games. One thing that involves I think is taking inventory of any games in your PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, DS, or PSP libraries you still haven’t played or finished yet. It’s time to ask if you’re really done playing those machines.

Continue reading

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Drakengard 3 and Today’s JRPG

Over the last year or more the PS3 has entered that phase of its lifespan where the niche Japanese RPGs start to arrive. As I peek at maybe a couple hours of one of those games — Drakengard 3, I’m reminded of how long it’s been since I played one of these games, as well as how much or how little they’ve changed.

To be more specific, I’m talking about class of JRPG that emerged from Final Fantasy VII’s influence on the original PlayStation. I’m talking about the kind of game that set itself apart back in the 90’s with stories written for teens instead of small children, J-pop music, anime cut scenes, and provocative Japanese character designs while largely maintaining the same gameplay JRPGs have had since the 80’s. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed games like Demon’s Souls, Ni No Kuni, and Dragon’s Crown because they make a point of evoking pre-1997 RPGs with subtler narrative exposition and more to-the-point gameplay.

Drakengard 3 is a sharp reminder of that teenage era of console RPGs because as soon as I turned it on and was greeted with a flashy intro video I realized I’d have been seriously hyped to play this game when I was 13. Going a little deeper I realized Drakengard 3 is actually supposed to be somewhat of a send-up of this style of game but I’ll get to that later, because the game showing me what it’s calling out was a reminder of why I hadn’t been interested in these kinds of JRPGs in years.

Basically, this style of game hasn’t changed a whole lot since the late 90’s, but I have. Being an action RPG, Drakengard 3 has you slash through hordes of enemies (mainly by pressing the square button) in environments that almost look like they came from a PS2 game, or at least a PS3 game from eight years ago. You buy and upgrade equipment, and so-on. Now I’m not gonna completely slam a game for modest graphics or even unoriginal gameplay — if that gameplay still feels fun. To me the combat in Drakengard 3 has the same effect Killer is Dead has — it just makes me want to load up one of Platinum’s more refined games like Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising.

Drakengard 3 even manages to evoke a few things from western games I’ve gotten tired of — loading screen tips, excessive in-game banter, and obvious mission objective displays. One of the more recent JRPGs people have talked about — Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii, has gotten more positive reception precisely because it makes the possibly western-inspired changes to the JRPG formula it needs to in order to feel like a real advancement for the genre. Its environments are uniquely large for JRPGs and you can go in and out of battle without transitions (like Final Fantasy XII which more games should have followed).

But as with a lot of JRPGs of its ilk, Drakengard 3’s gameplay probably isn’t even its main selling point. That would be the story and cut scenes — a focus that initially felt neat in the late 90’s but today just distracts from the actual game.  This however is where Drakengard 3 tries to make its own statements about JRPGs and probably Japanese media in general. When I started a new game I almost immediately became bored with the cliché prologue telling of yet another legend of goddesses and ancient wars or whatever… until the protagonist showed up and murdered the narrator mid-sentence.

One of the most immediately striking things about Drakengard 3 is that the protagonist isn’t a teenage boy on a word-saving quest but instead what appears to be a young woman on a quest for personal gain. Furthermore, pretty much every character in the game is revealed to be a horrible person on one level or another, the main cast representing specific vices. That focus, along with the admittedly above-average localization makes Drakengard 3’s story feel probably a step more mature than the likes of Final Fantasy XIII, but only because it deliberately calls out modern Final Fantasy and its progeny.

As I understand it Drakengard 3 actually comes from the same team responsible for Deadly Premonition, which would explain a lot. I can look past that game’s horribly outclassed graphics and janky gameplay though because it actually tries to do something different and interesting mechanically. I feel like Drakengard 3 would be more interesting if it also tried to take a serious swerve with its gameplay in-step with its observant story. Uninteresting conventional gameplay for the sake of making fun of uninteresting conventional gameplay… is still uninteresting conventional gameplay.

I’m thinking about maybe trying out one of those Atelier games that have been popping up on the PS3 seemingly in rapid fire over the last two or three years. I’m a bit put off by their character designs but I hear they revolve around some kind of shockingly deep alchemy system. That’s called a unique gameplay crux right there.

BULLETS:

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Wolfenstein: The New Order PS3 Tech Impressions

I’ve seen almost no one talk about the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions of Wolfenstein: The New Order. Even Digital Foundry — well-known for in-depth tech analyses, so far has only looked at the PC, PS4, and Xbox One versions of the game. I thought I’d go ahead and take a look at the PS3 version, which is surprisingly not bad all things considered.

