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Star Wars: The Old Republic Group Gameplay

Sorry for making you guys wait on this, but I’ve been very busy with work lately, but enough with the excuses. Who want’s some group gameplay footage of Star Wars: The Old Republic? This video debuted at E3 and now we’re bringing it to those who haven’t seen it by now. You’ll see all four […]

E3: A Sun, an Eye and an Ape With a Tie

I had such wonderful plans for my money: food, shelter, gas and toilet paper to name a few.  All of that changed however, when I played a selection of Nintendo’s lineup of games at E3 this year.  Nintendo was clearly the leader of this years E3 in terms of sheer volume of new game announcements and quality titles.  My Wii and DS are going to be working overtime and my wallet is already openly weeping.

As a huge fan of it on the SNES, my first stop was to check out Donkey Kong Country Returns.  To put it simply, this game is basically New Super Donkey Kong Country Wii.  A lot like New Super Mario Bros, it takes the foundation set by the original game and adds little bits of new things.  You’ll find all the original vine swinging and mine cart racing still there, but you also get co-op play, ground pounding and some plane-switching action.  All of the new stuff feels great and the two-player element really adds another dimension.  There is definitely the potential for some frustration, as both players share a pool of lives, but not nearly as much as the chaos created by the multiplayer in New Super Mario Bros Wii.

The level I got to play was jungle-themed much like those from the original, though there seemed to be a tiki twist to it as well.  The gameplay was extremely easy to jump right into and felt both familiar and fresh.  A lot of the action was your standard DKC platforming, collecting bananas and visiting bonus areas.  One odd thing that caught my eye was the inclusion of jigsaw puzzle pieces that strongly resembles the “Jiggys” of the Banjo Kazooie franchise as collectible items.  One new thing that also stood out was that, every once in a while, a barrel will shoot you into the background.  Once there, you’ll either hop into a bonus barrel or do some action back there in order to progress the level.  I know, it’s not a new concept by any stretch, but it is a welcome addition to the DKC formula.  To sum up, if you are a fan of the original games, then you will be love the feel of playing a Donkey Kong Country game again, if you are new to the series then this will be a great chance to get you into it and if you are not a fan then perhaps you should borrow it from someone who is and see if it doesn’t change your mind.

In the interest of heading straight for old favorites, I ran towards Goldeneye 007 next.  Sadly, they did not have a demo of the single player campaign available to play, but they did have some multiplayer set up.  I jumped in as Alec Trevelyan, but was immediately sad that I didn’t pick Odd Job.  While everyone else that was playable threw grenades, our favorite bowler-wearing henchman threw his hat.  We played using classic controller pros and it felt very natural right away.  To be honest, I loved the game, but I was terrible at it.  My butt-kicking aside, the shooting was very smooth and while adapting to how the FPS genre has evolved over the years, it still felt very much like Goldeneye 007.

After that, I saw an opening and dove in at Golden Sun: Dark Dawn.  I will proudly admit that my dog ran from the room and I hurt my voice cheering and clapping when they announced this game at last year’s E3.  Getting my hands on the game, it looks as though I won’t be disappointed.  In the demo at the booth, they had a battling section and a puzzle section to experience.  Mainly, the battle system simply got a facelift and a firmware update.  The 360-view camera pans and grandiose djinn attacks are still there, but better-looking than ever.  The character models, while still remaining in the Golden Sun art style, have a Final Fantasy IV DS feel to them.  Thankfully, the issues such as wasting an attack when an enemy in one spot dies and someone attacks thin air have been addressed.

In the puzzle section of the demo, again it was a mixture of the same formula with some small updates.  You are once again moving statues and pillars with your powers but some new things have been thrown in as well.  In the demo training area there were posters put up that you had to burn down with fire synergy.  Overall, Golden Sun: Dark Dawn looked very pretty, but was also quite familiar.  Is this a bad thing you might ask?  Absolutely not, says I, because that formula, familiar as it may be, was and still is a ton of fun.  I will very likely be clawing at the gate of my nearest DS game retailer when that game ships in Q4 of 2010.

These are just three of the games that I played while basking in the glow of Nintendo’s booth.  I will be back to talk about all the other Nintendo goodness that I experienced, later this week.  Hint: it may or may not involve a legend.

