Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dawnguard... Or Yawnguard?  


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Games: I just wrapped up the Skyrim Dawnguard DLC last night, and as someone who’s not a Skyrim fan at all, it… wasn’t too bad.

Before going further, I’m sure some of you are wondering why I bothered with it, considering that I had nothing but bad things to say about Skyrim earlier.  I go into greater detail on the most recent Gamecritics podcast, but basically my son took a shine to it and wanted to play together, so I figured it would be a good bonding opportunity.  It certainly wasn’t my first choice for something to share, but it’s more palatable than some of the iOS crap he’s been on recently, so this was good enough for me.


SO…

Although Dawnguard was better than I had expected (and honestly, I expected the worst) it still had some problems.  On the other hand, it’s a very interesting piece of DLC in that the parts that it gets right shine a spotlight on what I found so wrong with Skyrim in the first place. 

Where Dawnguard succeeds is that it manages to inject some actual personality and character in a game that is painfully bereft of it -- specifically, via the vampire follower Serana.  Her introduction is quite interesting, she’s got an unusually large amount of dialogue compared to the other followers, and her relationships are intriguing.  Instead of spouting a bunch of lore and funny, made-up LARP-style terms, she talks about her parents, her situation, where she’s going in the future.  Despite the fact that she’s a vampire and the quest you’re on is to prevent the sun from being put out for all eternity, she is incredibly easy to relate to. Basically, she’s the most complete, well-rounded character that I’ve encountered in the game so far.


Also, I can remember her name, which is something I can’t say for anyone else in the adventure.

Other highlights include an undead horse that can be summoned at will, a new castle to occupy, and new skill trees for both vampires and werewolves.  My son chose to be a wolf and he enjoyed that fairly well, but it seemed a bit underpowered to me, even though it was much better than it was previously.  The vampire side seems greatly improved, however.  The powers are a lot of fun (transforming into mist or bats, a gargoyle summon, flying, etc.) and it was a fun metagame to decide which towns I would terrorize, and which ones I would leave alone.

Between actually getting a fairly decent character and more action-oriented powers, things were going well and I was surprised that there were fun moments happening.  That said, there’s still enough of the bad stuff to prevent it from completely redeeming the experience - in a nutshell, any time the game goes into a dungeon, things go straight into the crapper.


On the whole, I find the dungeons are generally way too long, too repetitive, and too uneventful.  Going through hallway after hallway without a lot going on slows the experience down to a painfully tedious pace, and adds nothing at all to the game.  I know that these dungeons are supposed to be “better” than what we got in Oblivion, but they’re still flat-out boring.  Things got extremely bad in the Dwemer ruins and the “collect water” mission near the end.  It was almost like a death march of patience to get through these, rather than anything that was exciting or suspenseful.  If there was ever a case where “less is more” proved true, it’s the dungeons in Skyrim.

There were other things holding the experience back, like not being able to loot when in vampire mode, and then having the transformation take more than a few seconds to happen.  It doesn’t sound like a big deal, but believe me, it’s a major disincentive to go vamp when you’re looking for stuff to pick up and you’ve got to switch back and forth over and over.  It also sucked that the vampire form is too big to navigate through some passageways comfortably, and can be pretty awkward to use indoors.

Although I got more enjoyment out of being a vampire than I would have guessed, the highlights of Dawnguard just made the rest of Skyrim seem that much worse.  I realize that Bethesda has no shortage of fans when it comes to the series, but for me, I need a lot more character and a lot more action in order to really immerse myself in a fantasy like this…  If the Elder Scrolls developers can take a few lessons from some of the other, newer RPGs making waves like the Souls series or Dragon’s Dogma and blend it with what they’ve got, their next project should be pretty incredible.

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Speaking of Skyrim, I find it pretty interesting to watch my older son play (age 10) for many reasons, but one thing that really stuck out to me was when he discovered that you can get married in the game.

Like me, he usually plays a female character if given the choice, so after finding out that you can have a spouse, he asked me where he could find a husband.  I told him that the game was flexible, and that he was not limited to hetero relationships…  I give Skyrim credit for offering not only same-sex marriages, but also interspecies options as well.


Those orcs, amirite?

Anyway, he paused at this for a moment and looked a little confused, and then preceded to go off and quest for a willing man.  Although he didn’t say so in so many words, I perceived his hesitance to be about the possibility of having a girl-girl union, yet he had no issue with role playing as a woman himself and seeking out an appropriate male match. I don’t quite know what to make of it, although it was fascinating to see where he’s drawing lines at this age.