Why? I thought I’d rent the game from GameFly to see if I should buy it on PC (a physical PC copy because there’s no way I’m downloading 50GB from Steam), and I don’t have a PS4 or Xbox One yet. The last game I tried this with was THIEF which turned out terribly in my opinion. Wolfenstein fares better, and in my opinion is even an improvement over the last PS3 idTech 5 game — RAGE. I should say though that these observations only come from maybe an hour of gameplay — I didn’t even have enough time to finish the prologue before writing this. This also won’t go into Digital Foundry levels of techno babble.

The first thing you should know though is Wolfenstein definitely looks like a game built for modern PCs, the PS4, and Xbox One, and then ported back down to PS3 and Xbox 360. The gameplay most certainly functions as intended on PS3 and even still runs at 60 frames per second — in itself a testament to the idTech 5 engine. The FPS gameplay here isn’t a quantum leap in next generation gameplay or anything. It’s well-designed but standard stuff technologically, so it works on older hardware. However, this game doesn’t look quite as visually coherent as PS3 games from years’ past.

The two most obvious things are that the anti-aliasing and most of the texture resolution are gone. Machinegames clearly just took the next-gen textures and chopped the resolution down instead of making textures that the PS3 and 360 can handle. The game also looks predictably jagged. If you’ve seen the PS3 or 360 version of THIEF, Wolfenstein on those systems looks similar, just at twice the framerate. That said, the texture pop-in isn’t nearly as bad as the PS3 version of RAGE. That edition probably still has the worst texture-streaming I’ve ever seen. I could tell the game could literally only maintain the textures I was looking at, visibly popping in pretty much everything as I moved and turned my character’s head. Texture pop-in is visible in Wolfenstein, but not that atrocious.

If there are supposed to be any other fancy graphical effects that are in the “real” versions of Wolfenstein, I’m not seeing them here. RAGE however, even on PC, didn’t employ fancy lighting tech or physics either. idTech 5’s main tech claim is its megatexture feature which helps RAGE’s art direction shine when it’s in a good mood. Maybe that’s also the case for Wonfenstein whenever you can actually see the textures.

And that’s the main difference with playing the game on PS3 from what I’ve been able to tell so far — same game, just with no anti aliasing and almost no textures. I should really restate how impressive it is this version still runs at 60fps. Even if it’s only most of the time or if there are some framerate issues later on, it runs far more smoothly than Grand Theft Auto V, Far Cry 3, or THIEF do on the old consoles. If PS3 or Xbox 360 is your only option for playing this game and you’re one of those people who really doesn’t care about graphics if you absolutely love the gameplay, I say go for it.

UPDATE: Playing this game a little bit more, its art direction holds up better than I thought it would on PS3. The textures are still significantly downgraded from the new consoles and PC, but a lot of the environments still manage to look attractive enough. The framerate has also still held so far, only visibly chugging for a few seconds during one particularly intense scene.

Looking at this makes me a bit more interested in Shinji Mikami’s upcoming The Evil Within. Also on idTech 5, the videos so far make it seem like a game built for the old consoles and then made to look a bit prettier on modern hardware. A big reason I’m interested is the artist behind the Gamecube Resident Evil remake’s environments is applying his work to id’s megatextures.

BULLETS:

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The Moment I Discovered Why People Play Gran Turismo

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I am nowhere close to being a gaerhead or other kind of car nut. I’m pretty sure I care about cars far less than most men. To me they just get me from point A to point B with varying degrees of luxury. That doesn’t mean I don’t play racing games at all (which I left out of my GOTY category post last week) — I can find a few games to enjoy in pretty much any genre, but I don’t get deep enough into racing to justify buying a Gran Turismo game. That said, during a rental of Gran Turismo 6 last month I glimpsed but for a brief moment what that game is all about, and maybe you can too regardless of how “into racing simulators” you are.

I don’t know if this is normal for hardcore racing games, but GT6 starts you out racing in regular consumer cars — the kind of car you or I might actually own, like a Honda Fit for instance. This might be a bit boring in contrast with letting you immediately crash a Ferrari and letting you learn from there, but it has an affect that’s two fold.

Most obviously, racing more modest cars is probably easier, thus making the game more approachable for newcomers. This way, by the time you do end up in a supercar you at least have a decent grasp on the fundamentals of race car driving and can at least keep that Ferrari on the road. The other effect though is that it creates contrast between the feel of each class of car, letting you actually appreciate the difference between driving your Honda Civic and driving a BMW Z8.