Zombie Cowboys

If you thought there were some universes where zombies would never invade, you were red-dead-wrong. I’m still waiting for a gritty Power Rangers reboot saga where the old rangers are revived and zombified, but I’m a dreamer. Rockstar has announced 4 new DLC packages for Red Dead Redemption, some look great, and others just aren’t worth the price.

Legends and Killers Pack (Releasing beginning of August 2010)

New active map locations, characters and more:

  • 9 New Multiplayer map locations — more than doubling the amount of territories in the Multiplayer Competitive modes
  • 8 New Multiplayer characters— play as characters from Red Dead Revolver
  • Introducing a new projectile weapon: the Tomahawk, with corresponding Challenges for single player and multiplayer
  • New Achievements/Trophies
  • Pricing: $9.99 (PlayStation Network), 800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

Liars and Cheats Pack

New Competitive Modes, Multiplayer Mini-games in Free Roam, and more:

  • ‘Attack and Defend’ Multiplayer Competitive Mode and Challenges
  • New Multiplayer Horse Races complete with mounted combat
  • Play as the heroes and villains of Red Dead Redemption as well as 8 additional multiplayer characters
  • Multiplayer versions of Liars Dice and Poker from the single-player game
  • Introducing a new weapon: the Explosive Rifle, with associated Challenges available in single-player and multiplayer
  • New Achievements/Trophies
  • Release date TBC
  • Pricing: $9.99 (PlayStation Network), 800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

Free Roam Pack

Delve deeper into the world of Red Dead Redemption with new Modes, Challenges and Gang Hideouts to discover:

  • Additional Free Roam Challenges
  • New action areas and defensive placements
  • Posse Scoring / Posse Leaderboards
  • New ‘anti-griefing’ measures in Free Roam
  • Release date and pricing TBC

Undead Nightmare Pack

Ghost towns and cemeteries come alive in a West gone horribly wrong:

  • Brand new single player adventure, Challenges and quests
  • 8 New Multiplayer Zombie characters
  • Additional animals unleashed in the world
  • New Dynamic events
  • More details to follow…
  • Release date TBC
  • Pricing: $9.99 (PlayStation Network), 800 Microsoft Points (Xbox LIVE)

My only gripe here is the pricing. The first package, scheduled for August, seems to be adding the most to the multiplayer competitive experience. It is essentially a map pack with characters from the game that inspired Red Dead Redemption. Ten dollars there seems like no biggie, and I understand that pricing; even though I myself prefer to play in free roam over the competitive matches. However, the very next DLC on the list seems like a big list of what should have been in the game right from the start.

I remember the first time I signed into the multiplayer after having completed the game. A friend of mine was already around level 30, and hadn’t seen a single character from the main game as an unlockable. Sure enough, we looked up the “legendary” characters, most of which are extremely disappointing, and there wasn’t a single main character from the single player. I wasn’t greatly upset, but it certainly was confusing. The rest of the list isn’t any better: horse races should have been one of the first things implemented, especially since many, many gamers’ first thought was that this would be GTA: 1911; not including multiplayer versions of the gambling mini-games wasn’t vexing, but it also isn’t worth paying for; and I certainly am not going to shell out cash for a new play list.

Just about the only thing in the package that I could see with a price is the deliciously awesome sounding explosive rifle. Though even that has its drawbacks, as so far everything has been very -in the time period- an exploding rifle doesn’t seem to fit. The third on the list doesn’t have a price point yet, and I only hope that is because it will be free. To be honest, that Free Roam Pack looks like the notes you receive after a big patch, NOT after a purchased DLC package.

The final DLC harkens my thoughts back to CoD:WaW. While a gimmick in every way, zombie modes are more fun than they really should be. This DLC is the only other one besides Legends and Killers that I could see myself paying for, because I just love putting rotting flesh back into the dirt. From the wording, it seems like “zombie mode” will only be in single player, though considering there will be zombie multiplayer skins, I am hoping that it will see some free roam play in the form of a “gang hideout”. Except the gang will be hordes of zombies. One little note in that one catches my attention as well, and that is the mention of new animals. Now, I assume right away that it means “zombie skins for existing animals that we are calling new animals”. However I have hope that Rockstar may add in new boss animals, like the ones faced in the hunter challenges.