 Parenting-it’s never boring!




**********PR/NEWS/INFO**********


Friends of ATLUS,

The last week brought with it news that Persona 4 Arena™ would effectively become the first PlayStation°3 system game to be region-locked. We can today confirm that this is true; the game will be region-locked in all its respective territories of release.

As we've ascertained from your impassioned responses online, this is obviously a tremendous frustration for many fans. We understand the various perspectives on the matter. Those who fear this is a slippery slope, the beginning of a dangerous and unnecessary precedent. Those who import foreign hardware for a multitude of reasons and expect to be unlimited in their software selection. Those who aren't necessarily affected by this issue, but who are principally opposed to it. We are not blind to these concerns and we pledge to grow ever more informed as to exactly what our fans want. It should be added that we were completely unprepared for the force with which the community communicated their disapproval.

There are, however, a few points to clarify. This is NOT the beginning of a new ATLUS policy, nor do we view it as a precedent or a slippery slope. If anything, your determination and dedication to what you believe in has certainly stood in the face of that. This is an isolated case, a situation precipitated by a number of factors, some of which are simply out of our North American hands. Moreover, and perhaps there is no way to convince our fans of this considering the magnitude of the betrayal many are feeling, but we are not doing this out of malice or a desire to control. Allow us to explain.

Persona 4 Arena achieves a number of triumphs for our North American publishing house. For years, our fans have asked us to include dual language audio in our games. Finally, with P4 Arena, we were able to deliver on that desire and include the exact same content as the Japanese release for our North American fans. Moreover, our North American community is often forced to wait months for a localized release (a plight our friends across the Atlantic can relate to). Again, with P4 Arena, we're able to release within two weeks of Japan. We pushed hard for these things. We know our fans want them--well really, EXPECT them--and we did our best to get as much for our release as possible.

The unforeseen consequence in all of this was that we had a version of our biggest game of the year releasing within a couple weeks in two territories, both identical in content, but at radically different price points. Importing, as great as it is for gamers who otherwise can't get access to a title, can also cannibalize the performance of a title in one territory to the benefit of another. While we're all one big ATLUS family, the reality is that the dramatic difference between the Yen and the Dollar makes for a dramatic difference in price. So the decision was made, perhaps at the expense of some of our fans, clearly at the frustration of many, to region-lock Persona 4 Arena.

For many of you, there is no explanation that resonates, no justification that atones for this fact. We can only endeavor to earn back your confidence and, to learn from your arguments. We absolutely recognize the fear that this is the beginning of a trend. We in no way view it as such. Please also keep in mind that the game's excellent online multiplayer is global, a fact that is in no way affected by the region-lock. Players can compete against fighters from all territories.

A tremendous team of talented developers and artists poured their blood, sweat, and tears into Persona 4 Arena, and every reaction we've ever received to the game has shown that those efforts are readily apparent. The decision to region-lock P4 Arena was a business one, one that has very clearly affected how many perceive the project, but we ask you to please not overlook the exceptional efforts of the people behind the game and to work with us through constructive dialogue.

Thank you.
  
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Capcom today confirmed the advanced release of 12 new playable characters for Street Fighter X Tekken on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Originally scheduled to be available after the PS Vita version launches this fall, these 12 new characters will now be added to the all-star roster on July 31, 2012 as DLC for the low price of $19.99 (1600 Microsoft Points). 

Bringing the robust Street Fighter X Tekken character line-up to an impressive 50, the newly-added playable characters are…

From the Street Fighter side: Blanka, Cody, Dudley, Elena, Guy, Sakura

And from Tekken: Alisa Bosconovitch, Bryan Fury, Christie Monteiro, Jack-X, Lars Alexandersson, Lei Wulong

For those who purchase the PS Vita version of Street Fighter X Tekken this fall, the first run of all retail copies will come with two free download codes that allow owners to transfer DLC content to their PS3. One code will be for the additional 12 characters and the second will give Vita players free alternate costumes for the core roster of 38 characters. Additionally, anyone who pre-orders the upcoming PS Vita version at select retailers will receive alternate costumes for the 12 new characters. All DLC can be shared between PS3 and PS Vita.

For more information on Street Fighter X Tekken, please visit: press.capcom.com and http://www.capcom-unity.com

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Friends in the gaming press,

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time now has a shiny new website to complement its shiny (and beautiful) character art.  Please, if you'll just follow us--wait, what's that?  You don't know a thing about Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time?

