Junker Woland

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Disgaea 3 - Coming to PS3

Welcome to Tuesday, July 17, 2007, a day that—for a small portion of US video game fandom—will be remembered as vastly superior to this year’s E3. Today, Nippon Ichi finally announced a third installment in their immensely popular SRPG series, Disgaea.

Thanks to the wonders of PDF, we know the game is set to be released on the Playstation 3; actual dates and solid game information are nonexistent at this point, though the document does contain two screenshots.

From the looks of things, we can expect Disgaea 3’s visual presentation to be similar to its predecessor, with the additions of a 16:9 screen aspect ratio and higher resolution 2D sprites. You can check out the Japanese PDF announcement here.

Expect continued covered of Disgaea 3 here at JunkerWoland as new details emerge. I guess I finally have a real reason to get a PS3...

You can check out the two screenshots here: 1, 2.



Thursday, July 12, 2007

E3: The Big 3 Press Conferences

Even in the face of a smaller more decentralized show, one element of this year’s E3 that retains its prominent stature is the ever important opening salvo—this is to say, the keynote speeches given by the video game industry’s three biggest companies: Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony.

The players have changed somewhat over time, but the importance and focus paid to the keynotes has continually grown alongside the video game industry itself. No other portion of the expo is more eagerly anticipated, as people anxiously await to hear these corporations reveal what very well could be the future of gaming; and of course, no other portion of the expo will receive more scrutiny for weeks, and sometimes months, afterwards as pundits, fans, and corporate spokesmen alike debate who’s speech “won” the show.

Well, E3 2007 is here, all three contenders have entered the ring and whipped out their packages, now I’m ready to thrown down my own thoughts on what recently transpired under that warm California sun.

Hit the “Read More…” link to see my musings on the three keynotes, broken down by order of appearance.

It’s All Been Done – Microsoft

Gamers need only come away from Microsoft’s 2007 E3 keynote knowing one thing: you have learned nothing. For roughly one and a half hours, the Xbox camp pranced around their green-lit outdoor stage, boasting of recent accomplishments and promoting the hell out of their next five months worth of video game wares. Their few legitimately original announcements mostly covered purchasable content for Xbox Live and a limited edition Halo 3 Xbox 360 that’ll go on sale later this year—in terms of high caliber headline grabbing news, Gates and company came up exceedingly empty handed.

Watching Microsoft’s speech was the equivalent of surfing to your favorite game website and reading through the front page of their Xbox 360 section. This wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing had MS been presenting to a crowd of stock brokers in their 50s, but this is E3, they’re preaching to the people who write about their expensive toys for a living and the gamers who sit at home reading those same articles—an audience of converted denizens who already have a decent grasps on the sales figures and know when the next big title hits. There’s little need to waste time and money regurgitate information that’s so readily known and available.

The crowd obviously agreed, as their silence during the event was almost painful. At first one might have thought “well it’s being held outside so maybe that’s the reason it’s so quiet,” then the reality set in that, no, people just aren’t applauding.

Microsoft’s E3 ended as the hired band (which had earlier played a decent rock rendition of the Halo theme) let their last notes waft through the empty outdoor stadium. While they certainly didn’t lose any ground or diminish gamers’ anticipation for Halo 3 and the rest of their holiday lineup, this just becomes another wasted opportunity on their part to grab some positive attention for what in my opinion is this console generation’s purest video game machine.

Here’s to You Mrs. Robinson – Nintendo

Nintendo will undoubtedly garner the majority of attention at E3 2007, simply because the continued crusade to expand their user base has fashioned them so outlandishly different from their competition. Mario’s army began the march to convert the non-gaming populace back at E3 2005 and has yet to plant their standard. This year’s artillery came courtesy of WiiFit—a wireless exercise balance board and accompanying software loaded with routines and mini-games aimed at keeping everyone from the youngest tike to the oldest crank in shape.

There is no doubt in my mind that WiiFit will be a blockbuster for Nintendo, especially in Japan; it’s perfectly positioned to retain and grow the market they cultivated through their non-game DS titles and casual-styled Wii software. WiiFit will make the news (the “real” news not Gamespot.com) earning the company even more praise for bringing gaming to the masses, which will in turn further help inflate their bottom line.

But Nintendo isn’t stupid, either. They know their fanboys are ravenous and WiiFit wouldn’t come close to sating their hunger for Big N products; wisely, targeted release dates were announced for several big properties, and Mario Kart for the Wii was finally shown. That’s all this company need do to keep their dogs in check and arm them to sack all corners of the Internet with their zombie-like propaganda. Nintendo “won” E3, and they know it.

