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GamelogoBy Australian Ninja

Remnants & Relics. Buttonhole *Special* Feature

Welcome dear reader to Remnants & Relics, the first in an ongoing series of features looking back at various aspects of yesterday's video games. This series is one that I'd hoped to kick off many months ago, but I just haven't had the time to do it justice, until now. So consider this your opportunity to put on your best pair or rose-tinted glasses, open up a luke-warm can of clichés and prepare to hop aboard the way-back-machine.... It came from beyond two dimensions! -A Look Back at Isometric Gaming-

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

ACMI Day Tripper

Welcome Buttonhole readers to another feature that is so choc-full of goodness that I've divided it into several sections. The top half is about the Indy video games showcased at ACMI. The bottom half is about the Pixar exhibit. It's ridiculously long and all terribly interesting to read, so you may as well read it in two halves, or just the parts that interest you. After reading about the ACMI exhibits on their website and getting more than a little excited, I decided to make the perilous trek to inner Melbourne. With time on my side and money stuffed in my pocket I ventured forth to the train station. Once on board I passed the time by staring out the window, reading a volume of Dark Horse's Concrete and snacking on tasty fruit. Arriving at Flinders St, I wandered around until inevitably finding my way out of the rat-maze like station.

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Classic Comic-book Review. Kraven's Last Hunt

"Here lies Spider-Man - Slain by the Hunter" So reads the grave of one of histories greatest superheros. "But he's not dead, is he? What happened to everyone's favourite web-slinger? Spidey seems to be alive and well now, what with his three movie deal and a string of monthly Marvel comic-book titles to his name, so why was he buried six feet under? The year is 1987. The company is Marvel. The character is Sergei Kravinov also known as 'Kraven the Hunter.' Back in the 60's Stan and Steve (Lee and Ditko, respectively) churned out a heap of cool villains for the title "Amazing Spider-Man." Doctor Octopus, The Cham

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PS2 and Xbox logos The games of E3 part 4: Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation2

360? PS3? You won't need 'em for a while yet!

Tue, 7 June 2005

Sammy by: Hillelman

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I was going to do separate articles for these two consoles. But that just didn’t seem very sensible, because most of the games from E3 will be available for both systems. I decided I’d just condense them into the one article in the hopes of saving myself some time… because I am one lazy, lazy bastard. Seriously though, there are only so many hours in a day and I’ve got a heap of current games still waiting to be reviewed! So, unless I note otherwise, you can just assume that all of these titles will be playable on PS2 and Xbox.

This is part 4 of my coverage of the E3 games. You can find the PSP games in Part 1, the Gamecube titles in Part 2 and the DS/GBA games in Part 3. Dig in and enjoy at your leisure.

Far Cry Instincts:

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal

Far Cry rocks. Many people will probably think I’m crazy for saying this, but I really enjoyed the game more than either Doom 3 or Halo 2. So, it is no overstatement for me to tell you I am very much looking forward to this new console version of the game, subtitled Instincts. Although it is based on the excellent PC FPS, Instincts is a whole new game and it is looking absolutely fantastic. The graphics are as close to the beautiful PC game as could be expected on this less powerful hardware. They’re really doing an outstanding job. The huge levels are still here and they’ll allow for plenty of exploration and experimentation. There are some great additions to the game too, such as traps you can set for your enemies, additional types of vehicles to ride in and some new special abilities Jack (the game’s main character) has acquired. Check out the press release for more info.

Jak X: Combat Racing:
*PlayStation 2 only*

Publisher: Sony
Developer: Naughty Dog

Jak is back…alright! Sorry for the Backstreet Boys flashback there folks. Jak is coming back to the PS2 though, this time in a racing game. That news, in itself, is not all that exciting but the fact that the game is being developed by Naughty Dog means it will likely be some very high quality stuff. Naughty Dog had stated that Jak 3 was their last Jak title, but I guess they meant it was their last Jak adventure/platform game. Whatever the case may be, you won’t hear me complaining because I like Jak and I like Naughty Dog too. So… bring it on sucka!

If you are one of the millions (and millions…that one was for the Rock fans) of people who played Jak 3, or even Jak 2, you should recall that the game/s had plenty of driving mixed in with the jumping and shooting. Well, here in Jak X the jumping and shooting have been given the arse and the driving is what it is all about. The hovercraft type vehicles handle much as they did before; they are very “floaty”, so they bounce all over the place and you can swing ‘em around for some powersliding mayhem.

