Saturday, 20 December 2008

The worst games I ever played #1


A common theme among those who review games for a living (and indeed those who don't) is to talk at great length about the games they hold in highest esteem. Rare are those who talk about the mediocre games in their collection, and rarer still are those that go into detail about those games that they infinitely regret purchasing (at least not beyond "OMG this game suxxxxxx!!1111")

I thought since I have this medium of communication now, I would devote some time to the games that fell into one of two categories. Eventually I will have talked about a few of the games I hated instantly *and* the games I enjoyed at the time but now regret ever owning. As far as the second category is concerned, blame the retro gaming phenomenon that's so popular nowadays.

What is it about older games that we find so appealing, anyway? We have these epic, movie-like stories and open-ended game worlds, and instead we obsess over 10 year old games on outdated consoles. That said, I have been clamouring for the original Banjo Kazooie since it came out on Xbox Live Arcade, so I'm no better.

Anyway, a bit of history before I begin. I was a very lucky child in that every few years, my parents were quite happy for me to have the latest generation games console (or at least until I was about 16, and was old enough to have a job and my own money - big mistake incidentally, I now own two out of this generation's three consoles and 5 guitars). On the plus side, I own a SEXY guitar in the form of my Fender Stratocaster in Alpine White with a maple fretboard.


Look, mortals, and become moist.

Anyway, my first entry in the annals of E14 history takes the form of a flight simulator. Now, generally flight simulators are a genre of game (if you can indeed apply the word "game" to something where you do absolutely fuck-all at 30,000 feet). This one, slightly more redeemingly, was a combat flight simulator. The game was F29 Retaliator, for my old 286 PC.

Let's get something out of the way straightaway: I'm well aware that old PCs were nowhere near as capable as new PCs at doing even the most basic tasks. To illustrate this, let me tell you about a particular feature (read: limitation) of the first PC I ever owned. The PC ran in MS-DOS, and had 3 games, one of which was a stretch to call a game. The 2 games, the aforementioned F29 Retaliator and a game called Beyond Columns, a Tetris-like puzzler, served their purpose as far as we needed at the time (I also had a Super Nintendo at the time to keep me busy for good games).

The third item, because of how loathe I am to call it a game, was a virtual Jukebox. The sad thing about it was the fact that you could only play about 5 songs, mostly license-free stuff like 'Peter and the Wolf', in glorious MIDI.

A less awesome version of this used to pass for a game! Who knew?

Anyway, to F29 Retaliator. While doing research for this game, I came across this snippet from the game's Wikipedia article, which I think gives both a sad insight into game quality in those days as well as pretty much spoiling the entire excitement of the game:

The cockpit was pretty exciting, with 3 Multi-function displays

Mmm. Exactly. What I look for with games is the beauty of the heads-up display within the game world. Often, conversations between myself and game store sales assistants go as follows:

"Hi, I'm interested in this game, but I'm not too sure it's for me. Is there anything you can say that'll sway it for me?"
"What would you like to know?"
"Does the game display the health of your character in the top right corner?"
"Uh...yeah."
"Sold."

For those who say "oh, this game can't be that bad, trust an Emotionally Fourteen cynic to grumble so much about old technology", shut your stupid face. To demonstrate my prowess at observing those things which are noticeable, I bestow upon your visage a screenshot from the game in question. When looking at this picture, note that the game was intended to provide a detailed flight simulator experience.


That's right. I spent hours playing what essentially amounts to the shit round from the Krypton Factor, except there was no prize at the end of the round, only a sharp pang of sadness when I realise now that those hours could have been spent asleep. In fact, I had ten times more fun ejecting the pilot from the plane and watching him descend to the floor at a rate of metres per hour.

Incidentally, the game was bugged to the point that in certain situations, you could control the plane after eject and slam it into the pilot. That softened the blow, but it wasn't quite enough to keep the game from this list. I'll be back with another game shortly, but for now I'm bailing out.


Thursday, 18 December 2008

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The games of Christmas

I hadn't planned on writing anything anytime soon, thanks to the inevitable retail sector rush at this time of year. However, I caught an article over on the BBC's news website today about which games you should be picking up this Christmas, and it just made me so darned mad that I felt compelled. Firstly, the article didn't do enough to separate the various demographics of gamers, only catering to children and World of Warcraft players. Granted, ten million WOW players is a large demographic, and living in the Medway Towns I can fully appreciate that children are becoming a majority as well.

However, when an article about which games to buy this Christmas shows two screenshots, that of Wii Music and WOW, and one of the reviewers manages to start with a conversation about games and end in a conversation about binary watches (no, I'm not kidding - look for yourself), one would be forgiven for suspecting that the reviewer is not precisely on the pulse of gamers. To the credit of the article, the second reviewer makes a bold attempt to salvage the credibility of the article by talking about games for around 80% of his article, but by then the damage is done.

So in the spirit of not criticising unless I feel I can do better, here's a gamer-friendly list of games across all formats that you can feel justified in blowing your hard-scrounged money on this Christmas, or fine gifts for other people who fall into our very special E14 demographic.

Dead Space (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)


Dead Space's influences are clearer than a vegan's piss. Drawing from such cinematic influences as Alien and The Thing, players are thrown into the shows of Isaac Clarke, an engineer aboard a derelict space vessel. Quite why the ship is derelict is anyone's guess at the start of the game.

As you may guess from the screenshot above, it's not a pleasant reason, but then I suppose there's never a good reason for a spaceship to be derelict. I imagine surprise birthday parties can be handled aboard an intergalactic spacecraft without the need for the entire crew to abandon ship indefinitely.

What makes this game so impressive is that it takes existing conventions - the third person over-the-shoulder aim made famous and done so well in Resident Evil 4, being in a non-combat character's shoes like Silent Hill, and still manages to put new twists on the ideas. The player has very few weapons to speak of, and must instead rely on engineering tools to aid them in their travels. This game even does atmosphere well. If you don't carve up an enemy into small bite-sized pieces (think the size of a Kinder Egg) it can come back to life later on, travelling through air-vents rather than along the corridor so you might not even know it's coming. Even WRITING about this game is making me want to crap my pants.

Prince of Persia (PS3, Xbox 360, PC, DS)


There's something quite depressing about looking at concept art and feeling completely inadequate, but the agile *and* strong Prince of Persia manages to have that happen to me on a semi-regular basis.

Of course, Prince of Persia is a series that needs no introduction unless you've lived in a cave on Mars with your fingers in your ears. In which case, you'd be dead through the lack of breathable atmosphere, and you'd have died deaf. For shame. The series made its debut as a side-scrolling 2D platform with sword-fighting elements. Since this inception, it is one of the few franchises that has successfully translated into 3D, due largely to the fact that most of the 3D games have been bollocking awesome.

Guitar Hero World Tour (Xbox 360, PS3, Wii)


First, a story. When I went down to see my sister for her birthday one year, she had Singstar for her Playstation 2. She was looking for someone to play with, as her friends weren't up for it due to being, I suspect, shit singers. However, if there's one thing I'm proud of (besides my extensive first playthrough of Fallout 3 and all the robot faces I punched off as a result) it's my singing voice, so I thought I'd give her a go. I wasn't into it for the first song, as I'd been told that you could attain a perfect score simply by matching the notes and not the pitch, and so did that.

