Pokemon is popular

In its first two days on store shelves in Japan, Pokemon Black and White sold over 2.63 million copies. In comparison with the last Pokemon installment, Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver, Black and White did much better as those titles managed to sell “only” 1.4 million copies in their first two days and 3.38 million overall (Japan numbers only). Black and White seem to be ushering in more new aspects of gameplay into the Pokemon series than we’ve seen for a while, and it looks like Nintendo’s decision to mix things up a bit is really paying off.

What the DS 2 might be like

There’s a lot of speculation going around about Nintendo’s follow up to the Nintendo DS. While I’m kind of thinking we won’t see anything this year in regards to a hardware release, it’s about time that Nintendo starts getting people filled in on what we can expect from their next handheld. Below are some of the rumors surrounding the handheld:

  • Will have dual screens again (obviously)
  • Will carry over compatibility with current DS lineup
  • Will have a capacitive touchscreen
  • Touch screen will support multi touch
  • Nvidia’s Tegra 2 chip or a custom variant of it is rumored to be part of the hardware
  • Will have a built in tilt sensor
  • Analog control present in some form

Now, all of these are rumors, some of them more solid than others, but let’s think about what sort of device these rumors would add up to. From a power standpoint, the DS would be a huge leap forward. The graphical prowess of the machine would put it noticeably ahead of the PSP, but it would still run efficiently in regards to power consumption, so this seems like something Nintendo would be open to. Here’s a demo of what the Tegra 2 chip is capable of.

The multi touch and tilt support would allow the game library to just explode, because iPhone/iPad developers could port their projects up to the DS 2 platform. All of a sudden the emergence of the iPhone gaming market benefits Nintendo in a roundabout way. Developers like PopCap and ngmoco would jump at the chance to dramatically increase the sales of their games with minimal effort assuming Nintendo opens up the DSi Ware release scheduling. The dual screens mean that many of the simple games would still remain DS exclusive, however.

The analog control input is one of the more loose rumors at this point, but if Nintendo can pull it off (especially if they integrate dual analog), this handheld will have the potential to lock in pretty much every type of gamer to the platform. FPS games are almost always the weakest genre on handhelds in comparison to how they perform on consoles. Getting true analog controls would go a very long way toward closing that gap and would eliminate the need to have one screen continually obscured for making use of the touch screen for aiming.

To me, none of these rumors seem too wild to believe, although Nintendo has a knack for surprising people who had prior expectations. We’ll most likely get the answers we want at GDC, but until then speculation is all we have. I for one am quite excited to see if this all pans out, especially the Tegra 2 rumor.

January in Review

January gave us a chance to play through all the goodies we picked up during the holiday rush or to catch up on backlog titles that have been waiting a long time to get some play in our rotation. Here are the games I completed in January, most of which were for the first time, others just for nostalgic reasons.

Bayonetta (Xbox 360) – This was a game I reviewed for Kombo and one I was beyond excited to get my hands on after getting a few short minutes with it back at E3 last year. The game turned out to be what I was hoping to be and I had an absolute blast with it from start to finish. With fluid controls, an excellent combat/combo system, and a wacky presentation, Bayonetta will more than likely be in my top games of 2010.

Assassin’s Creed (Xbox 360) – Yeah, it took me until early 2010 to finally finish Assassin’s Creed. Like many I became a bit fatigued by the repetitive nature of the missions, so when other releases started coming out that interested me I set the game aside. With the release of Assassin’s Creed 2, I needed to go back and wrap this one up for storyline continuity sake. In the end I enjoyed the game, but I’ll always be quick to point out that it has its fair share of issues.

Duck Tales (NES) – One of my favorite games ever made (look for an upcoming Best Game Ever feature on this), I will come back to this one for a few speed runs or high score challenges. Never do I put this game into my NES and feel like I’m only enjoying it for the nostalgia effect. This game is a timeless winner from Capcom and Disney.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) – Simply a fantastic game that deserved the many awards it picked up in all the game of the year voting for 2009. The action, story, presentation, and overall experience all combine to make Uncharted 2 a must play for all PS3 owners. The behind the scenes content on the disc is pretty fun to watch as well (you can also find the videos on YouTube).

Castlevania (NES) – Another game I commonly go back to for a quick play, Castlevania is a challenging title that tests my ability to stay sharp when it comes to retro gaming. Much like Ninja Gaiden on the  NES, these old action games really keep the enemies coming nonstop and have very basic but solid level designs. This is definitely not the last time I’ll be playing through Castlevania.

King’s Quest VI (PC) – Ah, the Sierra On-Line classic. I was a big fan of the King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, and Police Quest games and I tend to play through one or two of them every couple of months. They’re great to have on your laptop to play on the go or to casually experience while watching TV. King’s Quest VI was probably my favorite in the KQ series, though they’re all pretty fantastic if you don’t recognize King’s Quest VIII (it NEVER happened).