That's silly talk.  Haven't you read all of the previous emails we've sent you on the topic?  No?   We're devastated, truly.  If only you knew how hard our team of capuchin monkeys works on each one of our PR emails.  Their adorable little monkey hands tremble ever so rapidly as they type away, their minds cheerily thinking of the banana treats we've lied to them about.  So precious.

Anyways, as I was saying before you rudely interrupted us by not knowing a thing aboutGrowlanser: Wayfarer of Time, it's actually a rather highly anticipated strategy RPG for PSP system.  Perhaps not by a ton of people--THOUGH THERE WOULD OBVIOUSLY BE MANY, MANY MORE IF THEY KNEW EVERYTHING THAT MAKES THIS THE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, SHINY RPG THAT IT IS--but folks in the know know that it's one of the best entries in a legendary roleplaying series but is one of the only ones to never make it to North America......... Until now.  Did you enjoy that dramatic pause?  We lost one of the capuchins as he/she tried to make a run for the window.  There, there, little monkey.

Anyways, a story of a threat from long ago, now forgotten by the denizens of the present but no less damning of their futures, combined with some terrific strategic RPG goodness, not to mention the beautiful artwork of Satoshi Urushihara... Look, it's amazing, that's what we're trying to say.  And we're not just saying that because we're supposed to.  Or because we want bananas.  Sorry, the capuchins wrote that last bit.

So, in short, there's a new website.  VISIT IT, WON'T YOU?  http://www.atlus.com/growlanserpsp.

Growlanser: Wayfarer of Time for PSP system releases in stores and via PSN on 7/31.

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NECA/WizKids, the leader in collectible gaming, is excited to announce their partnership with the Valve Corporation to develop and launch their new line of Portal 2 Sentry Turret Collectible Figures.  In Portal 2, the Sentry Turrets are objects to avoid or destroy while maneuvering through the mind-bending puzzles presented at each level in the game— but you will want to collect all of these Portal 2 Sentry Turret Collectible Figures to stand guard over your work space and prized possessions!


The Portal 2 Sentry Turret Collectible Figures stand 3” in height and will feature both Open and Closed versions of 10 unique design patterns including camouflage patterns, animal prints and even a Hot Rod-motif.
As part of the announcement for the release of the set, NECA/WizKids Games and Valve are offering Portal 2 fans the opportunity to vote on one of four design patterns— the winning design will be released as part of the set.  The four nominated design patterns are a Lightning-motif turret, a turret with a “Mom” tattoo, a Hawaiian Shirt pattern and a Wood Grain pattern.  Please visit Valve Software’s Facebook page atwww.facebook.com/portal to vote for your favorite design pattern.  The winner of the “Fan Vote” will be announced on Valve Software’s Facebook page.

Follow NECA and WizKids Games on Facebook at www.facebook.com/necaofficial and www.facebook.com/wizkids for information about other Valve Software licensed products and collectibles.
The Portal 2 Sentry Turret Collectible Figures will be available for purchase in October of 2012.

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SEGA® of America, Inc. and SEGA® Europe Ltd. today announced that an HD remake of fan-favorite flying platformer, NiGHTS into dreams…™, will be coming to Xbox LIVE® Arcade for the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft, PlayStation®Network, and Windows PC Digital Download this fall. To prove this news isn’t a dream itself, check out the first officialNiGHTS trailer online at www.youtube.com/watch?v=qb_CJLofgPY!

“The SEGA Saturn offered many unique gaming experiences, and NiGHTS into dreams…stands out as one of the most recognizable titles that found a home on the system,” said Chris Olson, Vice President of Digital Business at SEGA. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests about this game over the years, and are very happy to be able to give both former Saturn owners and new players a chance to play it in its most beautiful form to date this fall.”

Initially released for SEGA Saturn 16 years ago today, on July 5, 1996, NiGHTS into dreams… is one of the best-regarded games in SEGA history and a favorite of many fans thanks to its innovative 3D gameplay and multi-faceted level design. This new version will bring Nightopia to vivid life with improved HD graphics and a 16:9 aspect ratio, as well as added support for leaderboards, trophies, and achievements. It will also feature an optional Saturn Mode that will let players experience the game with the original graphics intact.

For more information on NiGHTS into dreams… please visit http://www.sega.com/.

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