BIT.TRIP BEAT is retro awesomeness

This week’s release for Nintendo’s WiiWare is BIT.TRIP BEAT. The game is kind of like what you’d get if you had seen a game like Amplitude or Frequency done on the Atari 2600. The game supports up to four players, has a killer 8-bit soundtrack, and features some devilishly addictive gameplay. Check out the video below for a peek into the game.

If this is the sort of stuff that we continue to see on WiiWare, I may have to up my budget on Nintendo’s downloadable offerings. Stuff like this, Lost Winds, and World of Goo are just fantastic uses of the platform.

Publishers urging Sony to drop PS3 price

In a recent article over at Bloomberg, several publishers were quoted while giving their thoughts of the PS3 price point, the Wii’s development atmosphere, and what their plans are going forward. Many developers and publishers are hoping that a PS3 price drop can give PS3 sales a lift, which would have a ripple effect on game sales. It’s no secret that the 360 and Wii have been dominant in software sales, with the PS3 lagging pretty far behind. A lot of this is due to the PS3 pricing structure, as many gamers are still within the mindset that the PS3 is just too expensive to pick up at this point.

I think there’s more to the issue than just a simple price point. The 360 got out of the gates early and got their fan base hooked on silly little things like Achievements. I’m not saying that Achievements are bad, but these little buggers are basically causing multiplatform owners to shun PS3 releases if the game is also available on the 360. I hear it all the time: “I’m going to get the 360 version, as I want the Achievement points.” Sony’s answer with the trophy system wasn’t quite enough, and it’s come far too late in the game. Maybe a price drop would help, but it seems like Microsoft has won over the loyalty of their console owners in the multiplatform arena.

The Wii is a different challenge altogether for the PS3. Publishers are now saying that they’ll be forced to cut PS3 budgets to give a bit more attention to the Wii, simply because they get better results on Nintendo’s platform for a cheaper investment. The article stated that Activision generated 32% of their revenue from the Wii last year, compared to 19% from the PS3. Those numbers are telling, but what is the bigger issue is how much money was devoted to the Wii versus the PS3. A typical Wii project is going to cost 1/3 (or less) than what it costs to put out something on the PS3 or 360, so the return on investment is essentially 2-3 times higher. It’s not favoritism for publishers like Activision to shift assets to the Wii from PS3, it’s good business.

I personally hope that the PS3 can rally a bit and catch up to the 360 and Wii over time. I feel that a healthy Sony is good for the gaming industry, and it will continue to force Microsoft and Nintendo to innovate while still keeping their prices down. Should Sony continue to struggle and fade, it’s really not going to be a good thing for anybody; Sony haters included.

The original article can be found at Bloomberg, here: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aHTaK6Q9IUFo

A Boy and His Blob for the Wii looks outstanding

Now this is what developers need to do. We all know that the Wii is no graphical powerhouse, so developers should be focusing on style and art direction rather than pushing polygons and trying to run with the big boys. Take a look at these screens, and tell me this isn’t one of the most appealing games from a graphical standpoint in the Wii release lineup.

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Pretty awesome, huh?

Punch-Out!! hits the Wii on May 18th

Ever since the first videos were shown, Punch-Out!! for the Wii has been my most anticipated title coming from Nintendo. The original Punch-Out!! for the arcade and NES still holds up well today, which is pretty rare for a game from that era. Well, come May 18th of this year, gamers will be getting the next installment in the seires, the first sequel since Super Punch-Out!! on the SNES. We’re still a little scarce on the details, but Nintendo has promised that Punch-Out!! for the Wii is definitely a labor of love. It will be nice to get a full list of boxers, as we’ve only seen a handful of old favorites so far.

punch_out_wii

Just this past weekend my wife and I went to a locally owned Italian restaurant that has been in our town for longer than I’ve been alive, but we had never walked in and ate there. When we finally decided to give it a try, the first thing I saw upon walking in was a handful of old arcades. They had a Dig Dug, Popeye, VS. The Goonies, and Punch-Out!!. After dropping a couple of bucks in the machines, I think I found a new place to drop by once in a while, even if it’s just to play the games. Standing there, playing Punch-Out!! reminded me of how simplicity mixed with a bit of strategy is a great formula for a timeless classic.

Guitar Hero World Tour is a blast, but has its share of flaws

Guitar Hero World Tour came out on Sunday, but yesterday was the day that most people go their first bit of action with Activision’s music rhythm game and it seems that impressions were quite mixed. While most people were very happy with the instruments (when they worked), and most people were fired up over the nice track list, it seems that the multiplayer modes and the somewhat bare bones solo tour are the biggest points of contention. I spent a few hours with the game last night, so let me give my own impressions. And since I’m such a positive person, I’ll start with the good.

The Good

  • The Guitar Hero instruments are quite incredible. The heftiness of the guitar and drum set put the Rock Band accessories to shame. The touch pad on the guitar is a little gimmicky, but it’s fun to play with and experienced guitarists will have fun tapping and sliding through sections of the game that allow it. The more sturdy build and better drum head design makes the drum set feel more like a real drum kit and less of a plastic toy.
  • The set list on the disc is really good and varied enough that people who have a hard time justifying DLC costs will be satisfied with what they get right out of the box for quite some time. There are some nice surprises in there, like Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, that have potential to become surprise favorites.
  • The drums work quite well with Rock Band, as long as you’re on the 360 (more on that later).
  • All the Nintendo/classic game theme songs you ever wanted are available to download as custom tracks from other users. On day one I had Zelda, Mario, Punch-Out!!, as well as a few others.
  • When pausing and resuming the game, you get a 5 second countdown timer to get ready. This helps a lot for that occasional dropped drum stick or overturned drum pedal.
  • Creating your own music is a pretty neat addition to the game, but it can be quite time consuming so be patient with it.

