The Stupid Gamer Podcast #57

After a week in Hawaii, it’s time to get back on the mic and kick out another show. We discuss the latest round of Project Cafe rumors, the PSN hacking, Mass Effect 3’s delay, and more. As a heads up, Brad and I are on different channels again, so if you’re not hearing one of us, put your other earphone in. Next week I’ll go back to downmixing to one track.

We also talk about the current contest on our Gamer Theory Facebook page where we’re giving away another free game. Check out the page at http://www.facebook.com/gamertheory for details.

Nintendo Wii price drop on May 15th, new bundle

On May 15th Nintendo will drop the official price of the Nintendo Wii to $150 and will be changing up the bundle a bit. Rather than receiving Wii Sports, new Wii owners will get a copy of Mario Kart and a Wii Wheel. To me that’s a better value as Wii Sports can be had for cheap and if anybody had any passing interest in it at this point, they probably already have tried it out.

For many consoles, the $150 and $99 price points are the magic triggers that cause a flurry of sales to pick up. We’ll have to see if this stirs up a new buying audience for the Wii or if saturation will continue to be an issue. The biggest problem right now is that there’s no big game out to coincide with the new price, but $150 is still a great deal for a console and a game.

If you haven’t picked up a Wii yet, it’s definitely time. Get one and get playing some of the gems in the library. Heck, Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are worth the $150 console price tag by themselves…

New Project Cafe rumors make me nervous

Recently Nintendo gave official confirmation regarding the development of their next console, which is to be unveiled at E3 2011 next month. The code name for the console at this point is Project Cafe, which will almost certainly not be the final name for the console. Ever since the first rumors hit the Internet, speculation has been running wild over what the console would bring to the table. Some sources say that it’s significantly more powerful than the 360 and PS3, others say it’s about on par. Some say it has a 6″ touch screen on the controller, others say that’s crazy talk. Either way, some rumors seem to be gaining momentum, and the newest round points to some quirky decisions being made.

According to Stephen Totilo, here are the newest batch of rumors that he’s pulled together; and he seems confident that they are indeed legitimate.

  • No internal hard drive
  • 8GB flash-based memory, possibly for game storage
  • Disc format that holds 25GB storage (possibly single-layer blu-ray)
  • Support for SD cards
  • Possibly 1080i maximum resolution
  • The console can stream to the controller screen for portable play
  • Wii Remotes definitely work with new console

I like the streaming to the screen for portable play, that sounds nice. It’s also really cool that the Wii Remotes will still work with the console, but the first few items worry me. Without a larger storage solution, downloadable content will be somewhat limited or else gamers will always be having to swap in SD cards. The disc storage might point to blu-ray, which would be nice, but it would be a real shame if they don’t support multi-layered discs. Finally, the possibility that the console won’t do 1080p would be near inexcusable. While 1080i still looks nice, there’s no reason not to support full 1080p with a console that’s aimed for a 2012 release.

It’s starting to feel like some of the earlier rumors about Nintendo putting out a powerhouse console are starting to be replaced by Nintendo putting out a console that’s going to be more in line with the 360 and PS3. While that’s a huge leap up from the Wii, it would be the same story again once the PS3 and 360 successors release and Nintendo’s console is once again a generation behind.

Graphics aren’t the issue here, either. The issue is that if Nintendo’s console can’t keep up from a hardware standpoint, the library will suffer. The fact that 3rd parties have been speaking highly of Project Cafe makes me think that Nintendo has a good idea on their hands, but I’m really hoping that it’s not going to be a generation behind again.

Starhawk for PS3 rumors circulate

Warhawk was one of the first big multiplayer games for the PS3 that had sustained success. I got into it a bit, but ultimately I was left feeling that not enough attention was given to the flight combat and I didn’t stick around for too long. With rumors swirling that Starhawk is still  in the works, I just might get that flight-heavy combat sim experience that I’ve been hoping for.

About two years ago Sony registered a trademark for a game to be named “Starhawk”, but not much came of it. Many figured that the project was either canned or it was just Sony securing the name just in case they ever chose to act upon it. Well, Joystiq is now reporting that Lightbox Interactive is working on Starhawk and that we could get an official announcement as early as mid-May with obviously a follow up announcement coming at E3.

While I’d still love to see a full on addition to the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series from LucasArts, I do have faith that the ex-Incog guys over at Lightbox Interactive can put out a great sci-fi flight combat game. Going into the next few weeks, this is one rumor I’ll be keeping a close eye on.

The Stupid Gamer on Vacation

I’m out of town for the next week, so updates aren’t going to be likely. I should have an Internet connection, however, so I may squeak out a post or two. There won’t be a podcast this week, however. It should be a nice few days to get some relaxation time in and get caught up on my handheld gaming backlog while in the air and in the evenings.

What Nintendo needs to do with their next console

Speculation is wild regarding the next Nintendo console, which as confirmed to be an HD console. For some fans, simply having a Wii that’s capable of 1080 resolutions. For most, however, Nintendo is in need of some reparations in order to get the hardcore to embrace their next offering. I’ve done some digging around into the rumors, have touched base with some developers I know and some PR people and they seem to think Nintendo is sincere in their desire to regain popularity with hardcore gamers and it’s not just lip service to ensure a strong launch support. So what does Nintendo do to get back in the good graces of the hardcore audience?