So here’s what I’m working on in February so far, and I’m hoping to get to Dragon Age: Origins, BioShock 2, and Mass Effect (yeah, the first one) by the end of the month.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (Xbox 360) – Wow, what an improvement over the first iteration in the series. I put this disc in almost immediately after finishing the first game and right away I could tell they had upgraded the graphical engine. The first game looked nice, this one looks fantastic. The free running feels more accurate and the mission variety is way better. More importantly, the game really does a great job at urging you to explore the landscape, but there are also plenty of helps to make it an easy going experience rather than a frustrating one.

Retro Game Challenge (DS) – A funky little game that came out a few months ago, this is one I’m glad I didn’t pass on. It’s hard to explain this one in a few words, but basically you’re playing retro style games to meet specific challenges laid out for you such as a high score to beat or to achieve a number of kills in a certain manner or time period. The game has tons of nods to classic games, magazines, and industry professionals. It’s just a great package overall.

Star Control II (PC) – I come back to this game a lot. A lot.

My top ten games of E3 2009

I published my top ten games of E3 2009 over at Kombo, but I figured I’d share them here with a little bit more info on each one. They are presented in no particular order, except for my game of the show (which is obviously number 1). Here we go.

  • Metroid: Other M – When Nintendo rolled the trailer for this I was pretty surprised. Before the conference I had Tweeted that I expected a New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and I had been telling friends that I also expected a new Metroid, but Other M still managed to surprise me with how it looked and with the fact that it’s co-developed by Team Ninja. I really can’t wait to see how this plays out.
  • Modern Warfare 2 – I feel that Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is the best console FPS of all time, so it’s only natural that I’d be hyped up for the sequel. I thought that the game looked great at the show, and I’m very interested in seeing more as the game gets nearer to release.
  • Heavy Rain - While there are still a lot of questions surrounding this game, there’s no denying that it looks fantastic. I’m hoping that due to all the branching storyline paths that this game will be very replayable.
  • The Beatles: Rock Band - When it was first announced I figured that this was basically Rock Band with a Beatles skin, but after having played the game at E3 and watching it for a while, I’ve come to see that it is indeed a new experience. With support for thee-part harmonies and some gorgeous art, this looks like it’s going to be well worth the price of entry.
  • Uncharted 2 - Few games at E3 so thoroughly wowed the audience as Uncharted 2 managed to do. The game looks absolutely stunning and it seems to have received a significant gameplay and AI upgrade. The first Uncharted was awesome, so there’s no doubt in my mind that this one deserves a big old hype train.
  • God of War III - The God of War series is really, really, good. If you’re not a Sony guy, it’s possible that you’ve passed on this series, and that’s tood bad. God of War III looked amazing at E3, and the demo was a blast to play. Somehow they manage to take the action and carnage to a higher level with each release, and God of War III is no exception.
  • Sin and Punishment 2 - Seeing this playable on the show floor was a little surprising, as the game is not due out until 2010. After playing through it a few times it was safe to say that Sin and Punishment 2 was one of my favorite demos at the show. The game controlled well, had nice flow, and was full of that classic Treasure style. The game should be a big hit with fans of the original, myself included.
  • Alan Wake - Of all the games that Microsoft had to show at their conference, I fell that Alan Wake was the most impressive. The game has been a long time coming, but it’s looking like it’s been well worth the wait. As expected, the game looked incredible. It differentiated itself well from Heavy Rain and proved to be the more action-orientated title between the two.
  • New Super Mario Bros. - I called it! Heh, this game was a blast to play on the show floor in a 4-player setting, but I’m quite sure that the single player experience will be great fun too. It’s hard not to get excited about a new and playable Mario game at E3.
  • Scribblenauts - In the end, my game of the show was Scribblenauts for the DS. Here’s a direct quote from my writeup at Kombo on the game: In a year when all three major consoles really came out and had excellent showings, it took me by surprise that I ended up singling out a handheld title for my top pick of E3. Handled correctly, Scribblenauts could be the next runaway sensation on the DS. The game’s approach to problem solving is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and it should keep all types of gamers interested in seeing just how many different ways they can manage to meet their goal. Each time I walked away from the demo station it was all I could do not to turn right back and try one more thing out on the game.

Honorable Mentions

The games listed here are pretty much as good as the top ten, but they either didn’t have the same surprising impact behind them, maybe they weren’t playable, or maybe they just ended up here because I could only pick ten games and I sadly had to relegate a few to the outer edges. Here are the other games I was big on at E3 2009.

  • Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • Mass Effect 2
  • Wii Sports Resort
  • Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
  • Splinter Cell: Conviction
  • Battlefield: Bad Company 2
  • Brutal Legend
  • FIFA 10
  • Left 4 Dead 2
  • Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
  • Borderlands
  • Mafia II
  • Shadow Complex
  • A Boy and His Blob
  • Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story
  • Assassin’s Creed 2
  • The Last Guardian

E3 link dump, photo slideshow, and general awesomeness

Below you’ll find a slideshow of some of the pics I took at E3. I might be adding more as time goes on, so if you care, check back and watch the slide show again to see anything new. After that, I have links to some of my hands-on articles that I wrote for Kombo.com. I’m still going to do that E3 wrapup podcast and will also reveal my top picks for the show soon. I imagine your hype for said things must be through the roof. You can view a full screen version of the photo slideshow by hitting that little button with the four arrows on the bottom of the image window.