Then she started winning, and I went all out. If anyone should ever give you cause to doubt the appeal of singing games, tell them that story.

Guitar Hero: World Tour represents everything that people have enjoyed doing since prehistoric man clubbed his first cutesy animal to death, those things being screaming, hitting things with sticks and...playing a plastic guitar along to music. Ok, I'll admit that maybe I didn't think it through all the way.

In all seriousness, this game is amazing. The track list, while not perhaps as cool as Rock Band's, is enough to keep any budding rock star satisfied, and the instruments are far more sturdily built than Harmonix's equivalents. The only stumbling block is the price, at 180 GBP the bundle is pretty pricey, but to answer this, I will simply let a picture of the guitar do the talking.

That's right, it has a touchpad. Commence becoming moist.

One last one, and I think I speak for all gamers everywhere when I say that no collection is complete without this gem.

Baby Life (Nintendo DS)




Oh, ho ho ho! Ok, I got that out of my system. I just saw this advertised on Play, and thought I'd weigh in on it. Apparently this game has a "rich and complex mood and behaviour engine that has a mental profile for each baby and each evolution". I don't even think real children are that complex. I've been around babies a lot recently (I'll rephrase, that sounds dodgy). I've got many friends with new babies, so I've spent quite a bit of time in their company, and all they seem to do is gurgle and cry initially. How does that qualify as a "rich and complex mood and behaviour engine"? Besides, since when do children "evolve"? Trust videogames to take the blessed act of childbirth and cheapen it by making it sound like Pokémon.

So there you have it, some of the games to be picking up this Christmas. Remember the inevitable truths of gaming.

1: If a game says "Online Multiplayer", it essentially is saying "prepare to be insulted by 10 year olds".
2: If a 360 game is also being released on PS3, and you own a PS3, prepare to be underwhelmed.
3: If it's on PS2, it's probably coming to Wii with enhanced controls.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Kung Fu Thursday

I don't know what film this is from, but it features Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris and A Kitten. If that isn't awesome then frankly I don't know what I can do for you people anymore.


Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Music Reviews

More music reviews for you now, with the quality of the entire package judged purely on the cover artwork. It's the only fair way.

Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy

It seems like only a week ago I made some sort of crack about how this album would never be released. Actually, it was three weeks. How time flies.

The thing is, I've been waiting for this album for fifteen years...and now that it's out...I still haven't heard it. Sometimes the idea of something is much, much more entertaining that the idea itself. Snakes On A Plane for example, was much more entertaining as an Internet meme than as an actual film. Sadly, I have now discovered that taking the piss out of Axl N' Roses for never releasing this album was much more entertaining than them actually releasing this album. Going on the apathy it has received worldwide, I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

Basically, this album is what Guns N' Roses do best - really shitty cover artwork. 6/10

Rihanna - Good Girl Gone Bad: Re-Loaded

Yet another reissue of this album, to be followed in six months time by the exceptionally disappointing Good Girl Gone Bad: Revolutions. Retards and other R&B fans think that Rihanna is being really flexible and is bending backwards at an incredible angle on this cover. Music lovers and other people who have seen the Adam West Batman TV series point out that she's standing upright and they've tilted the camera.

I assume that the album is like Rihanna's career and gets worse with each successive song. 1/10

Connie Talbot - Connie Talbot's Christmas Album

I don't know who this person is. I assume I should, as they mention her name not once, but twice on the CD. She must be off some game-show or something.

Children with record deals realy waste the opportunity. This is going to be some twee plinky-plonky shite for grannies to fawn over. If I was given a record deal at that age, you can bet I would have actually been able to release that concept album about when Skeletor left The Evil Horde to start his own army of evil in Eternia. But, no...just dreams...and memories.

Fuck her. She's wasting this shit. She could have at least had a bash at a Ben 10 musical. 1/10

Gabriella Cilmi - Lessons To Be Learned

I don't know what to say about this cover. What I do know, is that if I ever meet her, I'm going to try and do her. I'm therefore not scuppering my chances by saying anything bad about her. 10/10

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Kung-Fu Thursday

Well, I'm back from being off sick, and what better to celebrate with a burst of creativity than a Kung-Fu Thursday!


Sing Si Lip Yan (City Hunter)
Director: Jing Wong
Starring: Jackie Chan, Gary Daniels
Fight Choreographer: Sam Wong
Country: Hong Kong/Japan
Released: 1993

Watch this one. Seriously.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Rob's Top 5's...


So I figured that I'd be a regular contributor to this blog, but then this game came out. Maybe you've heard of it, it's called Fallout 3. Since then, every waking second I can muster has been spent playing the game. However, this is the kind of game that you can spend hours on without making any real progress.

Remember how it felt to first travel into the City on Oblivion and admire all the architecture and the sheer scale of it?

Remember how it still felt like you hadn't really scratched the surface because you had spent five hours real-time wandering around the city trying to jump perfectly onto people's heads and following shop keepers to the pub? Well, I do.

To say I have a short attention span is like saying Gary Glitter was a *little* out of line when he fucked those kids. Speaking of which, has anyone seen the furore over teaching Gary Glitter at GCSE Music level because of his crimes? If you're going to be indignant, just use the fact that his music is fucking awful. It really holds enough weight.

Anyway, here is my Fallout 3 themed top 5 this week, entitled:

"Another Way to Die: 5 ways to humiliate and extinguish on Fallout 3"

The Magnum Backflip (I'm still annoyed I can't screen capture properly)

The most awesome thing about this one was that it was one of the first kills I performed on the game, while exploring a local school. Unfortunately for the Raider that copped my trigger-happy .32 pistol to the face, I was put slightly on edge by the fact that last time I had to explore an abandoned and eerily quiet school, it was in Silent Hill.

Laser Pistol to the face

Simple, but nonetheless awesome. The great thing about the laser pistol is its rapid rate of fire. Sorry, that's the second most awesome thing about it. The first is the pile of smouldering ash that it leaves where your foe used to be. The smouldering pile of ash, it should be added, also glows long after the victim dies. Instant win.

A Combat Shotgun at close range

This is possibly the most fun of the close combat weapons, due to its stopping power and large magazine. I unloaded the contents of a shotgun into a giant radioactive scorpion. All that remained was a fine red mist, with a vague desire to sting despite lacking the most basic stinging functions.

Grenades

No real explanation necessary for this one. Grenades are fun in any action game. However, grenades are that much more fun in Fallout 3, simply because if they don't produce a killing blow, they pretty much cripple the victim in every limb. That is possibly the better victory, as you know they are inconvenienced for the rest of eternity, in a cruel wheelchair-inaccessible nuclear wasteland.

Robot Head Removal

For this one, I feel one simple mathematical equation should suffice.

Rob + Power Fist + Critical Hit = Robot - Head = Happy Rob.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Kung Fu Thursday



Tom-Yum-Goong (The Protector)
Director: Prachya Prinkaew
Starring: Tony Jaa
Fight Choreographers: Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai
Country: Thailand
Released: 2005

Interesting bit of trivia: Apparently there is a Thai dish called Tom Yum. That surely means there's a Thai dish whose English name is either "Protector" or "The".