Better Online Support

One of the most important areas in which Nintendo needs to improve is in their online offerings. The Wii is online-enabled, but it’s pretty horrible overall in regards to the experience you get with online play. Nintendo needs to make friends list management easier, communication a focal point in gameplay, and a better solution for downloading games, content, and updates/fixes. To accomplish this, Nintendo is going to have to back off of their nanny tendencies and trust in parental supervision a bit more. It’s unlike Nintendo to open up the gates to wider communication via their platforms, but the time is now if they want to seriously contend in the online realm.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, Nintendo, make the Virtual Console service better!

A Standard Control Scheme out of the Box

Using a Classic Controller or a GameCube controller is a decent way to play games in a more standard manner on the Wii, but since neither controller came with the console, the inclusion of standard control schemes in games was an option that was typically an afterthought for many developers. With rumors swirling of a screen embedded into the controller, it’s nice to hear just as many rumors saying that the controller has a dual analog setup. How’s this for crazy? Nintendo has NEVER had a console with a dual analog controller unless it was an optional accessory. It’s time to get on the dual analog train, Nintendo.

Standard Media

While just about everybody has more DVD players than TV sets these days, it can’t hurt for Nintendo to finally support a common disc format that allows the system to play media other than video games. A blu-ray player would be nice, but if they don’t opt for blu-ray, DVD has to be the choice, despite its limited storage capacity. Swapping discs from time to time is preferable to an oddball format that doesn’t allow for any other uses.

Actual 3rd Party Support!

Nintendo has always raked in huge profits thanks to their high selling 1st party games, but no console in history has ever won the console war on the strength of their 1st party library alone. It’s time that Nintendo opens its doors more widely to 3rd parties and provides them with better tools, licensing agreements, and does a better job promoting 3rd party offerings. Many times Microsoft or Sony will help 3rd parties advertise their games and it always helps push more units through the sales channel. Nintendo needs to do the same.

Bring Back Core Titles Development

Miis are everywhere these days, and when used properly they’re great. However, aside from a handful of Zelda and Metroid titles, Nintendo has been far too casual with their offerings to appease the hardcore crowd. Not since Perfect Dark has Nintendo had a strong FPS offering (no, Geist doesn’t count) come from one of their own studios. That’s far too long. Keep up with the Marios and Zeldas, but explore some deeper content as well. While 3rd parties could carry the majority of this burden, it’s the 1st parties that generally need to provide the exclusives.

Make the Gimmicks Count and Support Them

Nintendo loves to engage in quirky behavior with their hardware. Sometimes the quirks turn into significant contributions to the industry (trigger buttons, rumble, d-pad, etc.), and other times those quirks fizzle and are left in the past (bongos, GBA link, Wii Speak, etc.) to fill closet space. While I don’t want Nintendo to stop pushing out their quirky accessories, they need to do a better job at supporting them once they’re out. The Wii Balance Board had some potential that was definitely left untapped. It’s fine to experiment, but don’t leave the buyers out in the cold once they gamble on new concepts.

It’s a long list of things that Nintendo needs to do, but I think that’s pretty indicative of where they stand with the hardcore crowd. Nostalgia always propels Nintendo’s efforts with the older crowd, but that effect seems to be losing its potency as each year goes by. If Nintendo is truly serious about becoming a mainstay in the hardcore gaming circles again, they better come to the next generation with a new attitude and a broader vision. We’ll find out more at E3 2011 this June.

Report: Nintendo to unveil a new HD console at E3

Game Informer is reporting that several sources have confirmed that Nintendo will be announcing and unveiling a new HD console at E3 this year. In an article posted on their website, Game Informer pieces together some quotes from people who have seen the console and they also report that developers are already being brought into the loop. It sounds of Nintendo is going to make this one very developer friendly and is going to be finally joining the ranks of the HD gaming movement.

Nothing has been said in regards to whether or not the console will have motion controls, but one anonymous source did say, “Nintendo is doing this one right. [It’s] not a gimmick like the Wii.” While I hope that doesn’t spell doom for motion controls, I do hope that it means that a more standard control scheme will be optional for developers and gamers to use if they wish to do so.

Check out the full story at Game Informer: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2011/04/14/new-nintendo-console-at-e3.aspx

Update: More sources are reporting, and now it looks as if there will be an announcement this month. Also, IGN is saying that the new console will indeed be backwards compatible with Wii software. Some sources are saying it surpasses the 360 and Ps3 in power, others are saying it’s just shy of the Xbox 360. We’ll wait for official specs to call that one.

Review: Steel Diver

Steel Diver has been kicking around at Nintendo for quite some time. The first time I played this game, it was a tech demo for the original DS at E3 back in 2004. It didn’t look quite as nice, and it wasn’t as refined, obviously, but the game was there in a very limited form. After the better part of a decade, Nintendo decided to dust the project off and give it a development team and a slot in the Nintendo 3DS launch lineup.