So from the look of it, Rockstar may be suffering from “it’s-on-the-disk-but-pay-for-it-anyway syndrome”. It is a disease that is affecting the industry in the worst way possible. I just hope that a cure is found soon, otherwise our bank accounts may develop super anti-bodies to fight off the infection.

E3: Good Can Come of Rage

One fine evening, Fallout 3 decided to go out for a drink.  So, it found a bar and started ordering some drinks.  After some time, a nice game called Borderlands came up and started ordering drinks for Fallout 3.  The next morning the two awoke next to each other with confused looks on their faces.  That is the story of how the newest gem from our good friends at Bethesda and Id entitled Rage was conceived.

Bethesda’s booth at E3 was one of the most secretive of the whole lot.  You could tell that there was a whole lot of stuff going on in there, but only with an invitation could you experience the awesome games that lurked inside.  While there were many games available to experience in that booth, I’m going to be focusing on one in particular today.  Rage has been in production for a good long while, but believe me when I say that this is definitely a good thing because it shows.  With the incredibly smooth 60 fps that Id Tech 5 gives, it not only looks and runs great, but the rest of it is coming together quite nicely as well.

Before I go into all the stuff that I just loved about the demo I got to see, I will get this out of the way.  Yes, the story for Rage is almost to the point of hilariously similar to another game published by the same company.  An asteroid is heading towards the Earth threatening to destroy all life on the planet, so pods are created, filled with people and drilled underground to emerge when it is safe.  You play as someone freshly emerging from the pod into the Wasteland, where the world is now filled with mutants and bandits.  While this story does seem like some kind of hybrid between Fallout 3 and Borderlands, Id promises that we will be treated to a very deep and rich story.  While I have not yet gotten tired of the whole post-apocalyptic wasteland story, from what I have seen, it looks as though they are definitely not kidding.

One thing that really bugs me is when you walk through a crowd in a town and you are greeted by a bunch of slightly different clones.  So, as we walked through the town in the demo, I looked very hard at all the NPCs we walked by.  Not only did all of them look different, but everyone also looked interesting.  This is something that is very difficult to pull off and I applaud Id for making the effort.  The enemy characters are a completely different story.

While they do have some clones coming at you, it’s easy to understand since they’re throwing bunches and bunches of them at you.  What they did to remedy this, is each band of baddies has their own style.  I’m not just saying that one of them wears socks with sandals and another likes their jeans pre-ripped either.  Each enemy faction will approach you a different way in the way that they attack, surround and even simply traverse the terrain.  This dynamic enemy traversal really makes each enemy faction seem like a completely new experience.  While one group might be right up in your face attacking you head on, another sneakily surrounds you and swings around on the nearby pipes.

Another thing they focused on was that it was a big deal that the environments are just as important to develop as characters.  This shined through quite clearly from their presentation.  While the colors are definitely your familiar apocalypse browns, each environment was quite different from the last.

As far as the gameplay goes, it doesn’t look like there be too much ground-breaking going on here, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a ton of fun.  A combination of first-person shooting and driving action is the dominant portion of the game.  The driving seems to evoke a little bit of Borderlands and maybe a smidgeon of Motorstorm.  It looks like they will be giving you plenty of reasons to drive around with the nice environments and baddies to blow up along the way.  When out of your vehicle, you’ll have your guns to protect you, but sometimes a little more doesn’t hurt.  One device they showed as a part of your arsenal was a remote controlled car with an explosive strapped to it.  This adds even more variance in the way that you can be either as stealthy or up-front as you want to be about how you want to combat your enemies.

Honestly, I could go on and on about how excited about I am about Rage.  With the amount a variance they’ve stuck in here, it seems like there will be plenty to experience and it won’t go stale any time soon.  This is one game I won’t be able to rage-quit!

Do You Want More Anime Movies?! Of Course You Do!

Anime Expo (as well as other sources) have been filled to the brim with news of new and recently-acquired anime films. Which ones, you ask? How does a new Fullmetal Alchemist movie sound?

The final episode of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood contained an announcement saying that production on a film version of the recent FMA anime is currently in production. No word on the plot or release date, but considering that the manga has ended (and the anime ended the same way the manga did) fans can only speculate if the Elric Brothers will be in either a new adventure, or a rehash of the series in movie form.

At Anime Expo Production I.G. announced that Right Stuf has licensed Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Movie. A release date has yet to be announced.