Monday, 10 November 2008

The Horror, The Horror - Shitty Video Game Adaptations

It's a general rule of thumb that any video game based on a licensed property is not as good as any video game set in its own universe (with the exception of sports franchise based games). Nowhere is this truer than movie adaptations, and nowhere is that truer than horror movie adaptations.

This is relatively easy to understand, as good horror movies don't tend to be high on action, moving platforms, or escort missions; and good video games don't tend to be based on tense, well constructed plots, cat-and-mouse one-bad-guy-one-good-guy climaxes, or Cthulhoid terrors from beyond.

Here they are, the most ill-advised, badly conceived, or just plain unlucky video game adaptations of horror movies:

HALLOWEEN (ATARI 2600)

The Movie:

Light on blood and high on atmosphere, John Carpenter's Halloween is generally credited as being the film that created the "Teen Slasher" genre - a genre that is notably high on blood and light on atmosphere, proving once again that film theorists are douchebags.

The Game:

You plays as a nameless babysitter (most likely Jamie Lee Curtis), who must save children from a knife-wielding enemy, presumably Michael Myers (the movie serial killer, not the Canadian "comedian"). The player obtains points by either rescuing children and bringing them to "safe rooms" located at both ends of each floor of the house, and by stabbing Michael with the knife (if you can find the bloody thing). The player advances a level either by rescuing five children or stabbing Michael twice. The killer gets faster with each level increase, and the game continues until all of the player's three lives are lost. Just like the movie.

The Problem(s):

Like Wizard's The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween was a controversial title at the time due to its "violent content and subject matter". Many game retailers refused to carry the game and the ones who did often kept it behind the counter on a request-only basis. This didn't do sales any favours, as not many games stores had people coming in saying "I'm looking for something shit, what do you recommend?".

Halloween, along with The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, drove Wizard Video Games to bankruptcy. While Wizard Video Games were liquidating its merchandise, some copies of the game were shipped and sold without a label, or with a simple white sticker with "HALLOWEEN" hand-written on it to cut costs. Retarded isn't the word.

Today, Halloween is a highly sought after game due to its scarcity.

Compare and Contrast:



THE EVIL DEAD (C64, ZX Spectrum)

The Movie:

Sam Raimi's 1981 movie The Evil Dead is notable for being the best Sam Raimi movie, the best zombie movie, the best Bruce Campbell movie, the best low-budget horror movie, the best horror movie and the best movie.

Five students venture into the hills to spend a weekend in an isolated cabin. There they find the Necromonicon (as you do). Whilst searching the basement of the cabin, the students find a tape recording of demonic incantations from the book, unwittingly resurrecting the slumbering demons that thirst for revenge.

The students are possessed one by one, beginning the first, Cheryl, after she is lured into the forest by an Evil Force at night. Alone and far from the safety of the cabin, the woods come alive in a snake-like fashion and the poor girl is raped by a tree. If you haven't seen this movie, you're missing out.

Much zombies, blood, burning, horror and shitty sequeling ensues.

The Game:

The game is set in the cabin. The player controls Ash, and must close cabin windows to prevent monsters from entering, while also killing monsters that have already managed to get in.

As the player defeats deadites with various weapons (shovels, shotguns, and axes), Ash's energy level decreases. Ash must continuously pick up new weapons in order to increase his energy. Once he has defeated all the monsters, Ash must obtain the Necronomicon and destroy it in order to defeat the evil.

The Problem(s):

The game actually sounds really good. Hell, I've played the thing and I think that that description makes it sound a pretty sweet, tense horror game.

The problem is that I tried playing that game for about six months on a Spectrum emulator, and it's only after looking it up on Wikipedia for that description that I figured out what the bloody hell I was supposed to have been doing all that time.

And I don't really go for neon zombies.

Compare and Contrast:



BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA (Amiga, Game Boy, Game Gear, Mega-Drive, NES, Mega CD, Master System, SNES)

The Movie:

In 1992, Francis Ford Coppola released his adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula, claiming it to be the most faithful film adaptation ever released. As the film only deviates from the novel 78% of the time, this is sadly true.

The movie version presents a mix of romance, gothic horror, awesome acting, amazing cinematography and Gary Oldman being awesome. Only a really shitty platform game could possibly ruin it.

The Game:

A really shitty platform game.

The Problem(s):

The developers faced a choice: make an interesting strategy game actually based on the events of the movie/book, providing quick moments of combat and great moments of tension and strategy, or knock out a cheap Castlevania clone.

If you want to see Jonathan Harker jumping up and down in the freezing rain, unleashing a spinning blade attack at some badly rendered flying the monsters, then you've come to the right place.

Fortunately, the interesting strategy game actually based on the events of the movie/book, providing quick moments of combat and great moments of tension and strategy was eventually released as The most awesome board game ever made. Suck that, video gamers.

Compare and Contrast:



THE RING: TERROR'S REALM (Dreamcast)

The Movie:

Based upon Koji Suzuki's novel of the same name, Ring is a haunting tale of supernatural revenge and anger, mediated through a possessed video tape. The video contains some seemingly random images, but all who watch it die exactly seven days later. The film concerns a journalist and her ex-husband who watch the tape, and who attempt to solve the mystery and save their lives.

Ring was one of the first Japanese horror films to make it big outside of its native country and made everyone aware that either the Japanese were incredibly creative and imaginative when it came to writing ghost stories...or they didn't really understand what a ghost was supposed to do and just started winging it with video tapes, eye operations and water tanks.

The Game:

The game replaces the VHS cassette with a possessed computer program that achieves the same 7-day death sentence when the program is booted.

The Problem(s):

It's pretty much a rip-off of Resident Evil, but without the zombies. If you can think of a reason why you might want to play that, please comment.

Compare and Contrast:



THE END?

What is worth noting is that all of these shitty adaptations are pretty old now. There was no video game adaptation of recent horror films, because horror video games are now perfectly able to stand up as their own genre. Games like Eternal Darkness, Resident Evil, Silent Hill and to a lesser extent House of the Dead manage to conjure up a suitable atmosphere, and don't need to rely on paper thin licenses to be able to shift a few copies. The horror movie video-game license is, thankfully, gone forever.


Sunday, 9 November 2008

The E14 Weekly List


A quick run-down to what's hot, and what's not, for the Emotionally Fourteen this week.

MOVIES

Hot:

Saw V (Twisted Pictures/Lionsgate)
Quantum of Solace (MGM)

Not:

Sukkar Banat (English Title: Caramel) (Les Films des Tournelles)

MUSIC

Hot:

AC/DC - Black Ice
Girlschool - Legacy

Not:

Seal - Soul
Enrique Iglesias - Greatest Hits

BOOKS

Hot:

Jeremy Clarkson - For Crying Out Loud

Not:

Michael Parkinson - Parky: My Autobiography
Levi Roots - Levi Roots' Reggae Reggae Cookbook

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Hot:

Transformers: Reign of Starscream (Idea & Design Works)
The Complete Ro-Busters (Rebellion)

Not:

Trying to think of any recent comic that isn't for the Emotionally Fourteen is surprisingly hard.

