The 3rd Birthday

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The 3rd Birthday

The 3rd Birthday is the third game in the Parasite Eve series, I’ve already reviewed Parasite Eve 1, and Parasite Eve 2, so I thought I might as well finish off the trilogy, continue on to the review of this PSP game.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Original release: March 29th 2011 (NA)

PSN Price: 19.99

Developed by: Hexa Drive

Published by: Square Enix

Gameplay

This series has changed a lot through each sequel. The first game was a mostly straight forward RPG with some cool shooting elements, the second game was a Resident Evil style shooter, this third game in the series is different still, a 3rd person shooter with some light RPG elements. The most innovative part of the game is a body jumping mechanic, which does something completely new.

The body jumping works sort of cruelly on the part of other soldiers. You switch between these other soldiers fighting against a mutated enemy called the twisted (I’ll speak more about that in the Story part of this review). So you take over their bodies and if you health has been exhausted you just switch to another soldier while your old “husk” dies. Other than that cruelty it’s actually a pretty interesting mechanic, it was done a few times before but never as well as in the 3rd Birthday.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

The shooting mechanic works well enough, especially if you’re playing the game on the Vita (the dual analogue sticks really help). It is a little repetitive though. Eventually you’ll get a cramp in your trigger finger. But there are a few things that make it a little different. There are some light squad controls where you can order your fellow soldiers to take on a target with you for instance, but you can really become them all with a quick switch, so if they aren’t in the correct spot (like not standing behind cover), you can jump into their bodies and get them back into place.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

There’s a more magical/biological aspect to the gameplay as well, the overdrive mechanics, in this way you can jump into enemies to deal more damage, and if you build up a special meter you can go into “overdrive mode” where you deal a way more damage and your speed is upped for a short period.

The RPG elements are limited to upgrading your weapons and your DNA, you get new DNA pieces by diving into enemies through the overdrive mechanic. Upgrading your weapons are a must, starting out with only 180 bullets in your assault rifle puts your in a tough place, and eventually I ended up with being able to hold 900 at a time. The DNA upgrades were always a bit of a mystery for me though, the game doesn’t do a good job at teaching you what you need to do to take proper advantage. You can take a look at some online guides… but that’s really a detriment to the game.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Gameplay over all is decent enough, but every area is a grind, and other than a few new weapons and some light RPG elements, the gameplay stays the same throughout, making it tedious by the end.

 

Graphics

This game is actually gorgeous, it’s a PSP game but being released late in the cycle means that the game was really well optimized. Everything flows really well on screen even with a lot of enemies (and friendlies) on screen. The particle effects are actually pretty spectacular. The twisted are well designed, and their animations are pretty well done. Square Enix actually did a great job on the production side of all their PSP games, and the 3rd Birthday is no different. The music is done well, and the pre-rendered cutscenes are just as good as any game on a home console.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

The art style in the 3rd Birthday is pretty interesting as well, there are numerous types of “Twisted” that show a decent amount of imagination. Overall the graphics in this game are excellent for a PSP game, and it looks even better on the Vita’s OLED screen.

 

Story

Usually I put the story aspect at the start of the review, but this game deserves a special mention on story.

The game starts with the Twisted attacking New York, and the humans lose. You spend your time going back in time inhabiting people’s bodies to change history. After every mission history is altered, so perhaps you get a new character who survived, they come back to life and wonder why you’re acting so strange. This is interesting enough, even if it takes a bit of time to get used to. Every mission ends with a huge boss battle, some of which are pretty tough, and you actually need to think out a decent strategy before you proceed.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

You continue doing this right up until some of the final missions. At this point you’re looking for answers  as to what happened, why your character had lost her memory, etc. No matter what you think you’re going to get with the final act you’ll be disappointed. Out of almost any game I’ve played in the past few years, this game has the most disappointing and convoluted story. It seems like at one part they just fired the writers and just had the interns finish up the story. It might sound like a bit of a stretch, but you have to believe me on this one.

