Saturday, August 28, 2010

Konami Gamers Night 2010 (With Hudson, Too!)

Konami Gamers' Night NYC - 2010 Edition

Konami rolled into NYC with a varied lineup of excellent games, this time with the remainder of their 2010 lineup and special guests Hudson Soft for a great gathering of games guaranteed to get you moving in one manner or another. While there wasn't a Snake to be found anywhere in sight, there were more than enough great games to keep everyone who dropped by glued to a monitor, hip-hopping as loudly as possible or flailing away working up a good sweat as a singer, dancer, mini-gamer extraordinaire or sports star.

About 20 titles were on display from both new Castlevanias, two console classics remade for today's consoles, a surprisingly fun wrestling game and plenty of guaranteed musical and mini-game hits headed for the Wii as well as the upcoming Move and Kinect peripherals. I'll be covering a few of these titles in depth over the next week or so with galleries and/or hands-on impressions (denoted by *), but for now, here's a quick rundown of what was on the floor:

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow* (PS3/Xbox 360) was the rather agile 800 lb gorilla of the event and man, is it one spectacularly gorgeous, highly challenging experience. Clearly the best 3D iteration of the long-running franchise, it was impossible not to pick up a controller and dive into the game for an extended play session. Gabriel Belmont is going to be fending off more than vampires when the game hits retail October 5, 2010. Anyone who doubted the teaming up of Kojima Productions and Spanish developer Mercury Steam will be amazed at the mature plot, absolutely beautiful visuals and variety in the gameplay.

Cut scenes run off the game engine (looking like top-notch CG), the combat and platforming are dynamic and thrilling while the game's numerous sub-bosses and bosses can be total hell for those expecting a cakewalk. By the way, both versions looked exactly the same, so PS3 and 360 owners (or multi-console gamers trying to decide) can go for either one and be happy campers. Color me thrilled to death about how well the game has turned out - I'll have a longer hands-on report shortly.

I'd stupidly overlooked the recent release of Castlevania: Harmony of Despair* (PSN/XBLA) because I'm more of a single-player kind of guy, but after seeing it in action, it's on my want list. The game does indeed have a single-player mode, although the experience works so much better with up to five players exploring, platforming and fighting in the massive castle. The game's huge cast of selectable characters from the series' history is pretty awesome, the game looks fantastic (2D high resolution scrolling bliss) and there's plenty of beasties to dispatch and treasure to nab. As great as the game looks and plays, I say Konami needs to take this engine and make some sort of true Castlevania RPG.

The PS3 version of SAW II: Flesh and Blood* (also coming to the Xbox 360) was quite literally eye-popping right from the opening sequence where a key needed to be retrieved from underneath a character's eye using a scalpel. Slice. Ouch. Damn. Ouch. Did I mention this one isn't for kids of the squeamish? Zombie Studios is upping the ante here with even more deadly traps, a new defense-oriented combat system and an all-new lead character. The gritter look of Jigsaw's latest rundown trap-packed building fits the whole SAW thing quite nicely, thanks to updated Unreal 3 tech at work.

The game will have even more locations than the first, giving it closer feel to one of the SAW movies than before. Oddly enough, I'm not much of a fan of the movies but I raly liked what the first game did with the idea of Jigsaw and his deadly ways of teaching life lessons. It'll be interesting to see how much deeper the sequel goes into making players shiver and shake as they try to survive...

Two of the biggest surprises were Hard Corps: Uprising* and Rush'N Attack Ex-Patriot* (PSN/XBLA) both of which were total blasts to play. Hard Corps is a prequel to Contra Hard Corps, the classic Sega Genesis side-scrolling nightmare that was (and is) one of the most visually amazing games from the 16-bit era. This time out, Arc System Works gets the programming chores and they've done the Hard Corps name justice plus tax. The game's super-clean sprite-based graphics (with some 3D elements mixed in here and there), pick up and play controls and familiar run 'n gun flair will get you grinning right from the start. In case you're asking "Why isn't it a *NEW* Contra game?", that's an easy one to answer. You're playing as the main villain from the Genesis game and as far as I could see, no camo-clad gun-totin' heroes from any Contra game make anything resembling an appearance. Then again, things can change from now 'til release, so you never know...

The short and very sweet Rush'N Attack Ex-Patriot demo was a real treat to play thanks to the blend of stealth, platforming and an excellent combat system. You're a grizzled vet named Morrow, you've just been busted out of your cell in a Russian military prison and yes, you have your trusty knife. Sneaking in the shadows and shanking guards with a series of brutally bad-ass, seemingly motion captured CQC moves gives the game a Metal Gear vibe fans will pick up on right away.