VIDEO GAMES

Hot:

Fallout 3
WWE SmackDown Vs Raw 2009
Dead Space

Not:

Imagine - Interior Designer
Bratz Ponyz 2

Friday, 7 November 2008

Rainy Day Activities: Stage A Zombie Uprising

It’s a really shitty day today, weather wise. Overcast, drizzly, and with the promise of a similar weekend to come. We need something that’s fun, a little bit geeky, sociable, and based around the central premise of Hell being overpopulated, so the dead have to rise and tear the flesh of the living.

To be honest, if you haven’t seen George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, you probably don’t qualify as Emotionally Fourteen. In any event the plot is relatively simple: zombies have risen and are winning the war against the living, so four people escape the city in a helicopter and hole-up in a shopping mall. Yes, it’s the original zombies-in-a-shopping-mall movie.

Back when this movie was in 1978, there wasn’t much in the way of computer game adaptations. Well, there was a video-game based on The Texas Chain Saw Massacre released for the Atari 2600, but it didn’t really capture the atmosphere for the film all that well, as it consisted of running around, and bumping into things to kill them. In fact, atmosphere in computer games was distinctly missing all round, and in the future I may even do a feature on shitty horror movie adaptations, because doing shitty movie adaptation regardless of genre would be too easy.


For atmosphere and intelligent gameplay in the late seventies, the option was pretty much just boardgames. And if you wanted the game to be more than just a simple Monopoly/Game Of Life roll-and-move fiasco, you’d sell the license to a wargame company. Which is exactly what the creators of Dawn of the Dead did when they sold the franchise to SPI Publications.

The resulting Dawn of the Dead wargame was highly popular, providing a choice of either solo-play, with the player controlling the zombies whilst a series of rules directed how the zombies would move, or competitive two-player play, with one person playing the four survivors, and one controlling the flesh eating hordes of ex-shoppers.


The wargame was highly popular at the time, and garnered a very strong cult following. In fact, it’s not uncommon for good condition copies to sell on eBay for in excess of £100.

If the game sounds intriguing, you don’t have £100 to spend or the weather’s crap where you are (I don’t know about you, but I qualify for all three), then there’s good news, and a fun activity for this weekend. You can download the parts for free, cut them out yourself, and be playing it in about an hour’s time. What’s more, there’s even updated artwork, so you don’t have to be playing on a rather dated looking board (believe me, board game artwork has only increased in quality over the last thirty years).

What you need to do first is head over to this page on Witchmaster Creations and grab all the necessary files. First, decide how large you want the board to be (I’d recommend 4 x A4 given the choice, but check first that this will fit onto your gaming table). Then grab the counters, and the rules, get cutting and get playing.

You can probably play with paper board and paper counters if cost/bothering to go out in the rain is a concern, but I recommend getting some foamcore for the board and some chunky card for the counters. It’s make everything easy to handle and make it look better as well.

Enjoy, and have an awesome weekend.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Kung-Fu Thursday



Fong Sai-Yuk (The Legend of Fong Sai-Yuk)
Director: Corey Yuen
Starring: Jet Li
Fight Choreographers: Corey & Tak Yuen
Country: Hong Kong
Released: 4th March 1993

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Consoles That Time Forgot

Rob Wade can bang on about how awesome his Wii and his 360 are all he wants. The fact is that a good percentage of consoles have ended up on the junk pile of history. Here are just a few of them:

The Magnavox Odyssey

Most will say that the Atari 2600 was the first ever games console. Some smart arses would probably say that the Pong plug-and-play game was the first. The fact is that they are just plain wrong. History establishes The Magnavox Odyssey as the first ever console, way back in May of 1972. Why have most people forgotten about it? Purely for its retarded nature.

Firstly, the system was run off of batteries, the concept of a power supply seeming to have completely escaped the team of developers. Secondly, there was no sound. At all. Whilst Pong was several years off, you would have thought that a simple blipping would have been considered.

The fact that the console was monochrome was at first not that big of a deal. If it had just been black and white, I think that everyone would have been fine with that. Maganvox’s solution was simple, but fell into what is known as the "Giant Robot Crab Trap". If something is average, don't draw attention to it, because the explanation can be shittier than the actual problem.

Their solution? The console came packaged with colourful acetate sheets that could be taped into position over the screen, to simulate colour gameplay in a looking-thorough-Quality-Street-wrappers kind-of way. Of course, if your TV didn’t fit one of the two sizes supplied, you were fucked anyway.

The saddest moment: realising that your new console came packaged with dice, poker chips and pads for keeping score.

Apparently a light-gun was developed, also the first of its type, but it was ditched after realising that you could score a perfect hit by just firing the thing at a light bulb.

The Nintendo Color TV Game 6

Did you know that Nintendo had a system before the NES? They did, they just don’t want you to know about it.

The Color TV 6 console decided against the idea of cartrides, and opted to simply allow you to play the six games built into the console. If this doesn’t sound too bad at first, prepare for confusion when you find out that all six games are tennis games.

Futhermore, prepare for some pulled muscles, pained backs and new relationships! Why? Because the control pads are fused to the console! And I don’t mean that they’re permanently attached by wires. By that, I mean that they are ON THE CONSOLE!

The Emerson Radio Corp Arcadia 2001

The Arcadia 2001, technology wise, wasn’t a bad system. It was the first console that was designed to be portable so that you could take it on holiday, or even run it off of a car cigarette lighter socket if you wanted. You still needed a TV, and portable TVs were hard to find in 1982 (especially ones that ran from a car cigarette lighter), but it was the thought that counted.

The Arcadia 2001 was actually, hardware-wise, a reasonable system. It was colour, had sound, and two controllers with twelve buttons apiece. It even had top games like Pacman, Galaxian and Defender. So what was so bad?

The problem was that Atari owned exclusive-rights agreements for top games Pacman, Galaxian and Defender. On its release, Atari grabbed The Emerson Radio Corp by the ear and proceeded to fuck it in the butt all the way to the courthouse, leaving them with thousands in debt, thousands in legal fees and thousands of cartridges that they couldn’t legally sell.

The Amstrad GX4000

It’s hard to be able to use the phrase “dead in the water” to describe any console other than the Arcadia 2001, but the Amstrad GX4000 was dead in the water the day it was released.

Released in 1990, the GX4000 harnessed 8-bit gaming power like no other system. The problem was that in 1990 the Sega Mega-Drive and Nintendo SNES were already harnessing 16-bit gaming power, leaving the GX4000 very much on the special bus.

To make matters worse, most of the games that were released were simply ports of Amstrad CPC games copied from tape to cartridge. That’s like if today a company brought out a console to fight the 360 and the PS3 (it’s a two horse race, and you know it) that had the processing power of the Sega Saturn. Owners had the choice of paying £3.99 for a CPC cassette, or £25 for exactly the same game on cartridge.

The Casio Loopy

It was a console aimed entirely at girls. This concept failed, as video gamers tend to think that girls are "yukky".

