Let's see what E3 had in store for the widescreen wonder
Mon, 23 May 2005
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I didnāt attend E3, but I refuse to let a little thing like that stop me from talking about the games (and consoles) that were shown there. Firstly Iāll discuss some of the games for each of the current systems.
Iāll be posting an article about my thoughts (and all the information I've been able to gather) about the upcoming next generation systems (and their games) from Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo too, so keep an eye out for that one. Of course, if you want the pics and stats for those systems you can already check them out, right here at Buttonhole, courtesy of Ando and Special K: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Revolution/Game Boy Micro
To start things off, let's go with the newest member of the gaming world- the PSP. Sonyās sexy portable wonder hasnāt arrived down under just yet; so for us, technically all the games for the system could be considered āupcomingā. But it has been released already overseas, so Iāll treat it as a ācurrentā system. There are a really good mix of game styles/genres geared up for it, so there should be something for everyone. One thing is for certain though; if you like driving/racing games the PSP has got you covered.
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories:
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Developer: Rockstar Leeds
The first cab off the rank, in terms of games Iām really looking forward to, would have to be Rockstarās planned PSP GTA game. The only problem isā¦it wasnāt actually shown at E3. So thereās really very little information about the game at the moment. All thatās known about it for sure so far is that it will be a fully 3D game (not the top-down view 2D of the original GTA games, like previous handheld versions) and that it will be set in Liberty City, which is the same fictional city that GTA 3 took place in. The game is being developed by Rockstar Leeds, a newly acquired development house, though they will be getting some help and input from Rockstar North- developers of all the PS2 GTA titles.
Even with next to no concrete details on this game I still find myself getting excited just thinking about it. If it is as good as GTA: San Andreas Iāll be very happy indeed. I honestly donāt how, or if, theyāll be able to top that game really. Especially since the PSP hardware is of about equal power to the PS2 (in other words it is not greater), though it is apparently easier for programmers to work with. It will be interesting to see what they come up with and if they attempt any really new and different ideas. On top of that, a portable game is generally meant to be playable in short bursts, rather than over extended periods of time (thatās not my rule, Iām just repeating what the game companies will tell you) so weāll have to wait and see if that has any kind of effect on the overall design of Liberty City Stories.
Gran Turismo 4 Portable:
Developer: Polyphony Digital
This is the same deal as the previous game; GT4 was not shown in any form at E3, at least thatās what all the reports from the show that Iāve been reading said. Iām not a big ādriving simā fan as such; I donāt hate them or anything, theyāre just not really my cup of tea. I am more into the over the top fun of the more āarcade styleā racing games like Wipeout, Ridge Racer, Mario Kart, Burn Out and F-Zero. However, for those who are car fans in real life and like their driving games to be more authentic, there are few sims out there that can match up to the quality and sheer scope of the Gran Turismo series.
Thereās no doubting that Gran Turismo is easily one of Sonyās most popular and successful āA Listā properties, which makes this one of the companyās more important PSP games. Thanks to the E3 no-show, there is, unfortunately, not a whole lot of info for this game yet either. However, I think it is safe to assume that it will look incredible and sell by the truckload. From the little Iāve read and heard about GT4 Portable, Iād expect something pretty similar to the PS2 version in most respects. Since the PS2 game has generally been very well received, that should be a good thing for most fans. Also, maybe the PSP version will incorporate the internet support that went missing in the PlayStation 2 version.
Virtua Tennis: World Tour:
Publisher: Sega/THQ(in Australia)
Even for those (like me) who donāt particularly care for tennis in real life, tennis games can still be a lot of fun. Handhelds have a pretty good history of quality tennis games, dating all the way back to the imaginatively titled Tennis for the original Game Boy and more recently Camelotās Mario Tennis games.
Virtua (Sega avoids that pesky letter L as much as possible) Tennis was a great game in the arcades. It was still a great game on the Dreamcast and later PS2. Therefore, thereās little reason to suspect it wonāt remain a great game in its latest form on Sonyās handheld. The game shown at E3 was far from finished, but it already looked really good. The graphics look as impressive and realistic as ever (probably even better, thanks to the systemās exceptional screen quality) and that addictive gameplay will likely go over very well in portable form. From all reports, the PSPās analogue stick handles things really nicely. The potential for this one to be a top multi-player title makes it one to keep an eye on.