The Bad

  • As expected, there is a bit of artificial note inflation. At times you’ll be hitting notes that aren’t reflected as sounds in the game. What is happening here is that the developer is upping the challenge level, but they’re doing so in a way that causes a disconnect between the instrument and the song.
  • Solo tour is kind of odd from a progression standpoint. You’re forced to play multiple songs at a time, which means that you can’t just kill 10 minutes and quit.
  • If one band member fails, the whole band fails. This is terrible, as it’s going to intimidate newcomers into not playing with experienced players. For this genre, this is a huge oversight.
  • The instruments feel great, but message boards are lit up today with people complaining that their drums aren’t working (I had to fix one of my cymbals out of the box) or that their guitar is registering extra note presses. In some cases, people have failed out of a song because their guitar has gone wonky on them mid-song. Hopefully this is something that can be addressed and fix early, much like Harmonix did with the original Rock Band guitar.
  • The gap isn’t as wide as it used to be, but the note charts still aren’t quite as fun or seemingly as accurate as the Rock Band songs.
  • As of right now, the drums DO NOT WORK with Rock Band 2 on the PS3.
  • The drum pedal isn’t attached to the drum kit aside from the input jack. Expect it to slide around your floor a bit.

Bottom Line

Guitar Hero World Tour is a fine, fine, game. There are some issues that people are going to have with the World Tour mode and some of its odd quirks, but the actual music playing in the game is a lot of fun and well worth the random irksome moment. In moving from Rock Band to Guitar Hero you’ll lose some of the band-focused things like earning your tour bus or worrying about gaining new fans, and you’ll notice some odd things like note inflation, but none of it proves to be a deal breaker. With such a dynamic track listing, and with superior instruments, Guitar Hero World Tour has earned the right to sit alongside Rock Band on any gamer’s shelf. If you were to only get one title, I’d still favor Rock Band in the long run, but nobody should be disappointed in the least by Guitar Hero.

Activision isn’t afraid to open their pocketbook for endorsements

Sheesh, just getting ONE of these guys in your ad would take some serious cash, but to get them to do it all together and without any pants on is just impressive. I think Activision is serious about making Guitar Hero World Tour the top dog in music games this holiday.

So who do you think took home the biggest paycheck to endorse the game, Kobe Bryant, Michael Phelps, Tony Hawk, or Alex Rodriguez? Well, we can be sure of one thing, A-Rod’s pay was disproportionately large compared to his overall impact. Zing!

NPD sales results for September 2008

Here we go, let’s start off with hardware and then move to the software top ten.

Hardware

  1. Nintendo Wii – 687,000
  2. Nintendo DS – 536,800
  3. Xbox 360 – 347,200
  4. Sony PSP – 238,100
  5. Sony PlayStation 3 – 232,400
  6. Sony PlayStation 2 – 173,500

Software

  1. 360 – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – 610,000
  2. Wii – Wii Fit w/ Balance Board – 518,000
  3. 360 – Rock Band 2 – 363,000
  4. Wii – Mario Kart Wii – 353,000
  5. PS3 – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – 325,000
  6. 360 – Mercenaries 2: World in Flames – 297,000
  7. Wii – Wii Play w/ Remote – 243,000
  8. 360 – Madden 2009 – 224,000
  9. Wii – Star Wars: The Force Unleashed – 223,000
  10. PS2 – Madden 2009 – 158,000

360 4/10 – Wii 4/10 – PS3 1/10 PS2 1/10

So on the hardware side the Xbox 360 was able to reclaim its lead over the PS3, thanks to a price drop, but Nintendo still holds the top two spots with the Wii and DS. On the software side of things, Nintendo and Microsoft are basically just mopping up the charts, but only one of the Wii titles on the list is from a 3rd party. The coming months will be very interesting as all the big guns will be rolling out from both the 3rd parties and each company’s 1st and 2nd party developers. Fanboys, commence fighting…NOW!

James Bond does his best Wallace Guyford routine on the Wii

At TGS many new screens, trailers, and announcements have come forth. Without a doubt, the most disappointing screenshot to emerge was Activision’s Quantum of Solace on the Wii. Now, we all know that teh Wii is no graphical powerhouse, but is there any reason why it should look worse than Dreamcast level of graphics? Seriously, Activision, this is grade-A bull crap. Up until now, the biggest joke of a screenshot this generation came from Perfect Dark Zero’s unveiling when Wallguy (full name Wallace Guyford) became an instant meme, but now I think Mr. Bond has outdone our good pal. Maybe the impact is less, but the crappiness is more (now that’s an awesome sentence…stay in school kids).

For comparison sakes…

James Bond: Quantum of Solace on the Wii

Just look at that water on the right side of the pic…LOOK AT IT! The muddied textures, the low poly counts, the haze, and the idiot guy on the left looking down the wrong side of the hall all add up for one poor looking screenshot.

Wallguy’s famous intro to the world with Perfect Dark Zero

Yes, his legs are different sizes, and yes, it looks like he’s part of the wall, but I’m sorry Wallguy, you’ve been outdone.

Half-Life on the Dreamcast…TEN YEARS AGO