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Also the characters in the game are mostly new (except two) and because they lost the rights to continue the original story (it started out as a Japanese novel), the ones that have stuck around, Aya Brea and Maeda are completely different. Aya changed from being a strong independent female to becoming an over sexualized and constantly victimized amnesiac. Maeda the Japanese scientist who helped out Aya in the other games has now become some sort of pervert who sends Aya creepy messages over radio. It’s just a tough sell to anyone that has played the other games in the series, and anyone who wants their game stories to make any sense. Even the translation of the script is badly done, I mean the voice acting is fine, but even the best actors couldn’t have made this story worthwhile.

 

Is the 3rd Birthday worth it?

Parasite Eve- The Third Birthday

Overall I would say no, the graphics and production values are top notch, the gameplay is decent too but it gets a little repetitive. The deal breaker is the story. It’s too bad that all the great production values were spent on this flawed story. Who knows if they’ll be another game in the series, but considering that they lost the rights to continue the original story, and they made their lead characters into one dimensional tropes, there’s no real reason to hope for another.

Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

I am an unabashed fan of Final Fantasy. I haven’t played all of them – but I’ve played and beaten quite a few of them over the years – starting with Final Fantasy on the old NES. I was one of the many who had a first day of release copy of Final Fantasy VII and like many thought it was the best game I had ever played at the time. Years later, it’s story and game mechanics are among my most fond gaming memories. So when I heard that a prequel was coming out, I was really excited. That excitement was a bit tempered however when I saw my traditional RPG turn-based systems turned into a more live action game during trailers. I’m happy to say those particular fears proved to be unfounded.

Graphics: 9

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

The in-game engine is good, you don’t suffer any breakup and the full motion video scenes that the Final Fantasy series have become well-known for hold up beautifully on the small screen. Don’t let the fact that this is a PSP game fool you – it holds up very nicely in both artistic direction and execution.

Sound and Music: 8.5

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

The voice acting was good, though many of the sounds were a bit repetitive after awhile. Final Fantasy games are known for their quality music and this one while not among the best from the series, is still pretty good. I found the combat theme to be surprisingly catchy.

Gameplay: 7

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

Sometimes deaths feel cheap. The actual action-oriented combat works well; certainly better than I expected. My biggest complaint from this department though was the camera. Sometimes I just could not get it into a good position, especially in narrow spaces. Also, the combat was a bit predictable in terms of how it was triggered. In earlier games, most combat occurred at random while walking. In later Final Fantasy games you are on an active field with enemies you can engage or try to avoid. Here? It’s things like intersecting hallways that trigger the usually-random group of monsters you fight. You find yourself hugging the walls awkwardly, battling the camera angles if you’re in an area where you don’t want to fight. It’s not all bad though. The action comes in perfectly sized smaller chunks that fit with the handheld platform. I had played this game for nearly a year on and off. I’d just pick it up some days when I had fifteen minutes to kill and do a few missions. The PSP is not one of my primary systems, so its games tend to get neglected, but this one’s content felt just right for on-the-go gaming.

Intangibles: 9.5

Crisis Core - Final Fantasy VII - PSP

There is a ton to do. The main storyline itself is not terribly long, but there are a bunch of side options to chew up your time. There’s missions that unlock over time or when certain criteria are met. There’s a fusion system in place that lets you upgrade items and materia (think of them as magic, skills and stat boosts). You get emails throughout the game from characters as well. There’s a handful of mini-games tucked in there as well throughout the storyline. To top it all off? There’s a New Game+ mode as well – always a favorite discovery of mine.

Overall: 8.5

To date this was probably my favorite PSP game. The characters and world were sentimental favorites of mine. The overall production values were high. All of this was expected. The unexpected? That the action-based combat would work so well. That using one character throughout the game instead of a party would feel so involving. That you don’t collect experience and level up in traditional fashion, but that levels, boosts and special attacks are all managed through a perpetually running slot-machine like system that augments the action itself. Last but not least? The ending is fantastic. After I beat the game, I was just really taken with the ending and did some searching on the topic online. I was not alone in my sentiments there. A lot of people out there list it as their favorite ending ever. Mine? Maybe not, but probably top 10 to date, and getting there was a blast.