What I’d like to remind the boys in Kyoto is that gamers still exist, and that’s not just those that tow the company line, ready to buy any and every first-party sequel Nintendo lackadaisically dribbles out. As a person who has yet to see merit in their Wii’s gimmicky control scheme, I have to ask where are the new titles—no, not the third and fourth sequel to existing franchises or their next packet of mini-game madness, I mean the actual, honest-to-goodness new titles, aimed at what Nintendo likes to term “the core audience.”

For the third year in a row, the feeling I’ve gleaned from Nintendo has been if you’re not a loyal troop or a part of the so desirable expanded audience then they really don’t care much about you. I say that’s a shame, particularly as a person who cut their gaming teeth on the NES. I’m not suggesting Nintendo abandon their goal of global video game domination, it’d just be nice to see they still gave some thought to the gamers who aren’t necessarily big on virtual bowling.

Hangin’ Tough – Sony

Probably the biggest surprise of the show so far was Sony delivering a solid E3 keynote after having spent 2005 trying to dupe audiences with pre-rendered CG videos and underwhelming them with 2006’s stiff “giant enemy crab” proclamations. Sony retained the tragically un-hip and stogy persona that’s plagued them over the years, something seemingly hard to understand considering their position as a major leader of pop-culture technology, yet beneath the spartan-copper walls, jumbo LCD screens, and ill-fitting business attire, one could feel a legitimate desire to present first rate software, even if much of their games involved guys, with guns, blowing the crap out of things.

I have no love Sony. Nostalgia doesn’t bind them to my childhood, and I view their Playstation 3 more as an uncouth attempt at conquering the total home-entertainment arena, rather than being a true video game system. I respect, however, that they took to the floor and demonstrated their wares to a game hungry crowd without the pretension and bravado exhibited by their competitors. They trusted more that their software itself would tantalize onlookers, instead of biased pie charts and video rhetoric.

This isn’t to suggest anything Sony divulged was awe inspiring; the overwhelming majority of their speech was thoroughly expected—from yet another trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4, an ever-so-slightly redesigned PSP, and finally unveiling to the general public a real-time trailer for Killzone 2. In an age where news travels around the world instantaneously, it remains difficult to grasp why any company would squander E3’s spotlight for what amounts to little more than another news blurb on a big-name gaming website.

Sony’s keynote certainly lacked the “wow factor,” though it was earnest enough to leave a positive impression concerning the future of their video game empire. And hey, at least people actually applauded during their presser. Sony continues to face a huge hurdle due to the exorbitant price of their PS3, and they’ll need more than a little good karma to shed the animosity they managed to build with gamers over the last year, but I think this E3 was a step in the right direction.

End of the Line?

Still, we must always remember, E3 is all about hype and hyperbole. We rarely ever truly know the what’s going on until products ship-out to our local game stores, so it doesn’t much matter who “won” E3; what counts is the announcements, and in all three cases, we had a lackluster showing at best.

I imagine E3 has a few more good years left as the yearly Mecca pilgrimage for US gaming, but now with its diminished sized, competing expos, the Internet, and companies hosting their own large-scale showcases, I’m thinking the writing is somewhat on the wall. As the major announcements continue to dwindle so does E3’s importance.



Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I Still Function – E3 Edition

Sorry for the awful hiatus, but things got quite hectic for a bit. Recently, I found myself involved with what looks to be a short lived side-project that managed to consume more of my free time than had been expected (hints to the nature of said activities can be found on this very page)—a hot-carded VISA, blown circuit box, big family party, and time spent watching Michael Bay defile my childhood with some insipid nonsense that doesn’t deserve to be called a movie also added to my lengthy absence.

But I’m back, just in time to venerate in front of the US video game industry’s yearly alter of broken promises and failed hype, by which I mean E3…or mini-E3 as this year’s revival has so affectionately been termed.

Of course, I’m not actually at E3 (hell, I’m on the other side of the country), so expect a liberal sprinkling of links with accompany jests covering what I deem the major news of the show.

Hit the “Read More…” link for some fun at SONY’s expense.

Here’s something to wet your digital appetites: as you might be aware, yesterday Sony dropped the cost of their 60GB PS3 by $100, then completely nullified the savings by announcing a US release of the up-until-now-Korean exclusive 80GB PS3, listed at their old high-end price of $599.

Now watch Jack Tretton, President of SCEA, defend Sony’s pricing hijinks and the lukewarm reception of their newest piece of gaming hardware on CNBC (this video really should have been titled Bitches don’t know about my 10-year cycle).

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