You see, after doing some novice races, GT6 invites you to an event where you get at taste of some sports cars on a time trial course. After driving that Honda fit the difference was immediate and shocking, particularly with the KTM X-Bow.

The first time I hit the gas and heard the engine I said “oh shit,” as I thought this car was gonna eat me alive. The immediacy with which it sped off and responded to my controls felt like being strapped onto the back of an unruly beast. I spent my whole first run just trying to stay on the road, with actually posting a time a distant second objective. After a few more runs though, I eventually started to learn, if even only a little bit.

I eventually learned that in order to tame these things you gotta respect them, but to post good times and see their potential, you also can’t be afraid of them. Oh I left the driving line assist on, but I stopped treating it as gospel and used it as more of a guide. As I began to take more risks on turns I realized the driving line drastically underestimates the turning ability of what you might be driving. Pretty soon I was barreling around corners, barely tapping the breaks and actively trying to get over my fear of pushing it to the edge.

Usually I hate the kind of game where I end up trying the exact same task repeatedly, but for some reason I tried that track probably dozens of times trying to beat the CPU-set best time. I couldn’t get it but I did get within half a second of it. The reason I kept trying was because I’d started to enjoy the feel of that car compared to what I’d been driving in the beginner races.

While Forza 5 pushes forward its “Drivatar” and other features meant to enhance the experience of racing, GT6 really does want to primarily be more about simulating driving than simulating racing. It’s about accurately recreating the feel of hundreds of different cars because let’s face it, the chances of me ever driving an actual X-Bow on a race track are pretty slim.

After that little aside I’d earned enough in-game credits to try to buy a faster car for upcoming races. The recommended cars section is a great addition but I found it to be a bit limited compared to what I already had, so I checked the general dealership section and was floored by the massive selection. Maybe GT6 could use a search feature based on PP (I don’t want what that stands for but it’s pretty important), price, and horsepower? Anyway, that’s where I reached my limit for GT6.

Taking that experience and putting it up against the absolute mountain of content I know is in GT6 reveals just how much time I could end up spending on this game if I ever decided to devote myself to it. If I had the time and not so many other games on my plate I could possibly see myself buying GT6 and a steering wheel, or some other racing sim.

BULLETS:

  • Man. Look at the top 10 paid games on Japan’s Apple App Store. http://t.co/OAiAyuGvus Now compare that to ones in a western territory. The former is made up of considerably more premium games.
  • http://t.co/Ux2xwrBkaD
  • The guy who illustrated the Sonic 2 box art and many others has passed away.
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Why I’m Keeping My PS3 For a While Longer

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One question that invariably pops up with people start buying new consoles is whether or when you’re gonna toss your old ones. As someone with like nine old consoles in my house my general answer to that question is obvious, but between the PS3 and Xbox 360 I see the PS3 as a much more valuable console in hindsight.

In my experience most old consoles eventually get pushed back to “nostalgia status,” where you drag one of them out once every few years to play one of the top-tier classic games that have held up well to this day. For some reason I don’t expect to do that with my 360.  It’s the console I am closest to being able to toss (even though I can scarcely imagine tossing any of them). Though, that’s occurred due to a specific set of circumstances in my case.

Unlike a lot of people, the 360 didn’t become my console of choice for multiplatform games. When you take that out of the equation I think the 360’s value shrinks dramatically unless you really love Halo and Gears of War. Basically, I have about two 360 games left that I need to finish, and after that all that’s left are a couple games that hit nostalgia status. That’s compared to probably five or six nostalgia games on each of my other vintage consoles. I’m still buying games for my Super NES, but I think I’ve bought my last 360 game.

In this regard the PS3 is a pretty impressive system — I think I’ll probably be playing new content on it for at least another 12 months: Final Fantasy X/X-2, Tales of Symphonia, Kingdom Hearts 2.5, etc. I’m interested in those and other, already-released HD ports I haven’t gotten to yet… so really I’ll still be playing some PS2 games in 2014. The PS3 has also finally become the platform of choice for niche JRPG developers like GUST (Atelier, Ar Tonelico) and Namco (Tales of), and then you’ve got Drakenguard 3 next year too. And of course there’s Gran Turismo 6.

If you’re keeping either current-gen console there will still be a lot to play. I’m not just talking about cross-generation games either. Soul Calibur II HD (another port) comes out before the end of the year, and next year you’ve got Ultra Street Fighter IV. Lightning Returns Final Fantasy XIII is also 2014 in North America — probably the highest-profile current-gen-only release for early 2014, but my personal most anticipated game in that period — current-gen or next-gen, is Dark Souls II.