Final Fantasy III Coming to PSN

Final Fantasy 3

Final Fantasy III Coming to PSN

Fans of the classic Final Fantasy series will soon be able to play FF3 on their PSP. Final Fantasy 3 was originally released in 1990 by Square and was the first of the series to offer the job system. You start out as freelancers and over time will be able to learn one of 23 different jobs.

Final Fantasy 3 - gameplay screenshot

Now there will be some enchantments for the PSP version including optimized graphics for the 16:9 screen, an image gallery, and an option to switch to the original background music. Also included will be an auto-battle system that doubles the speed of in game combat.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bh9FKDHeGAw[/youtube]

Final Fantasy III will be available Tuesday September 25th on the PlayStation Network.

PSone Classics coming to the Vita

PS Vita

We have kept quiet on the Vita mainly because there is enough coverage elsewhere, but with the announcement of PSone classics coming to the Vita, we felt it was news worthy. Originally, the Vita could not play any of the PSone classics, which made many gamers upset. However, an upcoming firmware update will allow owners of the Vita to place all the PSone classics.

For those of you who already have PSone classics on your PS3 all you will need to do is connect your Vita to your PS3 or you can connect directly to the PlayStation Network and transfer your classic games. As said, if you don’t own a PSone classic and want to play it on your Vita you will have unrestricted access to it. Every game in the current PSone catalog will be available.

Now that’s progress.

SAR: SEARCH AND RESCUE on PlayStation Network

It is always good when classic titles get a re-release and SNK has been releasing a ton of hits and here is another.

Sar - Search and Rescue

From their press release:

SNK PLAYMORE USA CORPORATION  is proud to announce the North & South American release of new nostalgic SNK Arcade Classics “SAR – SEARCH AND RESCUE” as a PlayStation® minis title on PSP, via the “New Releases” category and the “SNK NEOGEO” Featured Publishers page available on the PlayStation®Store, from Tuesday, March 20th, 2012.

The SNK minis titles are a commemorative “retro-arcade emulation” project that allows players to enjoy a grand collection of action, shooting, platform, and action/puzzle titles. Many of these nostalgic, highly innovative arcade classics released during SNK’s Golden Age of action-shooting, etc. during the 80’s, are now exclusively available on PSP and compatible on the PlayStation 3 computer entertainment system as well for even greater enjoyment!

The previous sets of titles included some of SNK’s arcade masterpieces such as “ATHENA”, “GUERRILLA WAR”, “IKARI WARRIORS”, “P.O.W. – PRISONERS OF WAR”, “T.N.K. III”, and “VICTORY ROAD” along with a number of lesser known, yet revolutionary titles to be enjoyed by both retro gamers and younger generations of players alike.

SAR = Search And Rescue

 

The government sends down an investigation team to a crashed spaceship that had vanished off its course, in order to determine what actually happened… Infiltrate the spaceship, and battle hordes of alien monsters and robots, in this action-shooting masterpiece of SNK originally released in 1989.

SNK PLAYMORE USA Official Web Site: http://www.snkplaymoreusa.com

Darkstalkers coming to the PS3 & PSP

DarkStalkersScreen

The classic PSOne game will soon be coming to the Playstation 3 and PSP. The game will have ten playable characters including favorites, Morrigan and Felicia. Currently there is no release date, but word is the game will cost you about six bucks.

Here is a video of the classic game.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYaVfvpbrWg[/youtube]

Video of the Day: Game Deaths

Classic video game deaths

This video is just to awesome not to share. This video shows death scenes from various classic games to a great remix tune. Enjoy.

[youtube width=”600″ height=”480″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJ6APKIjFQY[/youtube]

(Dir.: Rob Beschizza, BoingBoing. Music is Rob’s MIDI homage to “Mad World,” by Tears for Fears, and you can download the MP3 here:http://www.boingboing.net/2011/03/28/game-deaths-mp3.html and buy their original song here [MP3]: http://tinyurl.com/4wzqgry ).