As usual for a Jak game, or anything else that Naughty Dog does really, the graphics are looking outstanding. There will be a massive number of characters and tracks to play in Jak X: Combat Racing and the game will also feature some PSP connectivity where you can unlock some extra vehicles and things if you have the Daxter game for that system. There’s just going to be a whole heap of depth and things to do with the game, no doubt about that.

These kinds of racing games can be excellent fun when they are done right and this one looks as though it will achieve that goal. Though the colourful environments and cartoony characters make it reminiscent of Mario Kart and Naughty Dog’s own Crash Team Racing, the nature of the vehicles and the way they handle means you can probably expect a bit of a Wipeout feel to the game as well. That’s a pretty sweet combination when you think about it. I’d say Jak X: Combat Racing is one to watch.

Hitman: Blood Money:

Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Developer: IO Interactive

Agent 47 is one cool mofo. With that barcode tattoo on the back of his bald noggin and his sharp dress sense, he’s definitely one of the more stylish cold blooded killers to star in a videogame. Mr. 47 is coming back to our screens in Blood Money and, from the looks of things, the newest instalment in the Hitman series should also be the best.

Playing as a Hitman of course means the game mostly revolves around killing people and that is usually a lot of fun. Just to clarify, in case there are any censors or anti-violence people reading, I mean that in a game it is fun to kill. I would never wish to do anything of that nature in the real world. I’m no more likely to try and emulate the actions of Agent 47 in real life than I would be to attempt shooting a fireball out of my bare hands after playing as Ken in Streetfighter. In a game world though, I find killing people can be a great method of stress relief and therefore quite enjoyable. So that’s that.

The Hitman series allows you to do your killing in some most creative and varied ways. There are heaps and heaps of different weapons included in the game and all kinds of clever ways for you to dispose of your intended target. Pure aggression will not keep you alive for too long in most cases, you have to figure out how to do it in some more stealthy ways and slip through crowds undetected. These are the most well liked aspects of the series for fans and critics alike. From what I’ve seen, and what reports have led me to believe, those cool “open-ended” elements will be expanded on to an impressive degree for Blood Money.

That kind of gameplay relies on having some well constructed game worlds to allow it all to work smoothly. There doesn’t appear to be any problems there though as the game’s environments are brimming with all kinds of detail and “life”. On top of that, the graphics look tremendous, providing an enormous sense of atmosphere to the game. I can see myself (and presumably others) getting thoroughly engrossed exploring the world this game presents the player with. Hitman: Blood Money is due out this year. If it winds up being as good as the E3 showing led many people to believe … this game might just be one you’d kill for. Yeah, that was a really shitty joke, I know that. I should be writing for Gamepro with gags like that.

Capcom Classics Collection:

Publisher: Capcom/THQ
Developer: Capcom

Even though the games are up to 10 years old, including 22 of them on one disc is still nothing to sneeze at. Especially when they are Capcom titles and from the days when that company produced all kinds of arcade classics.

You probably want to know exactly which games are included, right? Do you have any easier questions? I don’t actually know! Well, I do know a few of them and those are: Final Fight, Streetfighter II, Bionic Commando, Trojan (not the brand of condom), Forgotten Worlds, 1942 and Ghosts and Goblins. Those are some pretty good ones to start with and that’s only scratching the surface. It’ll be interesting to see which other games make the list. All of the games will be arcade perfect.

There’s little more to say about this one really, because you’re either going to be interested in it or not care at all. If you are the type (as I am) who enjoys some “old school” gaming, this compilation ought to well and truly float your boat.

King Kong:

Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft

Peter Jackson; he makes clothes, he makes cigarettes and he also makes movies. What do you mean they aren’t all the same person? Nonsense! Anyway, old beardy, beardy, fat, fat is doing a remake of King Kong, that movie about the really big gorilla. They are spending around 86 gazillion dollars on this thing, so you can expect it to at least look pretty f*cking good. As the movie will likely be very popular and a big box office hit, it is no shock to hear that some video-games using the licence are on the way.

Ubisoft are the ones who got the rights to this property and they have versions of the King Kong game planned for every gaming system known to man and perhaps even some that aren’t. Thankfully though, rather than relying on the name alone to sell units, they are attempting to make these games genuinely good in their own right. Jackson himself has apparently had some involvement with the game/s and there will even be creatures included that got cut out of the movie.