Montreal’s Fantasia Film Festival (running July 8-28) will be screening the International premieres of Space Battleship Yamato Resurrection and Gintama: The Movie. The festival will also be screening the North American premiere of Je T’aime, the latest short film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell, The Sky Crawlers).

Finally (the biggest news of all): FUNimation has announced at Anime Expo that it has licensed the movie Trigun: Badlands Rumble for a 2011 theatrical and home release. A subtitled premiere of the film was held yesterday at the convention.

ESH Magazine On Sale Now! It Was Bound to Happen

Oh c’mon. Don’t act all surprised. You knew it was only a matter of time before this happened. The Electric Sista Hood magazine is available for purchase! Calling all geeks! We need all aggro on this magazine because it’s loaded with all sorts of geekery that will have you reading it over and over again. […]

Electric Sista Hood Magazine – BUY IT

It’s time for the game to be shaken up.
It’s time to read a magazine that you’ll love reading cover to cover or just looking at.
It’s time for Electric Sista Hood Magazine.

We’ve been working on this one for a while, but we are very proud to announce that Issue 1: In The Beginning is available today for purchase through MagCloud. The entire crew, including KingBabyDuck from the BostonBastardBrigade, Douceswild of GeekAggro and a few of our nearest and dearest talented geek friends have put together a little 28 page magazine that we are crazy proud of. You should buy it. Like right now.

Each issue is available for the low, low, low, low, (ridiculous ain’t it) low, low, low price of $5.99. Soon we will be opening up our subscription and PDF purchase options so grab it your way: print or digital.

E3: Atmospheric Mafia II

Mafia II is a game that I have already discussed in the past, but at E3 I got the chance to get my hands on it and now I have more to say.  The good folks at 2K Games seem to have spun quite a yarn and while the gunplay was definitely functional, the thing that really impressed me about Mafia II was the atmosphere the game exudes.

I would separate the demo I played into about three parts.  There was the experiencing the city portion, the shooting guns section and the getaway car conclusion.  After a short cutscene, the game starts up in your apartment with the phone ringing.  When you answer it, you are briefed to drive to your mission.  While you could drive straight there and get right to the firefight, the demo gave me 20 minutes to just enjoy the scenery and  I took it up on that offer.

This game screams the 1940s-1950s era.  Everything from the cityscape to the cars and clothing just oozes the charm from that time period.  I actually ran out of time looking around the city because I was just having so much fun appreciating the ambiance.  They even, as collectibles, have Playboy Magazine centerfolds from the 1950s.  I would say that the setting is brilliantly executed and it absorbed me quite a bit.

Once I got done gawking at the city, I eventually did find my way to the mission.  After a cutscene and a short drive, I arrived at the first mission site.  The gunplay, while nothing groundbreaking, did behave as well as expected and I managed to only die once.  The good news to me was that the ambience kept true all through the mission and that is one thing this game definitely has going for it.  In addition, having your buddy Joe with you throughout the mission was a ton of fun.  The characters playing off of each other added a lot to the experience.  The weapon variance felt fine and the cover system, along with how it could be destroyed, were all well implemented.

Once I got to the end of the mission, I had to escape the fuzz in my getaway car.  This was my one hangup about the demo.  I did get the hang of it after a couple of tries, but driving at a higher speed was a little tougher than I expected.  Once I got the hang of it, I shook off the coppers and my time with Mafia II unfortunately came to a close.

If you like a good mobster story and you like a game that has a great atmosphere and character, then this is one you’ll want to keep your eye on.  Look for Mafia II on August 24th for the PC, PS3 and XBOX 360.  Don’t fuggeddaboutit!

Episode 203: Every Nerd Understands "The Line"

Time again for a new episode of the ESH podcast, and this week the ladies talk tech, anime, and video games… just not all at the same time. For those wondering where it was, the Anime comes back in this episode strongly.