8 more classic SNK games now available

NeogeoStation_logo

8 more classic SNK games now available

The Playstation store is really upping its classic gaming cred. Available now you can download 8 pre-NEO GEO arcade classics which include:

OZMA WARS
Fight against UFOs, meteors, comets, and dock with the mothership before your energy runs out in SNK’s first arcade game originally released in 1979. Ozma Wars stands out as the second released vertical shooting arcade game, but is also known as the first game with disparate levels!

SASUKE vs COMMANDER
Play as Sasuke, who must protect the Shogun from Ninja in this 1980 classic arcade “gallery shooter”, one of the first games to feature bosses!

VANGUARD
VANGUARD, famous for being one of the first scrolling shooters ever made, was originally released in 1981. Shoot your enemies in all four directions or get an energy pod and ram them in this classic arcade game!

MARVIN’S MAZE
Help Marvin defend his Maze from the terrible Robonoids in this cute and addictive arcade puzzle-action game, originally released in 1983.

HAL 21
As Captain Clain, attack enemies in the air and bomb ground targets on your way to the boss in this classic shooting title originally released in 1985.

ATHENA
Join Athena, Princess of the Kingdom of Victory as she opens the “Forbidden Door” and descends into a world of fantasy in this classic platform arcade game originally released in 1986.

IKARI WARRIORS

As colonel turned mercenary Ralf, use your machine gun, grenades, and jump in tanks to defeat countless foes. Infiltrate the enemy base and complete your mission in this ’80s run-and-gun mega-hit 

GUERRILLA WAR

Enter the jungle and ruined cities of a tropical island to overthrow its tyrannical dictator, and liberate the nation held in his grip. Don’t forget to rescue your captured comrades along the way! Hail the heroes of the Revolution!

All of these titles are only $2.99 on the PlayStation Store.

Neo Geo Station: Latest Release

NeogeoStation_logo

SNK Playmore has released two more games from its classic gaming library for the NEO Geo station on Playstation 3. Gamers will be able to play “THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’95” and “BASEBALL STARS 2” as downloadable content.

NEOGEO Station” is a commemorative project that allows players to enjoy the many classic fighting, action, sports and other NEOGEO titles released after 1990, exclusively on the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) systems. The first set of 10 titles, which included “METAL SLUG,” “SAMURAI SHODOWN,” and “THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’94,” were released on December 22, 2010. This time, two new titles have been released for a total of 12 titles.

THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’95

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NRO1bi7ScA[/youtube]

The legendary “SNK Dream Versus Battle” is back with this 2nd installment full of improvements! KOF’95 is the start of the “Orochi Saga,” a new story in which Kyo Kusanagi is the main protagonist. His sworn enemy, Iori Yagami, appears for the first time, so charismatic and stylish that he could overshadow Kyo Kusanagi!

BASEBALL STARS 2

This sports game recreates a powerful arcade-style baseball with over-the-top animations like bench-clearing brawls. With its “Auto Operation Mode” for beginners, magic “Power Bat Mode”, and the “Special Players” introduced by the team’s owner, BASEBALL STARS 2 is full of exciting moments.

Both of these titles are available today for $8.99 on the PS3 and $6.99 on the PSP.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Fan Q and A

Q and A session

This week on the Obsolete Gamer Show we turned to our fans to answer their questions from our Facebook Fan page. We had our good friend Tom in the studio and was able to get though most of the questions.

Here is a list of the questions we answered.

Why did bloody EA have to buy Criterion Software and shag up the Burnout series?

What is the most unusual game console you ever had the opportunity to play?

How long before sony gets serious about their portables?

What are your favorites quotes taken from games and why?

Which chips challenge do you prefer and why?

What is Batman’s stance on legalizing marijuana?

Who would win out of Sonic and Mario in a Hell in the Cell match?

For those questions we did not get to don’t worry, we will add a question of the day part to our show to answer your questions.

In the meantime, have a listen and leave us some feedback.