There was a game for it released called Anime Land. I don’t what it was like, or what the concept was, but I do know that someone, somewhere is jerking off to it right now.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Rob's Top 5's...

Top 5 things I wanted someone to say to June Brown as she collected her MBE (most people know her as Dot Cotton from Eastenders)
In no particular order:

1: "How many dicks did you have to suck for that?"
2: "Congratulations, Miss Hunniford"
3: "Oh sorry, this one's meant for Sooty."
4: "These are for famous people. What the fuck are you doing here?"
5: "The only reason they want to give it to you is because you're going to die soon".

Rob on Rob (part the second)

Well, I promised I'd do another one, and this one stayed fresh in my head from yesterday, so I thought I'd blog about something else that's been irking me recently.

Going to the cinema

Now obviously as I mentioned before, cinema is my job, so it goes without saying that I'm not talking about work-related cinema trips. I'm talking about the rare occasions when I'm out and find myself wanting to see a film. The only reason it's rare, incidentally, is because I generally prefer to spend my time on video games. Why? Because:
A: They're longer.
B: There have actually been quite a few decent film-game conversions. Can the same be said in reverse? Didn't think so.

As soon as I buy the tickets, I'm in for a nightmare experience. It's not that the cinema staff are unhelpful; From experience I can tell you that they're not paid to be anything but vague. It's not even that the food isn't great quality. It's the other people in the screen. The economic repercussions of the credit crunch have been attributed to many things, but I can venture forth a reasonably credible guess as to part of the problem:

Flat-screen televisions.

Seriously, how often are you shown round your mate's new home-theater system, complete with 50" TV to compensate for a 4" penis, 5.1 Surround and 4.3 brain cells operating the whole fucking thing? Anyone who has ever heard someone open a sentence with a strained "it's a *little* out of my price range, but..." will know the pain from which I draw as I hammer out these keys solely using rage.

See, the problem is that these cinema-like experiences have also made people complete arseholes when attending a public cinema. Not even B&Q make a tool bigger than some of these people. Not only do they then consider themselves experts on the ideal setup (I actually had someone saying that his action film was too loud and that his system at home was much more about "subtlety of movement"...What?), but they also seem to think that if they're watching a screen with inches in the hundreds with cinema-quality sound, they're obviously at home and as such can do whatever the fuck they want.

If it isn't one thing in a screen it's another. As an employee of the cinema industry, nuisance customers come in all shapes and sizes. Most of the problems relating to customers in a screen are the standard fare (phone on, talking too loudly etc), but here are some of the other things I have to deal with:

People kicking the seats in front of them - The sad thing is that if I was to kidney-punch the chavvy slut they're seeing the movie with, I'd be the one who got in trouble. No justice, eh?

People throwing food towards the screen - Anytime you see the evolutionary scale from prehistoric man to civilised man, remember that cinema patrons rank somewhere in the middle.

People sitting in the wrong seats, despite the row letter and seat number being printed on their tickets - I can live with people not liking subtitles, although I don't see what the big problem is about reading *and* looking. However, a letter and number is *not* an entire film. It's two, maybe three characters at maximum.

That's about all the irritations I suffer as an employee. As a customer, I find the main irritation leads me to the following set of Cinema Customer Rules.

1: Unwrap ALL your fucking sweets before you enter the screen.

2: If you receive a text message during a screening of a film, do yourself and the sender a favour. Give it your full attention - *outside* the screen, *after* the film.

3: If you recognise someone from the film, I promise I will load up IMDB after the film and fucking research his/her entire career myself if you promise not to think or talk about it until the film's over.

4: If the cinema in which you find yourself is part of a large shopping mall, for fuck's sake leave your shopping in the car. Alternatively, take it for granted that nobody has rooted through your GAP bag during the film, because it's been gripped tightly by your stupid fat hands.

Music Reviews


They say you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover. They don't, however, say that about albums...so that's what I'm going to be doing.

Pink - Funhouse

Well, it shares its title with an album by The Stooges, so I guess that's one point in its favour. I've got to be honest and say that I find myself completely at a loss to explain Pink's success. She's got way more attitude than a woman of her talent should have, she has a monotone gravelly voice, and her songs are the most ego-centric since Eminem's. One day she's going to realise she's gay, and we all know that. I don't have a problem with her being gay. I have a problem with the fact that as soon as she comes out, you can bet your arse than an autobiography will follow, and her complete lack of talent in yet another artistic field will make her a shitload of money whilst genuine zombie themed talent like Send More Paramedics will fizzle out unnoticed.

Also, the cover makes it look like Pink has just given birth to a giant wooden horse and is feeling rather pleased with herself. A feeling which, surely, cannot be new to her. 2/10

Grace Jones - Hurricane

Grace Jones rears her ever-so-slightly scary head again. She's always walked a really fine line between prog and disco - genres that are seperated by a really fucking big fine line. I willing to bet that this album contains lots of prog sounding synth and keyboard lines and sounds about as dated as Pretty Hate Machine. I am also willing to bet that all of the liner notes are written in Courier font. I am also willing to bet that Grace Jones could tear me in half like a phone book, so I'm not saying anything bad about this album.

Whilst I don't particularly like prog-synth-disco albums, anyone involved with one of the Conan movies instantly scores highly on everything they do. 8/10

Paul Carrack - I Know That Name

Look at those eyes.

He's thinking of molesting you.

4/10






The Game- LAX

I'm assuming that those are his kids in that photo, because that's the kind of thing that rappers do. They like to maintain this gun-runnin', crack-smokin', beanie-hat-wearin' facade...but every now and again they let that drop to reveal that there is a sensitive side to everyone. He's makin' sho' his kids gro' up rite, fo' shizzle. He's tryin' to show that he may be this bad-ass rappa' most of the time...but when his girl wants a nite ou', he happy to si' on the cou' with his tw' kid' and watch High Skizzle Mizzle.

At least I'm assuming that's the intention. It has backfired somewhat, as it looks like he's busted into your house and is threatening your kids with violence if you don't give him the money/crack/PS3. Strangely, I find that interpretation much cooler. 8/10

Monday, 3 November 2008

An introduction to Rob, by Rob (part the first)

Well, since I have yet to venture forth an introductory post, I figured I'd take the introductory post as a way of introducing myself to the blog's eventual audience. Let's start with the basics. My name's Rob, I'm 24 and I'm a Medway-based comedian. I work full-time at a cinema, and my interests include music, games and movies. On this subject I have a few pet peeves I thought I'd share with you, the fine criticising public.

The first is thus:

The sheer number of shitty video games.

This one is fairly simple to explain. My irritation partly comes from my previous experience working at a video game retailer. The release list was updated every week, and eager staff would scour the list looking for the release date for their most anticipated games. Priority #2 for the staff was to browse through the shitty games and have a good old laugh at their expense.

Seriously, the crap:good ratio grows ever smaller on some of these consoles. Whereas the two current-gen consoles (Xbox 360 and PS3) seem to have a reasonable ratio of big name games compared to the lesser titles, checking out the Nintendo DS list seems to be a recipe for disaster, and of course this comment is doubly appropriate on DS as there exists a game version of Hell's Kitchen - 'Ever wanted to hear Gordon Ramsay call you a wanker, but lack culinary ability of any kind? Well, never fear!'

