Demon's Souls - title

With a new generation of consoles coming into their own, the lifespan of the PS3 and XBox360 is rapidly coming to an end. It's not quite as monumental as the end of the PS2's lifecycle, which is arguably the single best gaming console ever made! With the PS3 and XBox360, our console games started to have consistent online functionality, and with online functionality comes a sad side-effect: a game's life-span is finite. I can always go back and play my favorite PS2 games (like Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 3, Ace Combat 4, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Gran Turismo 3, and Devil May Cry) and have pretty much the same experience that I had the first time I played. But I won't be able to do that with some of my favorite PS3 games, because some of them have online features that won't remain active forever.

favorite PS2 games
As long as my PS2 is functional, I can always go back and re-play my favorite PS2 games.

PC gamers have been dealing with this problem since the dawn of the internet, but they have work-arounds. PC Games can be modded to support direct TCP / IP connections in order for their online communities to stay online. Hypothetically, you could keep your favorite MMO alive for yourself and your circle of friends in this fashion. But with console games, there are much more significant technical hurdles to overcome, and when the producer shuts down the servers, that is basically the end of that game.

And that is exactly what is going to happen some day with my favorite PS3-exclusive: Demon's Souls.

Every console has its defining games - those games that are reasons for owning the consoles. The original PlayStation had Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid, the Nintendo 64 had Goldeneye, the Dreamcast had Shenmue and Soul Calibur, the XBox had Halo, GameCube had Resident Evil 4 and Eternal Darkness, the PS2 had Shadow of the Colossus. For me, Demon's Souls is that game for the PS3: the game that makes owning a PS3 worthwhile.

Demon's Souls is a game that completely redefined the way that I think about gaming. My ideas about how a player can interact with a game world and with other players were completely turned on their head with this game. So I want to take a moment to pay tribute to this masterpiece of interactive art with a full review while its servers are still up and running. And maybe - just maybe - I can sell a copy or two to some new players.

The gameplay is based on a simple control configuration in which weapons are mapped to the left and right hand and controlled with the left and right shoulder buttons (respectively). The design is reminiscent of a simplified version of FROM's other major game franchise: the mech-combat sim Armored Core. Weapons equipped in the right hand have a basic attack and a heavy attack, and weapons or shields in the left hand have a block and heavy attack (sorry, lefties, no left-handed characters for you!). These basic controls are very simple, and any player can start hacking and blocking away as soon as they pick up the controller. But more advanced controls and variations in weapon functionality make this seemingly-simple combat system very deep.

Each weapon class has different movesets, ranging from the slashing of a sword to the thrusting of a spear, to smashing of a giant hammer. And shields (and some off-hand weapons) have an advanced parry feature that allows you to stun and counter an attacking foe to land a critical hit. You can also attack while running or out of dodges in order to keep a foe guessing. Mastering these various features takes a little bit of time, but it is immensely rewarding when you finally have the skills to go toe to toe with a giant, butcher-knife wielding skeleton with confidence. But don't get overconfident, because this game will punish you for every mistake!

Demon's Souls - Vanguard rematch
With patience and practice, you'll soon stand confidently before the Vanguard that killed you in the tutorial.

If you die, you lose all your accumulated souls (i.e. "experience"), and must restart the level from the beginning! But there is a shining glimmer of hope: you have one chance to reach the spot where you died in order to recover your lost souls. If you get there...

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No Man's Sky title

I don't typically get excited about E3 the way that other gamers do. I try not to buy into hype, since I've been burnt before. I prefer a good review over the most stellar of previews. E3 tends to be a lot of pomp and circumstance; a cacophony of light and sound and flashy presentations of scripted, pre-rendered previews that are hardly ever representative of the final product.

I also haven't been paying much attention to the new consoles. They just don't excite me that much. Most quality games are seeing multi-platform releases these days, which usually includes a high-quality PC port that is at least as good (and sometimes better) than any console iteration. Gone are the days of sub-par, buggy PC ports. Or at least, that is how it seems to me. So I just don't see the new consoles as being worth while as long as I have a decent gaming PC. And in fact, these consoles will likely be inferior to good gaming PCs within a couple years. So what's the point in investing in one?

There are a few games on the horizon that look intriguing. I've already talked about Evil Within and Alien Isolation as being two of my most anticipated games of this fall. Both of these games will have PC versions that I will likely purchase, so no need to invest in a new console yet.