The Obsolete Gamer Show: Q and A

Or have a listen on our official OGS page and let us know what you think.

Or download our podcast from Itunes

 

The Whine List

whine motivational poster

Gaming forums are not a good place for the faint-hearted, but just recently there seems to have been a lot of whining and misplaced angst. While there are easy targets – Sony’s poor handling of the PSP Go – there have been some misguided campaigns of hate that deserve to be shot down in flames, ridiculed and dispatched to the darkest corners of the Internet.

Nintendo have regularly been updating the system firmware of the Wii, most notably to include SD card support (a feature the gaming community was calling for, no less). But when the most recent update was found to “brick” a small number of consoles, even rabid Nintendo fans were up in arms. “How can they do this to us?” came the protests, as the update designed to prevent homebrew and such esoteric mods as the USB loader working took hold. While I applaud the ingenuity of the hackers, the fact remains – modifying a console like this is illegal and opens up the possibility of piracy. Obviously Nintendo cannot allow that, and are well within their rights to stop modified machines working in a way they were never intended to. This was a cheap whine.

Similarly, I read a plea to get rid of software licensing agreements and to stop people having to click/push buttons to get past them “because no-one ever reads them”. Again, the companies would be within their rights to prosecute someone modifying their software or making illegal copies. More fool you if you fail to read the small print. (It does remind of a bizarre paragraph in a standardised licensing agreement that told me not to use graphics editing software for the Commodore 64 in the running of a nuclear power station, but I digress…)  This is a low-quality whine, blended from different varieties of gamer.

When Valve announced a sequel to the best-selling Left 4 Dead, you would imagine that the fans would be ecstatic. But no, a developer once renowned for being slow was putting out a sequel too quickly, and worst of all was the perception it would be “abandoning” the original and plans to release new content for it. Signing a virtual petition against Left 4 Dead 2 was a daft idea. But the campaign hit new lows when two leading objectors were given the chance to see the game at Valve’s headquarters – suddenly the two in question were “traitors” and Valve was brainwashing them into liking the game. This is vintage whine, distilled from the finest sour grapes and labelled fact-free.

For those who do not keep up with gaming forums, for a long time EA were the baddies. Now it seems the focus has switched to Activision, thanks in no small measure to the press statements of Bobby Kotich. After the rumoured pull-out from PS3 development (which never happened, given the recent PS3 price cut, and was unlikely anyway), further statements about what fans would buy and the future for the company after its merger with Blizzard did little to quell the online flames. Another bizarre boycott, asking fans to only buy Activision’s games second-hand, would seem to do more harm to the gamers themselves than to the company.

Sure, the price point for certain peripheral-based titles may seem high. The bizarre Modern Warfare 2 bundle with night vision goggles comes across as a company expecting fans to buy anything because of the name on the box (and the game it contains… hopefully). But, like EA before them, Activision are a company that have given a lot more than they take. Few could argue that the Guitar Hero games do not give hours and hours of gameplay for the money. And while it may seem strange to launch more expensive games in the midst of a recession, that money is going back to a company that works well with developers. So, this is another vintage whine, one that should be put on the shelf and left until there is genuinely something to complain about.

 

Portable problems

PSP - Playstation Portable

Sony had the chance to shake up the portable console market and to maintain its grip on gaming. Somewhere along the line things went wrong after such initial promise. The latest iteration, the PSP Go, has boosted sales but does it have a long-term future?

When Sony announced a portable Playstation the specs were interesting, promising PS2-quality games in the palm of your hand, wireless multiplayer and much more on a clear, wide screen. Many experts did see a potential flaw in the plan, Sony’s new UMD format. The much-maligned optical disk brought technical problems and slow access, and the film companies did not fall in line to support it.

Sony also fought a running battle with the hackers and the homebrew specialists. The processing power gave the chance for great emulation, and the use of memory sticks opened the door to illegal downloads. Firmware updates were met with fast responses from the hackers, the process aided by replacement batteries and other hardware hacks.