In this episode NinJa shares her experience on iPhone 4 launch day, thoughts on the anime series Hell Girl and her on-again off-again relationship with Bleach. Then Pandalicious chimes in with her view of Disney/Pixar’s latest release Toy Story 3 as well as her outlook for upcoming movie releases The Last Airbender and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Need more reasons to grab this episode of the podcast, check out some of the titles we came up with but didn’t use:

  • This Podcast Is NOT About Math
  • Ichigo Finally goes Hollow — Sounds Like the Story Line Has Done the Same Thing
  • You’re Lucky You’re a Kid Or I Would Jack You Up
  • When I Saw the Totoro Plushy, I Squee’d
  • and finally
  • It’s Proof That Excrement Can Be Blue

Grab a cup of your favorite beverage and enjoy ESH Podcast Episode 203: Every Nerd Understands “The Line”

"Combat Butler" Brings Laughs By The Bucketload

When a series features the biggest asshole of a Santa Claus in the first episode, viewers will know that they are in for a big treat. Such is the case of Hayate the Combat Butler, a real comedy pearl if there ever was one.

Based on the manga by Kenjiro Hata the series stars Hayate Ayasaki (Ryoko Shiraishi), a boy whose parents decided to borrow money from the yakuza, and leave the 157 million yen debt on Hayate. Panicking he runs away, and in the cold, snowy weather Hayate runs into a rich girl named Nagi Sanzen’in (Rie Kugimiya). After hearing from both sides of his conscience, Hayate decides to listen to his good side and kidnap the girl. (There’s no misprint there: the angel tells Hayate to do the evil deed while the demon tries to talk him out of it.) However when he tells the girl what he wants to do to her, Nagi mistakens his kidnapping ploy for a love confession. As Hayate is about to call Nagi’s parents, two men come around and abduct Nagi. Panicking Hayate borrows a passing girl’s bicycle and pedals to Nagi’s rescue. The passing girl is revealed to be Maria (Rie Tanaka), the Sanzen’in family maid.

After he saves her Nagi hires Hayate as her new butler, and the real adventures begin. Viewers are introduced to Tama (Jurota Kosugi), the white tiger that only talks to Hayate and has a license in real estate and building management (though he doesn’t really use these talents at all); Hinagiku (Shizuka Ito), the student council president who is a mean fighter but afraid of heights; Sakuya (Kana Ueda) the failed comedienne; and Isumi (Miyu Matsuki) the stubborn young girl who always loses her way, no matter how many times she’s been on the same path. There are also various other characters, as well, but no one shines as bright as the Narrator (sometimes referred to as “The Voice in the Heavens”), played by Norio Wakamoto. In Hayate he gets himself into various verbal fights with the on-screen characters, and mocks them heavily throughout the series. (It’s very similar to the narrator from the 1997 George of the Jungle movie; that is if anyone else remembers that film.) Throughout the show Hayate must battle with robots, strange creatures, schoolwork and friends who want to dress him in women’s clothing (don’t ask!); and at the same time make sure the house is tidy for Nagi to live and be happy in.

The humor in this show is perhaps some of the best-written work in anime history.  The one-liners and punchlines — along with the physical humor — will have audience members rolling on the floor laughing their heads off. It also takes the fourth wall and drops an atom bomb on top of it. (i.e.: In Episode 8, Hayate beats Maria in a game of pool, and now must do whatever he asks.  “Okay, I’ll ask for something on the borderline, considering the kids in the audience,” Hayate replies.) Hayate and the rest of the gang know they’re on a TV show, and that’s what makes the series fun. On top of that it has enough sweetness to leave viewers with a relaxed smile, instead of one that hurts from all the hilarity. Its non-sequitur style and off-the-wall zaniness puts it high above any other anime comedy of recent memory, and can easily sit beside some of the best British sitcoms of all-time. That’s right: Hayate the Combat Butler is Japan’s most successful attempt at making a British comedy.

Unfortunately Bandai Entertainment is not releasing it in the way a comedy like this deserves. Each one of the volumes only features seven episodes and both Japanese censored and uncensored tracks, all for the “low” price of $40 each. It’s a release like this that greatly dishonors a fantastic series such as Hayate the Combat Butler. (Granted, there is the argument that in Japan DVDs with only two episodes each cost a whopping $70, but even still this and that are both forms of highway robbery.) There isn’t even the Animax English dub included, and from press and reviews it is said to be very decent.

If one were the wisest they should wait for a lower-priced DVD box set of the series, but if one can’t wait to own such a great anime then buying it won’t bring any sort of disappointment episode-wise. Still more should’ve been added to give Hayate the Combat Butler its proper dues.

***** (out of five) [actual series],  * ½ (out of five) [DVD extras]