There's also a new project by the developers of Demon's Souls that was announced as a PS4 exclusive. That game could have the potential to sell a PS4 to me, but I'm going to wait to see more of the game before I get too excited.

But E3 did have one stand-out surprise that really piqued my interest. It's a new game by a developer called Hello Games. The game is called No Man's Sky.

This game was presented during the PS4 E3 press conference, but it's likely to see a PC version as well. If not, then this title could also turn into a PS4-seller for me.

The game is being advertised as an "infinitely-expanding procedurally-generated science fiction universe"...

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Amazing Spider-Man game banner

Prerelease promotional material really soured my interest in this game to the point that I waited over 6 months to pick up a used copy cheap off eBay. And the movie ended up being sloppy and wrong on numerous levels. And Edge of Time had caused me to lose faith in Beenox’s competency as a developer of Spider-Man games.

So there was a lot stacked up against this game, and I went into it gritting my teeth and ready to be furious. Maybe I set the bar a little bit too low, but I ended up enjoying Amazing Spider-Man. It cut a lot of corners and is easy and boring, but there’s enough good ideas in here that I’m actually excited to see if Beenox gets another chance to hopefully knock one out of the park.

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Amazing Spider-Man game - web swinging without physics Amazing Spider-Man game - web swinging without physics
Spider-Man can swing without anything nearby for his webs to stick to, including over the tops of parks and the city skyline itself.
This instantly pulls me out of the game experience everytime it happens.
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Wii U - multi-screen game

Wearers of glasses beware: the Wii U is determined to give you eye strain!

I got a chance to sit down for a while with a friend's Wii-U tonight. I managed to make an avatar and sign up for the Nintendo network, as well as try out an hour or so of ZombiU. I have to say that I was not impressed with either the hardware or the software.

First and foremost, the controller, despite its size, is actually pretty comfortable to hold. It is lightweight, and the cradles nicely in the hand. The screen is bright and vibrant; and sound is clear, but probably better with headphones. Button placement on the right side felt a bit awkward for me. It might just be my familiarity with PlayStation and Xbox controllers, but I didn't like having the buttons below the right stick, and they seemed a bit too close. I frequently missed the 'X' button (the top button), which was annoying because it was the most commonly-used button in the game I played.

I really wasn't digging the screen on the controller though. The avatar creation and network sign up screens annoyed me because most of the data input is done on the controller screen, but the TV screen presents a lot of information. The password screen was particularly annoying, since all the messages were displayed on the TV, and I just didn't see them because I was focused on the controller screen.

ZombiU - boxart (North America)

I like survival horror, but I'm so sick of zombies...

On top of that, even a brief time with the system exposed me to a glaring problem for myself (and likely many people): I am nearsighted. I need glasses in order to see at a distance. I'm not blind to things that aren't directly in my face, but after about 6 to 8 feet, things start to get fuzzy, making reading text or discerning other very finely-detailed information hard. I wear glasses, but I don't like to wear them to look at things up close. I often take them off when using a laptop, using a cell phone, reading a book, looking at a computer monitor, writing or drawing, and other "point blank" activities. Wearing my glasses for such things often causes my eyes to strain and gives me a headache (and probably further degrades my vision).

I can already tell that games that require the player to constantly shift between focusing on the controller screen and the TV screen will be very uncomfortable for me, since I'll either have to keep taking my glasses off and putting them back on, or I'll have to deal with the eye strain when looking at the controller screen. Perhaps Nintendo needs to release Wii-U-branded bifocals!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012 01:20 PM

Sony unveiling PS3 Slim(mer). Should I care?

in Video Gaming by MegaBearsFan
The new PS3 Slim(mer)
A slimmer PS3.

It is being reported that Sony is planning on releasing a slimmer version of the PS3 console this holiday season. I have yet to see any detailed technical specs of the new unit other than that it will be lighter and smaller than the existing PS3 Slim models and will have a bigger hard drive out-of-box (250 gig or 500 gig models will be available).

I don't really see the point in this move; although, I guess if the lighter, smaller unit is going to cut production costs, then it's a smart business move for Sony. But from the consumer standpoint, I don't see any reason why someone would want or need to "upgrade" to the new model.

Maybe they'll release additional technical specs at the upcoming Tokyo Game Show?

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to opinions about video games and the video game industry. But occasionally, I talk about other stuff too. Feel free to read about the blog.

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