Giving the console a make-over quickly proved both a good idea and a drawback for Sony. The PSP Slim models (the 2000 and 3000) both gave a brief increase in sales but made very little real change to the hardware. Sales of games slowed whatever the model, with many stores discounting them and UMD movies soon after release.

More problems hit Sony as its marketing plans backfired. Graffiti ads in America caused controversy, ads for the white PSP were considered racist and the “All I Want for Christmas is a PSP” campaign was embarrassing. The ad company started blogs and put up supposedly amateur videos of kids who wanted the machine for Christmas – only for the gaming community to pour scorn on the whole thing.

One of the biggest problems for Sony was tailoring games to the handheld console. Too often developers tried to shoe-horn a large game more suited to playing at home into a UMD. Gems such as Loco Roco and Patapon were hard to find among the predictable movie licenses and multi-format failures. The Monster Hunter series did wonders in Japan but was slow to propagate worldwide. Gamers bemoaned the lack of a second analogue stick, but did appreciate the ability to download old PS1 games.

The PSP Go was a badly guarded secret that was finally given substance at E3 in 2009. Gone was the UMD drive and in came a new wave of games. The likes of Rock Band Unplugged and LittleBigPlanet showed some ambition. There was still no second stick, the screen was smaller and the sliding mechanism (to hide the controls) seemed like a gimmick too far. Another nail in the coffin came from retailers who refused to stock it due to the lack of additional game sales – since all the games have to be downloaded from the PSN. Room (the PSP equivalent of Home) may just be another bad move. Will existing owners upgrade? Sony threw another spanner in the works by announcing plans for users to trade in UMDs, only to cancel the idea and generate a lot more bad press.

So does the PSP have a future? It will be up to gamers to provide it, but Sony needs to look carefully at its strategy.

 

Games coming out in March 2011 for Consoles

Crysis 2 wallpaper

It is March Madness and I am not just talking the NCAA. There are a number of good games coming out this March so I hope you have paid off all of your x-mas debt because it is time to open that wallet or purse.

Dragon Age II – Mar 8th


BioWare is back for the next full chapter in the Dragon Age series. This RPG will feature updated graphics and gameplay and a continuing storyline.

Major League Baseball 2K11 – Mar 8th


I got some feedback for not mentioning sports games so here It is. We know 2K sports does it well and even if you are an EA fan you know 2K will make a good game and it looks as if MLB 2K11 will live up to the legacy.

Homefront – Mar 15th


PS3 fans rejoice because now you have a chance to play this story-driven first-person shooter set in the year 2027.

Top Spin 4 – Mar 15th


I was always a fan of the Top Spin tennis series and it is good to see it back for the next gen consoles. You can select over 25 pros and play in a ton of stadiums around the world and even create your own tennis star. Another hit from 2K Sports.

Crysis 2 – Mar 22nd


Remember the benchmarking game called Crysis? Okay, it was not a benchmarking game, but it did make a ton of people upgrade their computers. For us console owners this first-person shooter returns powered by the CryEngine 3 and looks as incredible as ever.

LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars – March 22nd


You have to give it up to the Lego series, even if you were not a fan of the Indian Jones and Batman Lego games the Star Wars series has always been fun to play. This time we enter the clone wars with overhauled visuals and new gameplay including cooperative action.

Shift 2 Unleashed: Need for Speed – Mar 29th


The unleashed series combines what we love the most about racing, fast cars and crashes. It is this mix of racing and violence that made Burnout fun and looks like it works for the Need for Speed series as well.

 

 

WWE All Stars – Mar 29th


One large complaint from the Smackdown versus Raw series was the fact that you could not play many of the classic stars from the WWE’s past. With WWE All Star the entire game is dedicated to the legends of the wrestling world and you can pit them against todays superstars.

Parasite Eve: The 3rd Birthday – Mar 29th


Yes, this is a PSP game and yes it takes the Parasite Eve series and makes it more like a shooter than an RPG, but there are some redeeming elements including story that makes this game worth the buy if you already own a PSP.