Graphically, the PS2/Xbox (and Gamecube for that matter) version of the game is looking extremely impressive, with a very high level of polish all around. The gameplay uses both first and third person views; it switches depending on wether you are controlling Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody’s character from the film) or the giant ape himself, King Kong. The game includes all kinds of action, it looks quite varied and there is a suitably “epic-scale” vibe to the proceedings. There’ll be dinosaurs galore running about all over the place. You will get to control King Kong and go one on one with a Tyrannosaurus Rex and who wouldn’t want to do that?

There’ll be Kong games for the handheld systems and all three of the upcoming next generation consoles too. So, basically nobody will need to miss out on some giant monkey business. This version of the game for the current consoles and PC looks like it could be a very amusing and action packed title. I’m looking forward to the movie and (for once) I am also looking forward to the video game adaptations.

Conker: Live and Reloaded:
*Xbox Only*

Publisher: Microsoft
Developer: Rare Ltd.

So, Rare didn’t get swallowed up by some kind of black hole after all. You’d be forgiven for thinking they had, as after being acquired by Microsoft the company has released only one title; the thoroughly underwhelming Grabbed by the Ghoulies. Bill must have been wondering just what exactly he’d given them all that money for. Actually, he probably didn’t even notice, he drops that kind of dough behind the cushions of his couch at home. Perfect Dark Zero being announced as a supposed Xbox 360 launch title (these guys never get their games out when they first say they will, so I’ll believe that when I see it) has gotten Rare back into gamer’s minds again. They also have a game for the current Xbox finally about to be released, a remake/update of their final Nintendo 64 game; Conker: Live and Reloaded.

If you’re not familiar with Conker, the idea behind the game is quite unusual. He’s a cute little squirrel who looks much like any other mascot from a platform/adventure style game. But, the twist is that this “cute” squirrel is actually a foul mouthed, booze loving little bastard. The whole game uses a very twisted sense of humour and that helps make it much more refreshing and engrossing than it might appear at a glance. Many of the levels of the game itself are actually clever parodies of various popular movies, such as the Matrix and Saving Private Ryan. The laughs and silliness are backed up by some varied and well constructed gameplay, so when you bring the whole thing together it makes for a highly enjoyable experience.

This remake should work out really well. The graphics of the original were very good for what could be done on the system and this new updated engine that the Xbox’s extra grunt allows for really makes them shine all the brighter. The levels have been given many tweaks and subtle alterations, so even if you played through the old game, this one should offer you plenty of new stuff to check out.

The largest addition to the game though is the multi-player Xbox Live support. Up to 15 players can battle it out online, in some fast paced team based battles. This aspect of the game might help it appeal to players who might otherwise not have taken much interest. Rare have spent a whole lot of time fine tuning the multi-player side of Conker: Live and Reloaded, so I’d expect it to be a well balanced and addictive experience. They have a great reputation for providing excellent multi-player action, so the hopes are high for this one.

Conker: Live and Reloaded is set to arrive on shelves soon and I expect it to attract plenty of attention when it does.

Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland:

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Neversoft

The Hawk franchise has many fans and some of them are members of team Buttonhole, so it would be remiss of me not to mention this one. Mind you, many of those hardcore fans have been getting increasingly disappointed with the series. The reason for this seems to be that the games are drifting (no pun intended) away from pure skateboarding action and trying to add all sorts of “adventure game” elements and requiring the completion of some irritatingly “zany” tasks. If you are one of the people who was hoping Hawk would be making a return to just being a great skating game without all that other crap, you will probably be a little miffed when you see American Wasteland. Neversoft look as though they are trying to emulate Grand Theft Auto here, only the people in this game happen to also be good at riding on skateboards. Now you can choose not only to walk around, you can also ride a BMX…because who wants to skate in a skating game?

This is hardly the “back to basics” game that fans the world over have been asking for. Once again it appears the aim is to appeal to a wider base of players, rather than just those who happen to be real life skaters. The company seems to have forgotten that those people are the ones who made this series a success in the first place. Isn’t that right Fazz and Mugwai?

Anyway, American Wasteland could still end up being a good game. We shouldn’t just outright dismiss it because they aren’t doing things exactly the way we’d like to see them be done. Besides which, classic mode will be included, so the skaters can just play that and stick to skating. There are also some new skaters to play as in the game. There’s a dude by the name of Tony Alva making his first appearance in the series. Not being familiar with the sport I don’t recognize the name, but I’m sure it would mean something to Fazz and Mugwai. There are new tricks too; including something called Berts…I dunno what that means, I always thought that was the name of Ernie’s boyfriend.

