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June 2010

E3 2010: Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions Preview At Kombo

Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions

Activision and Beenox are bringing Spider-Man back for another adventure, but why settle for one wall crawler when you can have four?  The upcoming Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions brings four Spider-Men to the party, each existing in a different visually distinct universe.  Activision is demoing three of the Sony PlayStation 3 / Microsoft Xbox 360 version's dimensions in their private E3 meeting room, and I had the opportunity to see it it all in action.  My thoughts on watching one of the developers play through carefully selected portions of the adventure is now available at Kombo.

Our eyes-only demo started with a brief tour of Spider-Man Noir's world. The Noir take on your friendly neighborhood hero involves lengthy stealth sections with an emphasis on direct combat only when fireworks or other light sources illuminate his hiding places. Norman Osborn holds court here in a dark carnival of the soul, and while the Noir world has a generally slower pace compared to its counterparts, it does offer a stylistically dark and brooding environment in which to play.

Since the Noir dimension had been seen by the press already, we were quickly whisked away to the Amazing dimension which is the more conventional and familiar version of Spider-Man that fans of the Tobey Maguire films may recognize. His red-and-blue costume and trademark wit are in full force against Kraven the Hunter. We were treated to a boss encounter that involved dodging flying pillar debris for a moment before being shifted into the future for the truly new material from the game to debut at E3.

I prefer classic Amazing Spider-Man, but the futuristic 2099 Spider-Man has a heavy Batman Beyond vibe that I find intriguing. 2099 has fantastic art design, and of all that I saw of Shattered Dimensions, it's the universe that I really want to explore just to look around and gawk at the neon lights.

E3 2010: Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Hands-On Impressions At Kombo

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective Capcom has a new lighthearted Heavy Rain-type of adventure for the Nintendo DS and it's only display at E3's West Hall.  Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective casts players as a dead soul that must possess objects in order to solve puzzles and crack the mystery of how he ended up dead in the first place.  My hands-on impressions have been published at Kombo, plus I had a few minutes to ask the game's director and producer a few questions.

The central gimmick behind Ghost Trick involves possessing nearby objects in order to influence their movements. As a wandering soul, the protagonist Sissel can, for instance, possess a bicycle in order to roll it forward or take control of a fold-up bed in order to unfold it. While these sound like mundane tasks, these are the only ways to influence the world at large. That rolling bike can bump into the aforementioned gunmen, for instance. Moreover, it's possible to possess dead bodies in order to travel back in time four minutes in order to prevent the death of the body that has been possessed. In a final Ghost Dad-type maneuver, the protagonist can even travel over telephone lines in order to rapidly get from place to place. The central theme behind Ghost Trick is manipulation in its many forms.

This is a little embarrassing to admit, but I didn't know that I was intended to interview anyone regarding this game.  There was an apparent miscommunication between Capcom and Kombo, so imagine my surprise when I'm introduced to two busy and talented developers that do not speak English, whereas I do not speak Japanese.  I knew nothing about their game.  Working through a translator, I was able to figure out enough about the concept after a few minutes to start asking insightful and informed questions, so in the end I think the encounter was a success.  I prefer to be prepared for these sort of things, but it's nice to know that I can spin questions off the top of my head and still learn some interesting information.

E3 2010: Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 Hands-On Impressions At Kombo

Nathan Spencer

Who's ready for Nathan Spencer's new bionic adventure?  Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 is coming for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360, and I had the chance to play it in its early state in E3's West Hall this afternoon during my appointment at Capcom's booth.  Read my hands-on impressions over at Kombo, and be sure to check out Spencer's new look.  Dig that mustache!  Oh yeah!

E3 2010: Nintendo 3DS Hands-On Impressions At Kombo

Nintendo 3DS Nintendo finally revealed its new 3DS handheld system to the world this morning at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles as part of the E3 festivities, and I was fortunate enough to get my hands and eyes on a demo unit right after the company's annual E3 Media Briefing concluded.  The demo consisted of a rolling video of the company's most popular characters presented in glorious glasses-free 3D.  You can read my impressions on the experience over at Kombo as part of our ongoing E3 coverage.  Here's a taste:

Imagery from Pikmin, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Galaxy 2, New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Metroid: Other M, and other familiar titles rolled through automatically over about a twenty-second period. There were no actual playable elements, but I could use the unit's analog slider to tilt the scenes on display on the 3DS's upper screen. I have never seen this kind of 3D done before. It was as if I was looking to a shadowbox diorama with significant depth and clarity and tilting the view around a central point. The field of view was limited to several degrees off-axis, but the effect rang through loud and clear. The visuals were especially sharp and vibrant and appeared to be using character models from the late GameCube and current Wii eras, although whether or not these images will be the norm in final gameplay remains to be seen. The 3D slider was also functional, and I was able to turn the 3D effect on and off at my discretion. I kept it maxed out for the majority of the demo, of course. After all, who wouldn't?