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings – Mar 29th


The Witcher 2 is a direct sequel to developer CD Projekt’s mature-themed fantasy role-playing game based on the works of author Andrzej Sap.

Back in Debt

There you have it, our list of worthwhile games to check out and perhaps buy. We will be back next month with a brand new list and trailers on games to buy, obsolete gamer style.

 

Parasite Eve: The Third Birthday Trailer

Parasite Eve The Third Birthday

In this latest trailer from Sqaure Enix we begin with Aye laying just outside of a church bloodied wearing a wedding dress. We then dive into gameplay footage once again showing that this game is more run and gun, action oriented than the previous PE’s that were more action RPG related. Switching back to CG the trailer shows that Aye has to remember how it all started. Perhaps we will learn more about the backstory of PE. Keep in mind the Parasite Eve series began as a follow-up to a novel.

So for those who spent the cash on a PSP and are fans of the Parasite Eve series this game could still be worth the purchase.

My Favourite Games – Part 4

Wow, these things take longer to write than I thought they would. And to think I was going to post all thirty in one go for my first post! I’m glad I decided to write just five a day (yes I know it hasn’t been every day!), hope you’re enjoying them (if anyone’s even reading this!)…

Galaga ’88 – PC Engine (1987)

Galaga 88 - PC Engine

I’ve always preferred this series of shooters to other games of the type such as Space Invaders. There are countless versions of Galaxians/Galaga/Gaplus, but few could argue that this PC Engine update isn’t the best. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say this is the Engine game I’ve spent most time playing ever! The fact that my good friend, Luke, gave me the HuCard for free certainly didn’t help matters – it’s addictive as hell! The graphics are hardly pushing the Engine hardware to its limits, but they are very appealing nonetheless. The sprites are well-defined and colourful, and there are now nice backgrounds too. The Challenging Stages from the original Galaga return here, beginning with an announcement of “That’s Galactic Dancin'”, and accompanied by some nice music! Anyway, nice presentation aside, it’s Galaga, you know what you’re getting. Simple, addictive fun. Right up my street!

Pang 3 – Playstation (1997)

Pang 3 – Playstation

I still find it pretty amazing that the Pang games weren’t more popular here in the UK. This third offering, released here on the PS1 as part of the Super Pang Collection, is my favourite of the series. The same basic gameplay is prevalent – that is, destroy the bouncing balloons by shooting them with a harpoon gun, splitting them into ever smaller pairs until they’re gone – but this time they’ve managed to tack on a story mode! You can choose between four characters – Don Tacos, Pink Leopard (my favourite), Captain Hog, and Sheila the Thief, each of whom fires a different type of harpoon, and also has an additional skill. Pink Leopard, for example, is able to go unhindered by the various enemies on each stage. It is then your job to journey around the world collecting various works of art by popping balloons! It’s a crazy game but it’s addictive and great fun!

LocoRoco – PSP (2006)

LocoRoco – PSP

I knew from the first moment I saw a screenshot of LocoRoco that I wanted to play it! I had no idea what sort of game it was, of course, but that didn’t matter. Just look at it! It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I finally got a PSP, having convinced a guy at work that his one wasn’t really worth much and I’d help him out by taking it off his hands! Hee hee! Anyway, the next thing I did was to trade in all the EA Sports crap that came with it, for LocoRoco. Finally it was mine! It was worth the wait too, what a crazy game! It’s basically just a collect ’em up set in the happiest, most colourful game world of all-time, but instead of controlling any characters, you simply tilt the landscape back or forth, rolling the spherical, singing LocoRoco’s around. It’s great fun, features some very imaginitive levels, including more secrets than I can count, and a highly amusing soundtrack is the cherry on the cake! If you want to play a funny, happy game for a change, instead of all the violent nonsense around these days, give it a try!