Searching for Nintendo DS games on Amazon's UK website yields an impressive 877 results. Hold your applause, most of them suck. Pulling up the first couple of pages gives me Bunnyz.


One of the more recent of the virtual pet games with the annoying Z at the end, Bunnyz is joined by such classics as Dogz, Catz, Tigerz (I shit you not), Hamsterz and Duckz (ok, I made that one up, but the rest are true). What are some of the awesome features of Bunnyz, I hear you cry?

Well, this absolutely genuine sentence from the game preview should tell you all you need to know:

"Keep your bunny happy and comfortable with regular brushing, feeding and cleaning it's cage".

So let me see if I understand this. Part of the appeal of this game is the ability to clean up virtual excrement? Do yourself a favour, throw the game in the bin and dispose of some genuine shit. Secondly, the grammar of this marketing is so bad that I can't actually tell if you get to feed the bunny itself or its cage. How boring would that be?

Even more amusing than this is the fact that this game only allows you to have one bunny at a time on the game. So this game doesn't even replicate the ability to own 2 rabbits, a luxury only apparently affordable to those with enough money to buy a second copy of this toss. So let's take a keen look at those who wished to part with their hard-earned money, with a reader review of Bunnyz.

"This game is not as good as it looks".
How a game can be worse than this looks defies the most brilliant scientific minds.

"You can take it outside the cage into the room".
Obviously this feature is only possible if the cage has been fed, otherwise it tends to hold the bunny hostage as some sort of collateral in order to barter for a Wagon Wheel.

"Although you do get to teach it words and phrases".
...I'm sorry, what? Do you mean to tell me that this game...alters reality? How about altering it so that kids can choose MORE THAN ONE FUCKING RABBIT?!

"overall it is poorly structured"
I don't feel it's my place to go into detail about why this is a funny sentence to me. To keep it short, it's a pot/kettle-related hate crime.

Honestly, Ubisoft are responsible for some serious shit. There are 28 results on Play with the prefix 'Imagine'. Some of them are quite ridiculous, such as Imagine: Babies (I'm pretty sure you can go to prison for that). That's right, Ubisoft think so little of you that they don't think you can imagine such simple things as Teachers and Babies without the help of their software. Perhaps Ubisoft should have first created Imagine: Competent Developers to give them a bit of a hand.

They've also got a game called My Health Coach: Manage your Weight, which comes with a pedometer. I've never understood the point of them, do they alert you to a nearby molestor, or rate your effectiveness as one? Alternatively, they've combined the concept of a pedometer with the idea of weight management and have perfected a game that makes you sexy to nonces.

I'll be back with more things that annoy me soon enough.

The E14 Weekly List

Here's a quick run-down to what's hot, and what's not, for the Emotionally Fourteen this week.

MOVIES

Hot:
Saw V (Twisted Pictures/Lionsgate)

Not:
High School Musical III (Walt Disney

MUSIC
Hot:
AC/DC - Black Ice
Cradle of Filth - Godspeed On The Devil's Thunder

Not:
Play still taking pre-orders for Chinese Democracy. I've been waiting for that album since I was *actually* fourteen.

BOOKS

Hot:
Dave Gibbons - Watching The Watchmen (Titan Books)
Karen Traviss - Gears Of War: The Battle of Aspho Fields (Orbit & Abacus)

Not:
Michael Parkinson - Parky: My Autobiography (Hodder & Stoughton)

GRAPHIC NOVELS:

Hot:
Punisher Max: From First To Last (Marvel Comics)
The Mammoth Book of Zombie Comics (Constable and Robinson)

Not:
World of Warcraft: Volume One (Titan Books)
The Picture of Dorian Gray (Self Made Hero)

VIDEO GAMES

Hot:
LEGO Batman
Manhunt II

Not:
Hell's Kitchen: The Video Game
Imagine - Figure Skater

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Movie Review: A Nightmare On Elm Street



Slasher-horror movies were an essential part of growing up when I was a kid. They were as integral a part of puberty for boys in the mid-nineties as Louise Rennison books were for girls – Jason, Hockey Masks and Full-Frontal Stabbing, if you will. Why? Well, I have a degree in Film Studies, and did my dissertation on Zombie movies, so I can bang on for days about how the blood represents menstruation, how the supernatural elements represent the confusion of being a child thrust into an adult’s world and how the refusal of any authority figures to recognise the problems of the protagonists is representative of the older generation’s unwillingness to listen to its children. The thing is, though, I won’t. This is because I think three-quarters of what they taught me at University is pretentious bull-shit.

The fact is that slasher-horror movies are (or certainly were, and should be) an integral part of puberty because a) parents and the BBFC tell you that you shouldn’t be watching them, b) they have lots of blood in them, c) they sometimes have lots of tits in them and d) they sometimes have heavy metal in them. If blood, tits and metal were required elements for a film to be released, maybe the movie industry wouldn’t be in such a sorry state now. Also, even Michael Bay films would rock.

A Nightmare On Elm Street isn’t the first of the modern slasher-horror movies, that belongs to Halloween – but at the time it came out, it was the best. Whilst Halloween, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Friday The 13th were all sold as straight forward serial-killer-nut-with-a-knife stories, A Nightmare On Elm Street mixed that up with those crazy half-remembered urban legends that circulate every high school in the world. What’s great is that the supernatural element works because it isn’t laughed off. It’s fucking terrifying.

Anyway, in case you haven’t seen it:

Schoolgirl Tina has a nightmare in which she is stalked through a boiler room by a guy with knives for fingers. Just as he catches her she wakes up screaming, only to discover razor cuts in her nightdress. The next day, she finds out that her friend Nancy had the same dream. That night, Tina, Nancy and her boyfriend Glen have a sleep-over to make Tina feel better. This is because nightmares can be warded off by friendship and mullets. Tina's boyfriend, Rod, comes over and fucks Tina.

When you consider this, Tina comes across as a bit of a bitch. She has a nightmare that is disturbingly real, and so asks her friends to come and hang out with her. When her boyfriend comes over, she dashes upstairs to do him leaving her friends sat downstairs to twiddle their thumbs and listen to them shag. Frankly I’m glad she’s dead.

Oh, yeah. She dies shortly after. Tina has another nightmare, and this time the killer catches her and fucks her shit up. Royally. Up the walls royally. Rod wakes up to find Tina being cut open by invisible knives and dragged up the wall and across the ceiling. This sequence is awesome, and ones of the many reasons why we still remember A Nightmare On Elm Street, whilst most people have forgotten The Burning, and all the other shitty slasher movies ever made. Not one of them featured a girl in her underwear thrashing across the ceiling whilst bleeding from a grievous chest wound.


Rod, the only other person in the room, is suspected of the killing and arrested the next day. Which sucks for him, but...he’s the sort of guy who’d choke on his own bedsheets.