Based on what I saw this morning for a few seconds, believe me when I say that this is going to change everything in the world of handheld gaming.  The 3DS has to be seen to be fully experienced, and while a release date or price were not announced at the briefing, I have a feeling that Nintendo could charge just about whatever they wanted for this and still make a fortune. 

E3 2010: Nintendo Rumors Heating Up

Donkey Kong and Diddy KongNintendo's big annual E3 Media Briefing isn't until tomorrow, but the rumors are already flying.  Today I bring you a good news rumor and a bad news rumor.  Let's start with the good.  Talk is that Retro Studios (you may remember them from such games as Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption) have been at work revamping Nintendo's famed Donkey Kong franchise.  No advance buzz on genre or storyline or anything useful just yet.  While I doubt that we're looking at a Donkey Kong first-person shooter here, my hopes involve a third-person action platformer of some sort more in line with the classic Donkey Kong Country series instead of more Jungle Beat or Barrel Blast types of titles.

Now, on to the bad news rumor.  I have no link to back this one up, but it's part of the cross-chatter I'm hearing out on the street (because if there's one place to go for video game rumors, it's the streets of downtown Los Angeles).  The big launch title for Nintendo's 3DS is alleged to be, of all things, Animal Crossing.  While I expected another installment of that eventually, why would it be the first big title out of the gate?  Here's hoping that if this is true, it's just one of the Nintendo franchises prepping for launch.  I'd expect something more traditionally action-based in addition to a new brain trainer or other casual fare.  Of course, maybe this rumor is centered around one's own perspective.  If the 3D effect in a new Animal Crossing involves triumphantly holding up a caught fish, there are complaints.  If a 3D Legend of Zelda turned up with Link triumphantly holding up a caught fish, I'm sure most of us would be more open to it.  Same gameplay gimmick, different properties, wildly different reactions.  Curious, isn't it?

E3 2010: Microsoft Kinect Event Baffles Press

Kinect event Microsoft revealed the completed Project Natal yesterday evening at a pre-E3 event in Los Angeles, with the motion camera add-on for the Xbox 360 reborn as Kinect.  What really had people talking, however, was the doomsday cult that Microsoft created for the occasion, as everyone in the behind-closed-doors NDA'ed audience had to wear special light-up ponchos.  Perhaps this is why the event was NDA'ed.  Here's Kombo's own Joey Davidson and Ken Cauley giving a first-hand account.  I'm one of the guys sitting on the sidelines listening to their bewilderment.

OK, so our guys weren't impressed with the ambiance.  What did the rest of the industry think?  Here's a sample from the world of Twitter via Kombo:

Continue reading "E3 2010: Microsoft Kinect Event Baffles Press" »

E3 2010 Is Coming!

E3 E3 2010 is just days away.  Can you feel the excitement brewing in the air?  I'll be in Los Angeles again this year to cover the show with my great team from, and as always I'll also be posting new material here on PTB.  Watch for the usual photo album updates, plus this year we have an episode or two of Power Button planned and I'll be tweeting short bursts of impressed thought as the mood strikes me.  I have appointments scheduled with Capcom, Activision, Namco THQ, NIS, Warner Bros., Paramount, and more as well as confirmed slots at the Nintendo and Konami press conferences, so as you can imagine, it'll be a busy week!  Going to E3 and covering the show has become the highlight of my year, and hopefully this time will be no exception.  See you on the west coast!

Can Super Mario 64 Be Topped?

Mario The action platformer genre has come a long way since 1996's Super Mario 64, but some still hold it up as the best example of 3D gaming (the "old" 3D gaming with three dimensions of movement, not the new-fangled 3D that requires expensive televisions and special glasses).  Can Mario's big Nintendo 64 adventure ever hope to be topped?  That is the question put forth to new gaming blog Gaming Succubus, and since one of the two succubi that run the place isn't much of a platformer fan, she deferred to me to figure this one out.  Here's what I had to say on the matter:

Super Mario 64 can definitely be topped because it just happened. Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes the Mario franchise to new heights that Super Mario Sunshine and the original Galaxy flirted with. 64 set the standard for 3D platformers with its intriguing level design and ease of control, but Sunshine attempted to graft a new gameplay gimmick where, in hindsight, it didn’t really belong with the FLUDD waterpack. Galaxy redefined the 3D Mario gameplay paradigm and is an amazing game, and it would be the holder of the title of Best 3D Super Mario Game Of All Time had Galaxy 2 not surpassed it with refined level design and clearer objectives. So, yes, Super Mario 64 has been topped.

The rest of this edition of "Ask The Succubi" covers The Legend of Zelda, while the comments section of the article spills into Castlevania.  I did not contribute to that part, but you really should still read it anyway.