Hereās another driving/racing game (the PSP is going to be home to roughly 10 billion of them). But, as most gamers will know, despite the fact that Burnout and Gran Turismo both feature cars; the two series actually have very little in common. Turismo is all about accurate handling and being a convincingly realistic driving experience. Burnout, on the other hand, is about pure speed, crazy over-the-top mayhem and carnage (no pun intendedā¦unless you find a lame gag like CARnage funny, in which case I totally meant it ).
As the gameās title indicates, Burnout Legends is not a port of the upcoming Burnout Revenge. Instead, it is going to be much like the PSP Ridge Racer, in that it will feature all of the most popular tracks and vehicles from the previous games in the series. A sort of ābest ofā compilation you could say. There was a 70% complete, playable version on display at E3 and the general consensus seems to be that Burnout Legends plays very much like Burnout 3, with the graphics and sense of speed also being a lot like they were in that game. It also features multi-player wireless support and that sounds like a very promising feature to me.
Metal Gear Acid 2:
Developer: Kojima Productions
Polish up your card skills. As Kenny Rogers would tell you, āYou got to know when to hold āem, know when to fold āem, know when to walk away and know when to runā.
Soā¦ already a second Metal Gear title is on the way for PSP and again it isnāt going to be a stealth/action game? That just seems a bit wrong to me, but oh well. Metal Gear Acid was the recent (all PSP games are recent really, so recent that we Aussies canāt even play them yet!) turn-based strategy card-battling game and this is the follow upā¦ yep, thatād be what the 2 is for.
Kojima Studios is Konamiās new internal studio, which, as you can probably guess, was put together by Hideo Kojima. Kojima is the famed (in gaming circles at least) creator of the Metal Gear series and he chose to lead his own development team, allowing him to fully concentrate on the creative side of things and leave the business/marketing aspects to others.
From the screenshots Iāve seen online, Metal Gear Acid 2 looks pretty much identical to the first one graphically. The gameplay changes are not really known yet, but Iād expect it just to expand on the ideas that reviewers and consumers liked in the first game and remove some of the aspects they didnāt. Of course, since I havenāt even played the first one yet, I couldnāt really tell you what exactly those things are!
Due to the huge, rabid fan base that anything with the Metal Gear name attached to it is sure to attract, it wouldnāt shock me too much to see this game sell really well when it comes out. Those hoping for a ārealā Metal Gear game on the PSP might find the news of a second card game to be slightly disappointing, but at least they have some of the familiar characters from the series making an appearance, in some form, on the platform.
Street Fighter Alpha 3 Upper (working title):
It has wireless multi-player support and boasts a list of over 34 fighters. There are four new characters: Karin Kanzuki, Rainbow Mika, Juli, and Juni. Guile and E Honda are a couple of the old favourites that will be making a return.
Aside from that it is basically the same Streetfighter Alpha we all know and loveā¦umm, except for those that donāt love it I suppose.
The graphics are looking sharp so far and make nice use of the PSPās widescreen display. Good to see some top quality 2D fighting action on the way for the system. For the ā3D onlyā gamers (sadly they do exist), thereās also a Mortal Kombat game on the way.
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children:
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
You want to talk blockbusters? Love them or hate them (or find yourself mostly indifferent towards them, as I do since the series left the SNES era) games just donāt get much more popular than the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy VII in particular seems to be a favourite with thousands upon thousands of people. So setting another game in that universe makes perfect sense. The thing is though, as the hardcore fans will already know; Advent Children is not a game at all. Instead it is a movie. A movie designed for the UMD format exclusively (at this stage at least) for the PSP.