Links to hands-on articles (I will be adding to this as more stories go live):

E3 2009: Battlefield: Bad Company 2 Multiplayer
E3 2009: Mafia II Impressions
E3 2009: A Boy and His Blob
E3 2009: New Super Mario Bros.
E3 2009: The Beatles: Rock Band
E3 2009: Sin and Punishment 2
E3 2009: The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks
E3 2009: Ratchet and Clank Future: A Crack in Time
E3 2009: Real Heroes: Firefighter

New Madden 10 details have me unsure

Joystiq has some new details on Madden 10, straight from EA Tiburon themselves. Below is a quote from their article, and there’s a video you can view over at the site as well (link at the end of the post):

One of the biggest improvements to the game is the Pro-Tak feature, which provides more dynamic tackling on the defense, better evasion maneuvers for the Quarterback, and allows players to fight for fumbles at the bottom of the pile. Defenders can even gang up on an offensive player, allowing up to 9-man gang tackles. 

There will also be a new way for you to decrease the length of a game through the Madden NFL Your Way feature. This is a customizable version of the game that will support a new, revamped play calling system, along with faster clocks, and streamlined presentation.

New features are good and all, but upping the cheese factor of quarterbacks sounds dangerous to me. If anything, quarterbacks need to go down easier in NFL games, because too many people abuse the rollout plays with mobile quarterbacks. Besides, it’s not like I’m going to running anywhere with Pennington no matter how many jukes they give him. I hope that fumble fighting deal is super transparent as well. I don’t want to see issues where like six players from one team jump on a fumble only to have the opposing team’s kicker hop on top of the pile only to emerge with the ball. I never realized that there were issues with the fumble recovery system, but whatever.

I really hope that EA Sports isn’t going to sweat out the stuff that nobody really ever has cared about. I’d be very happy if we just got a fun to play game that isn’t plagued by glaring issues in the  passing or running games. But wait, if our fumble scrums are accurate I guess it would be all dandy, right?!

Source: http://www.joystiq.com/2009/04/29/madden-nfl-10-to-feature-new-pro-tak-mode-faster-ways-to-play/

DSi sells over 435,000 in the US in one week

The opening week sales for the DSi in the United States were strong, according to Nintendo. The numbers released by Nintendo point to the DSi selling nearly half a million units in its first day on the shelves. It would be surprising if the handheld could push 1 million units in its first month, but it’s already looking like the DSi is popular with early adopters. We’ll discuss the DSi, it’s early sales figures, and its new features on this week’s episode of The Stupid Gamer Podcast, so try and find a way to contain your excitement.

Hey Sony, your insecurity is showing…

In response to the release of the DSi, Sony’s PR wonder (or is that blunder?) team sent out releases to a variety of gaming outlets that attempted to sway journalists to see the DSi in a particular light. Here is how the release reads:

If Nintendo is really committed to reaching a broader, more diverse audience of gamers beyond the “kids” market that they’ve always engaged, there isn’t much new with the DSi to support that. Significant gamer demographic groups are being ignored, and there continues to be limited opportunities for games from external publishers to do well on the DSi. Compare that with the PSP platform, where we have many blockbuster franchises from our publishing partners launching this year, representing a wide variety of genres and targeting diverse demographics. Games such as Rock Band Unplugged from MTV Games, Assassin’s Creed from Ubisoft, Dissidia Final Fantasy from Square Enix, and Hannah Montana from Disney demonstrate the commitment that publishers have to the PSP. From our own first-party studios, we’re launching unique versions of LittleBigPlanet and MotorStorm, and we’re also planning a steady stream of downloadable games — both new titles and PSone classics — to add to the content that PSP owners can already purchase wirelessly through PlayStation Store.

There’s a lot of things wrong with what Sony has said there, but the act itself is more concerning than the actual message. Why send this out to journalists? Is it going to be received in any other manner than just outright mockery? Is anybody actually going to create their own stories supporting this sort of nonsense? Well, if you’re not a Sony dedicated fan site, then the answer is no. The DS is by far recognized as much more of a hardcore platform than the PSP, and that’s not something that Sony can change with a silly little press release. To their dismay, it’s also known as a far better platform for mainstream releases. It’s a shame, because I really try and like my PSP, but honestly I pull it out and play it once every 6 months for maybe an hour or two. There are good games on the PSP, but they are buried under generic and watered down console ports or remakes. The PSP has no unique flavor to its library, and until it gets one, software sales are going to continue to be terrible.

I think it’s time that Sony makes an appointment with a shrink or two, they’ve clearly got a severe inferiority complex that they’re dealing with right now. I guess this can happen when for the first time ever you find yourself behind in all aspects of the gaming hardware and software wars.

Someone at Gamestop.com is a comedian

The item description for Chrono Trigger DS at Gamestop.com is rather odd. Rather than giving a description on the game, it makes a direct Napolean Dynamite reference, and then it ends there. I’m thinking that either someone is tired of their job and wants to go out with a bang, or this was a placeholder description that was accidentally put live. I doubt that they’re trying to sell the game with the current description. Below is a pic grabbed from the site in case they change it.