The graphics look to be well done, as they usually are for the Hawk games. I’m sure it will sell very well, but I hope the skating action is up to scratch for those fans who felt unsatisfied by the last couple of games in the series. There’s a Gamecube version of this one too and (perhaps more interestingly) DS and Xbox 360 versions of the game are in the works as well.

Final Fight: Streetwise:

Publisher: Capcom/THQ
Developer: Capcom

It sure has been a while, but the Final Fight series is set to make a return. The classic beat-‘em-up arcade game is going 3D and being brought into the modern era. Actually, Streetwise seems to be a Final Fight game mostly just in name. You still bash heaps of dudes and all that, but visually it looks nothing like the old game and the vibe of it all is much more reminiscent of the Fight Club movie.

Final Fight: Streetwise features some big, free roaming 3D levels to explore, non-player characters to interact with, destructible environments and a variety of weapons and different attack combos to execute. It looks like a fun game. I think it would be especially enjoyable with two-players, just as the original Final Fight was.

The story of the game seems to be a much bigger focus than it ever was in the old games, but from what I’ve seen that might be a mistake. I just want some mindless violence from my Final Fight, not some half-arsed Fight Club rip off. If the action is good enough though, that won’t even matter. I’ll be watching this one. Standing silently in the shadows, ever on the lookout... that'll be me. Or it might just be Batman again, he loves doing that.

Final Fantasy XII:
*PlayStation 2 only*

Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix

I reckon if they’re lucky, Square Enix might be able to shift a few copies of this one. A few billion copies that is. I must confess I have found the over the top worshipping of Final Fantasy a bit off putting and I think many of the more recent games in the series are somewhat overrated, purely from a gameplay perspective. This one, however, looks like it will give the franchise a long overdue shake up.

Final Fantasy XII in many ways looks to be a whole new beginning for the series. For starters the random battles have finally (pun entirely unintended) been given the boot. The whole “battle screen” transition that feels so forced and jarring is gone too and if you ask me, it is about damn time! Let’s hope the other companies take notice of this and realise that just because something has been done a certain way since the dawn of time, that doesn’t mean you aren’t allowed to change it and try something different. The battles now take place in real time and in the same environments as the rest of the game.

You control your whole party (up to 3 characters) at once, but if that sounds like it’ll be too complex, don’t stress, while you decide which orders you want to assign in battle you can pause the action and give yourself some time to think. If you ever played the classic RPG Vagrant Story on PSX (also made by Square) the battle system of Final Fantasy XII works kind of like it did in that game. Not exactly the same way, but similar and since I haven’t played this game for myself yet, that is the best description I can offer you for now.

I think these design changes will only enhance the atmosphere of the game and make the whole game flow more smoothly. The story and presentation looks as though it will be terrific too, so all told Final Fantasy XII should be exceptional. The character development will be as involving as ever, so current fans will most likely still be happy with the game. With the new gameplay style making things a bit more action packed and better paced, even people who don’t usually dig these kinds of games might be able to enjoy this one. I’m very excited for this title, it will probably be one of the last great PlayStation 2 games and it might pave the way and give us a glimpse of what we can expect of RPGs on the next generation of systems.

Evil Dead: Regeneration:

Publisher: THQ
Developer: Cranky Pants Games (no, I didn’t just make that name up)

Evil Dead rules, baby! At least Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead movies rule… the games, so far, have sucked. But this one looks like it is going to get it right. You play as the legendary Ash (naturally) complete with a chainsaw where one of your hands used to be. The story for Regeneration is set after Evil Dead 2, sort of like an alternative version of what happens to Ash instead of the events that we saw in Army of Darkness. That should make it pretty interesting for fans right away.

The game looks very authentic and faithful to the feel of the films, using some quite impressive graphics. The majority of the gameplay focuses on pure action, so you’ll be killing all kinds of ugly, evil nasties, using a variety of stylish methods. There’ll be shotgun action and close up combat that uses a “lock on” system making it easier to handle when you’re taking on several enemies at once. Then there are the “instant kills” which feature many of the trademark moves Ash used in the movies and these seem to be incorporated quite seamlessly into the game.

Evil Dead: Regeneration also seems to include some strategy and puzzle elements, just to keep it from becoming too repetitive. Another way they’re trying to add some variety is from the inclusion of a little midget sidekick who you can quite literally kick around to damage your foes and the ability to transform into “Evil Ash” which makes your attacks more powerful.

Fans of the flicks will certainly be keen and the fact that Bruce Campbell has recorded all of the voice work for Ash will only help matters. If all of the elements Cranky Pants are working on come together well between now and release, this will be the best Evil Dead game yet. That’s not saying too much though! Still, it is looking very promising, so I have some pretty high hopes for this one. Come get some!