Much like Yoshi Touch & Go for the DS, Steel Diver feels sort of like an introductory title for the 3DS. The game ignores depth in favor of accessibility and simplicity, while attempting to provide some quick thrills that revolves around gameplay that begs for mastery. The missions in the game are fairly simple: get from point A to point B as quickly as possibly and either avoid or take out as many enemies as possible as you go. You’re scored based on how quickly you can pass the mission, how little damage you can take, and how much damage you deal out along the way. Until you really know the levels well, you’ll often have to choose between speed and battle efficiency.

Mixed in with the missions, and also available as its own mode, you engage in periscope battles. This mode uses the  gyroscope in the 3DS and you hold the handheld out in front of you, and rotate around to locate ships on the horizon. The goal is obviously to take down the destroyers quickly and before they can sink you. It’s neat, it’s novel, but it does limit where you can play the game. Trying to take down ships with the periscope is near impossible on an airplane or bus.

The level design is pretty good. Steel Diver does a good job throwing tight passages, mines, enemy destroyers and subs, and obstacles at you while you’re trying to hurry through the stages. It takes lots of tweaking of the knobs and dials on the touch screen to keep your sub going in the direction you want and firing at the right angles during combat. Again, like Yoshi Touch & Go, the real challenge is replaying missions to improve upon scores.

A mode not often talked about is the Steel Commander mode, where you play a tactical game with destroyers and subs. Moving around on a grid, you need to position yourself to be able to destroy your enemy’s supply ships while protecting your own. You can attack and hide at different depths, making for a fun cat and mouse type of experience. With different maps to play on, this mode is seriously a great time sink if you have a friend with their own 3DS to play against.

The visuals and sounds found in Steel Diver are fairly basic, especially when compared to other 3DS games, but they look nice and sound clean overall. The 3D effect is layered well it provides one of the more comfortable launch games to play with the 3D effect cranked up to full. It would have been nice to see just a few more passes of graphical polish or some additional effects added in, especially given that there’s not really a ton going on at any given time on the screen.

Steel Diver is going to be a divisive title. If you don’t mind replaying the same missions for better scores, and if you have a friend that will play the Steel Commander mode with you, Steel Diver is an appealing title. For the types of people that generally pass a mission, move on, and don’t care to chase high scores, Steel Diver will provide a pretty short experience and will probably seem fairly shallow. I fall in with the former group, but unfortunately many might fall into the latter. I’d still recommend the game, but with some reservations due to its length and simplicity.

Overall Score: 3 out of 5


Review: Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition

When the 3DS was first picking up steam based on the strength of the first batch of games announced for it, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition (SSFIV 3D) was one of those title that really got me most excited. As the release date for the 3DS neared, I kept my eye on SSFIV 3D and quietly hoped that it would be as good as it looked like it was shaping up to be. After many hours making my way through the various modes of the game, I can safely say that Super Street Fighter IV: 3d Edition is definitely living up to the hype.

While Capcom crammed enough modes into the game to make use of pretty much every feature the 3DS hardware offers (aside from the cameras), the real core of the game plays out in the Arcade and Versus modes. Playing through the Arcade mode has you fighting your way through the single player experience as you work up to a final match with the game’s final boss. The game’s story mode plays out differently for each character and certain unlocks are tied to completing Arcade mode with different characters, so there’s lots of good reasons to come back and play through the mode multiple times.

Super Street Fighter 4 3DS

With the Versus mode you can play either locally or online. Online play works quite well and it actually has provided a smoother experience than I’ve had with my Xbox 360. Pretty impressive for a handheld, especially for the game’s first online-enabled game. Getting into fights online is a quick enough process and after each match you can choose to rematch your opponent or head off to find someone else to spar with. SSFIV 3D doesn’t sport the most robust of feature sets for online play, but it’s simple and easy to use, which is perfect for the handheld experience. This mode will keep the game relevant for years to come.

Other modes in the game include Training and Mission modes where you can learn to become a better player and how to better master each character. There’s also support for the 3DS Street Pass functionality where your team of assembled fighters will do battle with the team of anybody you cross paths with while your 3DS is in sleep mode. Again, it’s a simple thing, but it encourages you to keep mindful of the game and it adds value to an already great package.

Coming from consoles to the handheld environment, the game wasn’t scaled back too much. Some background animations and details were pared down, as well as some of the overall polygon counts on the fighters, but it’s still a beautiful game. The controls are obviously a little more compact, but the 3DS is comfortable to use even for longer play sessions.

Super Street Fighter 4 3DS

As cliche as it sounds to say, fighting genre fans are really going to want to pick this one up along with their 3DS purchase. While it is a version of a game that’s been out for a while, the game really doesn’t lose much in the translation from console to handheld. Unless you own an arcade stick, the 3DS button layout really isn’t even much of a compromise in regards to controls.

When it comes down to it, there’s not much to nitpick about with SSFIV 3D. It’s easily the best handheld Street Fighter title out there, and quite possibly the best handheld fighting game I’ve ever seen. For me, Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition is not only the best game available in the 3DS launch lineup, it’s one of the better games released in 2011 so far. I recommend this game without reservation.

Overall Score: 5 out 5