However, it's the hiding in doorways or other hidden spots in order to take out patrolling guards that will remind others of a great cross between Elevator Action and a side-scrolling Tenchu. There's also a bit of Shadow Complex here in the sprawling map packed with secrets and hidden passages that can help you bypass (or drop down for an instant kill on) enemies. Character models were a bit rough in up-close cut scenes, but in game, the amazing fluidity in Morrow's moves has to be seen to be believed. The developers even left in the hilarious animation from the NES classic when enemies fly sideways after being yanked off a ledge - priceless.

Speaking of priceless, as soon as I saw Lucha Libre: Heroes Del Ring* (PS3/Xbox 360/Wii) in action, it brought me back to my wide-eyed youthful days of sitting in front of the TV watching Channel 9 on many late Saturday Nights. Lucha Libre was the most incredible thing I'd seen, even beating out Championship Wrestling's (what would later become the WWE) US superstars. Beefy but inhumanly agile Mexican wrestlers in flashy costumes wearing amazingly detailed masks that oozed personality plus their lightning fast moves made these guys seem like real superheroes to me. The upcoming game looks solid, the controls are simple to pick up (but not simplistic) and the amount of moves these guys can pull off will make your jaw drop. There's a pretty robust character editor here that allows you to create your Luchador and his mask as you desire, plus real-life wrestlers such as La Parka, El Apache and Konnan are in it to win it (and give you a lesson or three).

The game uses a great interlace filter in cinemas and at the start of matches that make it feel as if you're in front of an old color TV (on a late Saturday Night, of course). The wrestlers look great, the action is fast and for a bit more authenticity, you can even choose between Spanish or English ring announcers. As fun as the demo build was, I'm hoping old-timers like myself get to see some classic Mexican wrestlers in the game such as El Santo, Mil Mascaras and The Blue Demon. This game has instant hit written all over it, so here's hoping the dev team at Illusion is up for the long haul as they bring Lucha to today's gamers with flash and style.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011* (PS3/Xbox 360) should have fans of EA's FIFA series on notice. I'm more of a super casual soccer viewer, but even I know that Konami's Winning Eleven franchise has been kicking FIFA's balls around the pitch for ages. PES 2011 looks spectacular and based on the constant excitement from the games being played all during the event, footie fans will be all over this one like it was free beer at a bar showing the World Cup. Excellent animations, plenty of customization and online play are all aboard, so this one is pretty much a guaranteed goal for anyone looking for a solid sports game this fall.

If you've got kids into the collectible card/figure hybrid craze called Gormiti, Konami has two games coming that you might want to look into. Both versions of Gormiti: The Lords of Nature! (Wii/DS) feature simple but colorful graphics and kid-friendly gameplay. Swapping between team members and using their elemental powers to solve environmental puzzles in order to put out fires or locate useful items. From what I saw and played, this one is pretty non-violent stuff, so there's no need to worry about grabbing this one if you've a kid with a bunch of those cards and figures neatly stacked and arranged where they should be.

OK, I don't listen to hip-hop these days unless some passing car blasts me awake during the night, but Def Jam RapStar (PS3/Xbox 360) made me want to get in there and pick up the microphone for a session. I resisted, but thankfully, the appearance of the always energetic Hip Hop Gamer showed just how killer this game is going to be with the right crowd. He jumped in and jammed with Konami reps, getting everyone in the room rocking to the beat. The game is a cross between the SingStar with a touch of Bemani flair and should do quite well among aspiring rapper wannabes. A great track list comprised of around 40 old-school to recent hip-hop hits should draw in a more varied audience (and perhaps I'll even concede to warble off a few lyrics provided the right tunes are in the mix). Video uploads to YouTube and Facebook are here as well, so you can post your best and see all the rest fall flat on their faces.

Speaking of music games, new and improved versions of DanceDanceRevolution (PS3 /Wii) showed off both motion control versions and had players at the event really working out as they got into the groove. I'll admit to liking the Move-enable PS3 version a bit more thanks to the high-resolution visuals and yes, that Move wand looking like a glowing microphone or light stick as it was being swung around. YouTube uploads and Facebook support are also part of the gameplan (eek), and the PlayStation Eye will get good use as well. Expect to see embarrassing videos galore this fall, that's for sure. The Wii version allows for Wiimote/Nunchuck, DDR pad or Wii Balance Board useage and if that's not enough, there's even a multiplayer mode that's supposed to work with or without a dance pad.