Ultimate Spider-Man:

Publisher: Activision
Developer: Treyarch

Do you read Hyper magazine? You bloody well should! This month’s issue has a whole lot of info and screenshots of Ultimate Spider-Man in it and from that you can see for yourself that this game is looking really good so far.

Activision has done a pretty good of job of things since they acquired the Spidey licence; several very enjoyable games have come out of it. This one might just top them all though. The graphics are cell shaded and mimic the look of the comics well. The game is set in the Ultimate Spidey universe rather than the “regular” line of comics, or the recent movies. Comic author Brian Michael Bendis has been involved with the game too, so you can expect a very strong storyline with all the characters fans want to see. You also get to play as Venom, which will not only be a whole lot of fun, but it will ensure that the game has a plethora of variety. As Spidey you will be gracefully swinging about the huge worlds and taking out enemies from a distance with your web-slinging skills. Then you can play as Venom and use more of a brute force approach. There’s a massive amount of potential from the inclusion of these two playable characters, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Everything that has made the last few Spider-Man games so good is included here, but it has all been refined and improved to an extent that it should make for the definitive digital Spidey experience. The looks, sounds and feel are all set to be just right. As I said, the levels in the game are enormous. It is a whole virtual playground for you to enjoy and I don’t think you will get bored with it in a hurry.

Then there’s the multitude of classic villains you square off against. They’re all going to be there and presented more accurately than ever before. As a fan of the character I can tell you that I am very fired up about this game, Ultimate Spider-Man just seems to be getting everything right and it could be a classic.

Some of the other Xbox and PlayStation 2 games shown at E3: True Crime 2, Starcraft: Ghost, The Godfather, Prince of Persia 3, Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, Jaws Unleashed, Mega Man X Collection, Xmen Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse and… how long have you got?

Both the Xbox and PS2 are at their absolute peak at the moment. The developers are able to milk pretty much every last drop of power out of the systems, now that they have become so familiar with the hardware. There were so many games for these consoles that I could have spent weeks trying to tell you about them all. One interesting trend is the large number of games based on old movies; The Godfather, Jaws, Taxi Driver and so on. I don’t know if that’s a sign that people are running out of original ideas or what. Make of it what you will. In any case, there are dozens and dozens of new games for these consoles on the way, so you should be able to find a few (at the very least) that you will want to play. You won’t need to rush into thinking about a next generation system just yet. Good times ahead for all!

Next I'll cover the PC games from the show and then I'll talk about the games for those tasty next gen thingys that are all the rage with the kids.

by: Hillelman

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ToonlogoBy Borgieman

Manifest '07 Report

Ninja's note: Once again, it's time for another Buttonhole report on the Melbourne Anime Festival, otherwise known as Manifest 2007. If you missed Ichibod's feature on a previous Manifest, check it out here. This Manifest coverage comes to you courtesy of forum regular and newest Buttonhole contributor Borgieman, a cool guy who knows his Anime and has been known to play a video game or two. So read on true believers! A Day at Manifest 2007

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ToonlogoBy Australian Ninja

Only Yesterday. Anime Review

The problem with having favourite films is that every time I watch another Studio Ghibli film it becomes my new favourite. It kind of renders the word 'favourite' meaningless when every Studio Ghibli film takes my breath away. Still, I can't complain about being thoroughly entertained by this whimsical and insightful film, "Only Yesterday". This gem was directed by Isao Takahata, well known for his anime film Grave of the Fireflies. Although Only Yesterday is a light hearted film that ambles along at a leisurely pace, it still manages to explore themes such as love, work, family relationship struggles, following your dreams and country versus city living. In the film, the main character Taeko decides to take a working vacation in the country, getting away from her office bound job and unexpectedly starts t

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ToonlogoBy Jason

Speed Grapher V1. Anime Review

Well, "I don't like it" was my initial feeling when viewing this Anime for the first time. Subsequent viewings haven't changed my views a great deal. Nothing really stands out as being absolute shit but it seems that this series tries too hard. It's almost like they were more interested in creating something 'edgy' and confronting but sadly forgot to include an even remotely palatable story. The hero of this particular piece is a bloke called Tatsumi Saiga. Tatsumi is a photographer and a veteran war journalist for whom taking photos has become somewhat of a fetish. Although he seems to have become jaded - nothing is worth wasting his film on - that is, at least until he stumbles across an exclusive club for the mega rich

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