My PS3 backlog actually isn’t big at all, maybe two games, but there’s quite a bit on the console that I definitely find valuable enough to keep for years. I still feel the temptation to revisit Demon’s Souls, and the Uncharted games are some of the most replayable on the system if you ask me.

Now that I think about it most of my current-gen backlog is actually on PC. The PC versions of games like Just Cause 2, Saints Row, Borderlands 2, Far Cry 3, and Skyrim currently sit in my Steam library. But that’s one of the advantages of upgrading your PC: you don’t have to give up any legacy software. My Wii backlog is actually kinda shocking, but by the same token the Wii U is backwards compatible.

My previous post was about how it doesn’t look like PS4 and Xbox One games are really gonna come into their own until probably fall 2014. It looks like PS3 and Xbox 360 games aren’t gonna even begin to fade away until around that time too. What we’re currently beginning is a soft launch of new consoles — a year-long transition phase.

BULLETS:

  • The Humble Store sales continue. I think FEZ is $4 right now.
  • Man it’d be cool if developers used PS4 and Xbox One streaming to live stream upcoming games. Maybe journalists should do it too.
  • Really cool Assassin’s Creed IV screenshot: http://t.co/wdqJP2uD0e
  • Crazy Buffet 2 – SHINY by John Pading http://t.co/qElqoEzDQk
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Forgot About Puppeteer?

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As GTA V comes out and stomps all over everything, it seems the first overlooked retail game of fall 2013 is destined to be Puppeteer which came out a couple weeks ago. Even I only remembered a couple blurbs about this game from when it was announced at E3 as another game on the pile of PS3 exclusives this year. After just finishing it instead of playing GTA V, it’s actually a very good platformer with an undeniably unique presentation, even if it gets on my nerves sometimes.

The core idea behind Puppeteer is actually pretty smart — a side scrolling platformer in the form of an interactive puppet show (a little like Dynamite Heady if anyone remembers that game). From the narrator’s introduction as soon as you boot up the game through the constant real time switching of the sets to the enduring presence of the stage as a border, Puppeteer tells its story in a way that feels unusually complete.

And the execution in this area is absolutely solid. Having a cast of characters rendered as wooden puppets on a deliberately artificial background is probably what allows Puppeteer’s graphics engine to shine the way it does, even on the seven-year-old PS3. The voice acting is also good enough to live up to the rest of the presentation. I just wish Puppeteer would allow the “interactive puppet show” motif to take the spotlight more than it does.

Each section of the game usually starts off with an introduction from the narrator, followed by a cut scene (still played out like a puppet show) that can sometimes run multiple minutes before you actually start playing. Personally I could do without all those cut scenes (there’s enough dialogue and story exposition during gameplay). They’re well done but more than once I was tempted to skip them just to get on to the game. The narrator by himself already does a good enough job of story exposition here. I really was hoping a game with such uniformly brilliant presentation would let that shine through the actual game and not what could’ve been a CG movie.

Even in-game though, I was pretty annoyed by Puppeteer’s tutorials. This game has a lot of the crap that’s pushing me away from full-budget console games these days, including certain forms of hand-holding, quick-time events, and tutorials that tip-toes you through each little step of each new gameplay mechanic after you’ve probably already figured out what you’re doing. These tutorials continue through pretty much the first half of the game too.

Underneath all that though, Puppeteer is actually a very well-designed platformer. I don’t know if it’s Nintendo-tier but there is a lot of smart level design and clever, challenging use of the mechanics to be experienced here.

I said Puppeteer can be overbearing with tutorials and hand-holding at times, but overall, beyond the first couple worlds (called Acts in this game) I never felt like it was too easy. Though the game has a variety of gameplay mechanics, your main tool is a magical pair of scissors you use to cut parts of the environment both for combat and locomotion, and the game manages to keep thinking up new ways to utilize them right up to the end. The boss fights, of which there are a lot, are pretty much all well-designed too.

My only complaint with Puppeteer’s core gameplay is probably that each level is a bit too long. Each Act is split into three “curtains,” but each one can take up to a half hour, and many probably could’ve been split into two or three levels. The game encourages a bit of replay by putting hidden bonus levels and items in each level, but the task of repeating such long levels if you don’t perfect them is pretty daunting.

Still, if you’re jonesing for some good platforming, Puppeteer is probably one of the better retail games you can get all year. Plus, Sony was pretty smart to price the game at $40.

BULLETS:

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