Nancy then has three nightmares in which she is stalked then attacked by the same figure who attacked Tina. These nightmares lead her to talk to Rod in prison, who tells her what he saw in Tina's bedroom. Much to the dismay of her mother, Nancy becomes convinced that the figure appearing in her dreams is the person who killed Tina. Nancy and Glen rush to the police station late at night to talk to Rod, only to find that he's been strangled by his own bedsheets (the only stupid death in the film). To everyone except Nancy, it appears to be a suicide.

Nancy's mother takes her to a Dream Therapy Clinic (yes, they exist, and no, they don’t have a waiting list apparently) to ensure she gets some sleep. Once again, she has a nightmare. This time, her arm is cut, but she finds that she has brought something out from her dream: the killer's hat. It arouses concern (For about twelve seconds, but the doctors treat it as nothing unusual. One is simply left to assume that they see cases of spontaneous headgear materilising three days out of five). Eventually, her mother reveals to Nancy that the owner of the hat was a man named Freddy Krueger, a child murderer from over a decade earlier.

Furious, vengeful parents burned him alive in his hideout when he was released from prison on a technicality. Now, it appears he is manipulating the dreams of their children to exact his revenge from beyond the grave. Nancy's mother, however, reassures Nancy that Krueger can't hurt anyone, pulling Krueger's knife glove from a hiding place in the furnace as a visual aid.

Nancy devises a plan to catch Krueger, but before it can be pulled off, Glen falls asleep and is killed by being sucked into his bed and shot back up in a fountain of blood. Again, this is one of those moments of creative and cinematic genius. Whilst I watched the movie for this review, my girlfriend was in the room with me. She doesn’t like horror films, and wasn’t particularly paying attention. She did, however, look up at that moment and say “That is awesome.”


Nancy pulls Kruger into the real world, but is alone. She runs around her house and forces him to run into traps she had set earlier. This actually pre-dates Home Alone by several years.

After setting Freddy on fire Nancy locks him in the basement, and finally gets her father and the rest of the police to help. After discovering that Krueger has escaped and that fiery footsteps lead upstairs, Nancy and her father, a police lieutenant, witness Krueger smothering Marge with his flaming body, disappearing to leave her corpse to sink into the bed. After sending her father away, Nancy faces Krueger on her own and succeeds in destroying him by turning her back on him and draining him of all energy.

The scene shifts to the next morning, where it is revealed that everything was a dream as Nancy gets in a car with Glen and the rest of her friends, on their way to school. Nancy realizes that she is still trapped in the dream, as Freddy possesses the car just as she gets in. The car drives away with Nancy screaming for her mother, and Marge being pulled through the door window by a clawed hand. Okay, I lied. There’s two stupid deaths in the movie.

A Nightmare On Elm Street is great. The effects have dated, but that’s to be expected for a movie that’s nearly twenty-five years old. What hasn’t dated is the concept, Robert Englund’s performance as Freddy Kruger, and the genuine feeling of fear from a character that no matter what you do, you cannot escape. Sure, Freddy only has power in dreams, but you have to sleep sometime, and when you do, you’ll be at the mercy of a knife-wielding, goblin-faced paedophile with god like powers.


The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Protracted, gory and extreme. Several sequences last minutes and have buckets of blood.
Sex/Nudity: Some indistinct side-boob and mild spoken references. Oh, yeah, we get to hear Tina and Rod shagging, but it’s audio only. Frankly, this is the one area where the film is flagging.
Swearing: IMDB lists thirty-five uses of “fuck” (and variations). That’s a fuck every 2.6 minutes, less than this article.
Other points in favour:
Freddy Kruger is a dark, evil mother-fucker, and you will love him for it. When the films effects are dated, you will either not care, or have a great time laughing.
It’s all too easy to forget just what an imaginative concept this film is, because it has become such a part of popular culture. It’s very easy to get blase about it. A “dream-killer” is unique, and the paedophile revenge angle is genius.
As above, but for the gauntlet alone. You know you want one.
Robert Englund.
Summary: I’m awarding a 7/10, because there’s just an X factor to this movie. In summary, a great film...but the quest for The Ultimate Movie For The Emotionally Fourteen continues.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

E14 Roundtable: "Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2"

In keeping with the spirit of not making things rather much longer than they need to be on this site, it was decided that the E14 Roundtable for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, recorded on Friday 26th June 2009, would be archived and backdated. This way, you have to look for it yourself to read it, so we know you want to.
Rob: May I first say welcome to E14, Blake. We look forward to seeing some great stuff from you.

Blake: Oooh…

Rob: Sorry, have I put too much pressure on you? Anyway, the subject of the day is Tecmo Koei and Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. We were very kindly invited to the event by Tecmo Koei, and we are very grateful for that opportunity.

Blake: Yeah, we will be keen to keep a good relationship there, and thanks to Ben at Tecmo Koei for inviting us. We might need business cards as well, by the way.

Rob: Noted. So, Tecmo Koei: The first part of the presentation today was talking about the merger itself, and we heard from various higher-ups regarding the merger of the two companies.

Blake: SCEE was there as well.

Rob: Yeah, there was a big Sony presence there. Understandable, really, being as they have the exclusive license for Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2. One of the main features of the press conference with regards to Tecmo Koei was emphasis on the high amounts of expansion in the European gaming market. Do you think that’s something that’s come along in the past few years?

Blake: Absolutely, of course it’s been in place since before the Tecmo Koei merger. Japan and the East have started to notice that Europe’s becoming a much larger scene. It was Kenji Matsubara that mentioned that the UK has become the second largest games purchaser worldwide.

Rob: I can absolutely believe that. Coming from a video games retail background, I’ve seen quite a bit of evidence that the UK has been growing at a tremendous rate.

Blake: Exactly. Particularly with the most recent generation of consoles, with the Wii reaching out to the casual gamer, it’s beginning to show that video games are starting to outsell other media such as DVDs and books.

Rob: Cool. Well, obviously, Tecmo is known for Ninja Gaiden, Dead or Alive

Blake: Kessen, but more in Japan. They did have some games in the early stages of the PS2’s lifespan as well.

Rob: Yeah, whereas Koei is mainly known for Dynasty Warriors as a primary franchise. They’ve done some other stuff of note, including Operation Winback for the PS2 and N64 back in the day.

Blake: I remember that game! They’ve always been a more Eastern-favoured developer, with Samurai Warriors and Dynasty Warriors among their main focuses. Tecmo, it has to be said, has always favoured a more Western-targeted approach, particularly with games like Dead Or Alive and Ninja Gaiden.

Rob: Now, something that came up in the conference that surprised me: It’s been 9 years since the PS2 came out! That makes me feel fucking old!

Blake: Well yeah, I find it increasingly hard to believe that the Playstation came out 14 years ago.

Rob: It’s incredible to think, really. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been a gamer since I was about 9 or 10 and it still shocks me to hear that!

Blake: Absolutely. I’ve been into games pretty much my whole life, but I’ve probably been playing avidly since I was a little bit older. Even as a toddler I still enjoyed the Spectrum!

Rob: Ok, so we got a few announcements out of there about Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2 that have been confirmed now. It’s coming out in the Fall of 2009, with an official release date coming in late July. It’s retailing at £44.99 (59.99 euros).