Those who recall the last Final Fantasy film, The Spirits Within, might find this decision a little dubious. You see, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was hyped by Square (from memory this was before the Enix takeoverā¦I mean partnership) to the moon and back. It was going to change the way movies were made and become the biggest thing ever. In the end though, it was a very slick looking thingā¦and little more than that. Sort of like a massive budget video-game CG cut-scene, probably because thatās basically what it was. It was all ridiculously convoluted and over-wrought. If it ended up making any sense at all youād be long since rendered too bored by that point to notice. The movie was almost universally panned, it bombed at the box office and Square ended up losing a fortune on the project, after which they swore to never try their hand at movies again.
This time around though, they have a more solid framework to build on and thanks to the more contained environment of being released for a āgames systemā and, therefore, being target directly at fans of the games, you would expect a much greater chance of success. Advent Childrenās budget will no doubt be much more reasonable than The Spirits Withinās was as well.
Iāve watched the preview footage of the film from E3 and it certainly looks very nice. I really canāt see myself rushing out to buy it though. But for all the Final Fantasy VII fanatics desperate to find out and see more of Cloud, Sephiroth and the other characters they know and love it will probably be most appealing.
At the very least it will be an interesting experiment. Can movies made just for the PSP sell well enough to be worthwhile? If Advent Children proves to be popular, will that encourage other game companies to try their hands at similar projects? Personally, I hope not, but thatās okā¦I can always choose to just not buy them.
The Sims 2:
It is yet another Sims game, in which you do yet more Sims types of things. Forgive me, but I just canāt bring myself to talk much about this one. The Sims games still have heaps of fans though and all those people should be pleased to know thereās a version of the game coming to the PSP.
Viewtiful Joe VFX Battle (working title):
More Viewtiful action is on the way! This game is being developed for both the PSP and Gamecube. I loved the last two Viewtiful Joe games. My review of Viewtiful Joe 2 for the ācube and PS2 will be up soon (better late than never right?).
Judging by the screenshots Iāve seen of VFX Battle it looks as though the great, ultra-stylish 2D visuals seem to remain mostly unchanged. The gameplay sounds like it will be a little different though, as this time around some two player co-op and versus modes and interactive environments are being added to the mix. Thereās not a whole lot more I can tell you about this one yetā¦because I donāt know anything else about it! It is looking really good so far and I am looking forward to it, that much I can say.
Developer: Ready at Dawn
Sweet! I like my platform games, so this one is good news to me. Naughty Dogās Jak and Daxter games were excellent, so letās hope Ready at Dawn can continue that pattern.
The game is set just before Daxter rescued Jak from Baron Praxis, which is why the little guy is on his own this time. Theyāre planning to take advantage of the fact that you control Daxter rather than Jak. Things such as the small spaces heās able to squish himself into should help the game feel quite different to its predecessors.
Visually, this is one of the best games so far on the PSP with the graphics being near 3rd generation PS2 titles in their level of quality. The gameplay already looks quite varied and shows plenty of promise. There was some talk of Daxter featuring almost an entire second game within the main one, but I couldnāt find any more details about that. Sounds like it will keep you busy for some time though!
Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex:
It has Ghost in the Shell in the title, so the anime fans are automatically going to be interested. It is also a first person shooter, so the legions of FPS lovers will want to check out one of the first PSP games in their favourite genre as well. Oh yeah, donāt forget the chicks in G-strings part, that will certainly appeal to some too.
I know I have repeated these words an awful lot, but it is the truth and there is nothing I can do about itā¦ so here I go again; there just arenāt too many details on this game yet. No real plot details, gameplay details or any other kinds of details. It looks okay so far and the frame-rate is reasonably steady when you see the game moving, but it appears to still have a long way to go. After some more time in development it could be a great game. Sony will probably have a decent sized audience waiting for the game when it arrives, based on those factors I mentioned at the start.
Some of the other PSP titles shown at E3: Tomb Raider: Legend, GripShift, Madden NFL ā06, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Guilty Gear Judgement, The Godfather, Batman Begins, Black & White Creatures, 50 Cent: Bulletproof and a shitload more!
There we have it then. Cleary the PSP is going to be very well supported by all the major publishers/developers and have all kinds of different games to choose from. The future of Sonyās first handheld gaming system looks very bright indeed.
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