Fans of the insanely popular TV show glee will be in heaven when Karaoke Revolution glee drops into stores later this year. I for one, am IMMUNE to the power of glee and my singing can cause birds to drop from the sky. On fire. So I won't be lending my les than dulcet tones to this one. On the other hand, I know more than a few glee-heads that are going to be all over this game like old ladies at a free buffet and blue-hair rinse social.

If you're a regular dancing machine and happen to own an Xbox 360, well, you're in luck plus tax. Dance Masters is coming to Kinect and will put you onscreen with your flashy moves as you try to keep up with the on screen stage dancers strutting their stuff. Like most of the Kinect games I've seen, players are in for a real workout right from the second the music starts. My own disco days are over, but I can see this becoming a big party game among the teen set provided Konami keeps adding new tunes and dance sequences via DLC or other means.

If you don't like dancing and prefer your gesture-based gaming a bit more... extreme, well you might find the crazy boarding antics in Adrenaline Misfits* (Kinect). Remember the old PlayStation game Running Wild? NO? How about Mad Dash Racing on the original Xbox? If you do, you sort of get the idea here, but the addition of Kinect controls means you're going to be doing a LOT of twisting, turning and jumping. Take a bunch of colorful mascot characters, slap different boards under them and drop them into a bunch of snow or water-themed courses packed with jumps, huge drops and the occasional hazard. It was hard to tell if AM will be a huge hit, but it looks pretty good and those huge drops offer up some nice thrills. If anything, other skateboard/snowboard game devs will be keeping an eye peeled on how well this one is received at retail.

As mentioned above, Hudson Soft was also in the house with a nice group of family-friendly games that included their first Kinect title. All of the games were bright, super colorful and most importantly, FUN. I would have preferred seeing Lost in Shadow or Bonk: Brink of Extinction (and I'm hoping Hudson can return to NYC at some point with more stuff), but the focus at the event was clearly on holiday titles with a broader family appeal.

Deca Sports 3* (Wii) looks to be the best entry in the Wii series yet with ten all-new mini-games, refined controls (thanks to the Wii Motion Plus) and online play. Call me crazy (again), but I've liked the Deca games a bit better than Nintendo's Wii Sports lineup. Is it the graphics? The gameplay? The budget price point? The sheer Hudson-ness of it all? Either all that, or I just like sticking it to all those Miis out there. Anyway, this one looks like a winner, so put it on your gift list. Oh, the Air Racing game is my personal favorite, by the way...

Deca Sports Freedom* (Kinect) is headed to the Xbox 360 and the Freedom is the no controller approach Kinect brings to the table. The different high-resolution arenas look great and the games I got to play were very fun indeed. Figure Skating, Archery, Tennis, Volleyball and much more should keep Kinect users on their feet and in constant motion. As a plus, the Kinect unit snaps temporary pictures of you doing your thing in front of the TV, so if you have friends around for a session (and this is a game that demands to be played in a party atmosphere), expect a few more laughs once you're done with a game.

BeyBlade: Metal Fusion (Wii/DS) will defintely appeal to fans of the anime and real-life battling tops. Fans of the series will be excited to know that three limited editions of the DS version will be available (one each from Toys 'R Us, Wal-Mart and "other retailers" according to Hudson's press release). I'm personally not that interested in the game, but seeing it brought back memories of my days as a wee bairn. I remember having this nutty spinning top arena play set I forget the name of and how I'd almost always LOSE to the kid down the hall. the SOB got all my tops, grrrrr. Had I known the BeyBlade craze would be going 'round nowadays, I'd buy the game, track that dude down wherever he is and give him what for in the virtual arena. Heck, I'll be he doesn't even play video games at all, so I'd beat him six ways 'til Sunday...

Oops! Prank Party* (Wii) looks like it'll be a nice blast of family fun and a kookier variation on the usual Mario Party style of mini-game mix 'em up. A mix of 100+ fast-paced mini-games, the game also allows players to slap oddball costumes on each other or pull off silly prank effects that can affect opponents for the entire game session. Some of the games here are inspired by classic board, arcade or console games, so my nostalgia meter has been activated. Granted, I wouldn't run around in a bee costume on the street in real life if you paid me, but I just may be the one wearing one in this game. October 5th sees this one at retail, so check it out if you're a fan of this style of mini-game madness.

Overall, it was a varied and cool bunch of games, so thanks as usual must go out to Konami (and Hudson) for jetting east and showing off what they're up to for the rest of 2010. back with updates in a few - stay tuned...

No comments:

Post a Comment