Blake: I wouldn’t be surprised if that price came down, if only because of the influence of online retailers like Amazon undercutting the other retailers.

Rob: I’d agree, I’d say that’s fairly likely. The other thing that is quite important is that there will be a trailer and a playable demo on the Playstation Network in September.

Blake: It’s worth mentioning as well that this is the first game to be released under the new Tecmo Koei Europe Ltd brand.

Rob: That is worth mentioning, you’re right. We heard from Yusuke Hayashi, the producer at Team Ninja. He was bloody good at that game.

Blake: Yeah, annoyingly so, though he did get his arse handed to him by the level’s boss. But then, didn’t we all?
Rob: Indeed we did. He established that there would be an online co-op mode in the game.

Blake: Yeah, not much was announced about the online co-op mode at this time, which concerns me a little bit to be honest. It’s supposed to be out in three months.

Rob: So do you think it’ll be a cut-down version of the game?

Blake: Yeah, he mentioned that it wouldn’t be the entire campaign, so I imagine it’ll be a skimmed-down campaign or arena-based. He did mention online leader boards as well.
One thing that’s a particular bugbear of mine is that while I do enjoy the new online co-op modes, it’s coming at the expense of split-screen multiplayer.

Rob: That’s true, particularly when developing first-person shooters. There seems to be a trend towards making split-screen less of a priority if they do make the mode available.
Blake: Yeah, and I wouldn’t have a problem with that if they left the mode in, but there seems to be a growing trend towards taking the mode out completely.

Rob: Yeah, I agree. I think the irony is that they’ve tried to emphasise the social aspect of multiplayer with the online mode, but at the same time have taken away the option to have friends over to play games in split-screen.

Anyway, they confirmed that there will be 4 playable characters in the game, 3 female characters. One is a new character to the console franchise, but appeared in the game Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword on Nintendo DS, her name is Momiji.

Blake: Yeah, she’s armed with some sort of pole-sword type thing. I’ll play Bushido Blade later to find out the name of it…

Rob: So, they opened the floor up to questions. There were some understandable concerns regarding difficulty, which makes sense considering that even the producer had trouble breezing through it. The answer he gave was that the game was meant to be challenging, is that something you’d agree with having played the game?

Blake: Yeah. While I hate the moniker of ‘hardcore gamer’, I do play quite a bit, and I still feel that the game was a good challenge. Apart from the boss, which all of us seemed to find quite difficult at times, it never felt punishing in its difficulty or disheartening.

Rob: Storylines were also a question raised. It was said that while the other characters will have their own sub-stories and levels specifically for them, the main focus of the story will still focus on Ryu.

Blake: That makes sense, it’s awfully similar to the original Ninja Gaiden Sigma, which had the main focus on Ryu, but had sub-levels featuring the girl with the big axe whose name escapes me (editor’s note: her name’s Rachel). However, she’s in the trailer, which will be on the site along with this article, so she’ll be in the game in some form.

Rob: Downloadable content was a focus of the questions as well, one which people were curious about. While the main game will be their focus, the downloadable content will be available, but not the focus at this time.

Blake: In Ninja Gaiden Sigma, the DLC took the form of extra costumes and battle arenas that allowed you to either play as Ryu or the girl with the axe. They mentioned they’d be looking for the fans’ input on the game, which they always have to say really to allay people’s fears. No way of knowing for sure until the final game is released. However, they do obviously have to look more at that sort of thing, bearing in mind that games cost about as much as movies to make nowadays.

Rob: Absolutely. The production values are much higher on games than they used to be, and although they don’t have to shift as many units as DVDs, they still have to sell a fair few. It would make sense to please the fans, as well as attract new fans to the franchise. Ok, so one person asked about save-point issues. Is that something you’ve noticed in previous versions?
Blake: In Ninja Gaiden Sigma, although I didn’t have a huge amount of experience in that game, I found the checkpoints to be quite well-spaced, although there was the odd one that seemed a bit too far from the previous point. If there were any issues from the original Ninja Gaiden on Xbox, which I know you’ve played Rob, they seem to have been somewhat addressed.

Rob: Finally, one thing they mentioned as far as the Xbox 360 goes is that there aren’t any plans to release the content on Sigma 2 as DLC for the Xbox 360 version. Do you think that’s a good thing?

Blake: Absolutely. I think that as the original Ninja Gaiden 2 was an exclusive title on Xbox 360, I think it’s like making a Director’s Cut version which is good to please the PS3 fans. It makes them feel like they’re getting some sort of compensation for the amount of time they’ve been waiting for it. How did you rate the graphics?

Rob: It’s very smooth running; it’s a very good looking game no doubt. I wouldn’t say it was drastically better than Ninja Gaiden 2, or probably even Ninja Gaiden Sigma. Nothing that couldn’t have been done on Xbox 360 really.

Now, we got a chance to play the game. We probably got about half an hour between us, right?

Blake: Yeah, we got to play as 2 out of the 3 characters available in the play test, Ryu and the new girl Momiji. I found that the combat was very close to the original Ninja Gaiden Sigma, you still have all the finishing moves and high-flying attacks, magic that you charged with the Six-Axis controller. All in all, an impressive game. The only thing I would say is that there wasn’t a huge amount of new equipment and skills, it seems very similar to previous games in that respect.

Rob: Ok, so we’ve mentioned graphics, how did you rate the sound and music?

Blake: I thought it was fairly standard action game fare from Japan, sword clashes and cries of pain and such. The music was fairly standard, bit of ambient music with a bit of an action movie tinge. The game’s still devilishly fast in terms of combat, one of the few games you’ll find that’s as fast as Devil May Cry.

Rob: Indeed. Do you feel that speed hurts the game, and that there are some issues with camera controls, bearing in mind that the camera has come under fire in previous games?

Blake: Yeah, there was a particular mode where you can press a button to give you a hint of where to go next. However, this doesn’t always work well, as when the objective was below me, it just highlighted a random part of the floor. I worked it out, but you mentioned that you noticed the camera going a bit mental at that point.

Rob: Do you think that the toned-down level of violence makes a noticeable difference in the game?

Blake: Not really, no. The only thing I noticed was that with the power of the PS3, they really have enough processing power to allow limbs and dead bodies to hang around more, which was a feature present in the original Sigma game. The limbs went missing, but they just became stumps. In the original game, if you did a decapitation the head would roll off and be visible. All in all though, I thought it was a really enjoyable game. The flaws I’ve noticed are only really visible to me because I’m a big fan of games like this.

Rob: How do you think it will do on our E14 rating scale, bearing in mind that the violence may drop it a point?

Blake: I think it will do well. It’s a very competent game, and would probably do well at rivalling its closest rival in my opinion, the Devil May Cry series. While the violence has been toned down, the game has always been about flashy high-speed combat anyway really.

Rob: Well, I think we can wrap it up there. This has been Blake Harmer and Rob Wade for E14. Once again, we’d like to thank Tecmo Koei for allowing us the chance to have a play with Ninja Gaiden Sigma 2, and we’ll keep you posted on developments in the future. Thanks for reading.