Tee Off – Dreamcast (2000)

Tee Off – Dreamcast

Yep, it’s another golf game! I do really enjoy these Japanese cartoony style ones, and this is one of my favourites. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find them very relaxing and enjoyable, and perfect for the times when I don’t feel like dodging millions of bullets or making pixel-perfect jumps whilst fighting some evil monster. This one, by Bottom Up, is clearly based on Everybody’s Golf for the Playstation, but that’s no bad thing, and features five courses of varying difficulty – Japan, USA, Australia, Scotland, and South Africa. Each course has it’s own look too, and there are several characters to choose from, and various game modes to play through. Granted, there’s nothing terribly spectacular about this game but it suits me down to the ground!

Desert Strike – Mega Drive (1992)

Released a short while after the first Gulf War, it doesn’t take a genius to see where the inspiration for Desert Strike arose! However, regardless of its dubious genesis, surely even those most critical of its origins couldn’t fail to be impressed by such a splendid game! Far from being an all-out shooter, Desert Strike is a free-roaming isometric-viewed game with more than a smattering of strategy tucked into it’s rapid-fire cannons. Controlling a shiny new Apache Gunship chopper, you must complete a set number of missions per level. Some serve military ends, some political, but all must be completed before you have an opportunity to shove a Hellfire missile up “The Madman’s” bunghole (clearly based on Saddam). The sequels added a lot to the formula, not least more vehicles to control, but it’s this first game in the ‘Strike’ series that most gamers, myself included, still hold most dear.

That’s it for now! RKS is tired and will have some dinner before retiring for a while. Next five will be here soon, as well as the first in my ‘Top Five’ series that I’ve been ‘researching’ today… 😉

My Favourite Games – Part 3

Hello, I’m back a day late! I was too tired to post anything yesterday, I had a nice looong sleep for the first time in a while instead! And that means I’ve just worked, slept, and worked again since last posting, so I don’t have anything interesting to say! So, to resume with my favourite games:

Thunder Force 3 – Mega Drive (1990)

Thunder Force 3 Mega Drive

Back in my Sega fanboy days, I used to love it when a game like this came along. It would give me more ammunition to use against those who would seek to besmirch the good Sega name, and would almost always overshadow similar efforts on other machines (at least until the SNES came along!). I can fondly recall many arguments with my Amiga fanboy friend at college. Try as he might, he could never convince me that Project X was a patch on this game! I didn’t have to argue hard either. Featuring lush graphics, an awesome rocking soundtrack, kick-ass weaponry, big bosses, and eight varied levels (including the awesome lava stage, pictured), there’s not really much more a shoot ’em up fan could ask for here. Many people prefer the fourth game in the series, but it’s the third title all the way for me. Perhaps my fondness for this game comes from the fact that I rule at it, but there can be no doubting its quality. After all, how many other shooters are so good they have an arcade version made after they come out?

Datastorm – Amiga (1989)

Datastorm Amiga

There aren’t too many Defender clones as blatant as Datastorm, but it is without question my favourite, even including Defender and Dropzone. In fact, when I started playing it, I hadn’t even played Defender yet! A friend’s Amiga was the setting of many of these early sessions, and when I finally got my own Amiga, this was one of the first games I sought out for it. I remember buying it in a second hand store and the guy in the shop accidentally put two copies of the game in the case. Hee hee! Anyway, it’s similar in style to those aforementioned great games. The object is to collect at least one of eight pods drifting along the ground of each ‘wave’ and deliver it to the portal, then destroy the many and varied aliens. That’s about it. It’s not as insanely difficult as Defender but does have a few extras such as power-ups, bosses, etc, and it’s addictive as hell.

Head Over Heels – Spectrum (1987)

Head Over Heels Spectrum

There can’t be many Speccy owners who didn’t play this celebrated classic by Jon Ritman and Bernie Drummond, it’s almost as famous as the Speccy itself! I have always been absolutely useless at it, but that never stopped me from loving it! Controlling, first either Head or Heels, then later on both at once, you are tasked with the liberation of the five planets of the Blacktooth Empire. The story doesn’t really matter a great deal though, it’s the gameplay that counts, and Head Over Heels has it in bucketloads! The stages are creatively designed and full of imaginitive touches and the graphics, though monocrome, are nicely defined and full of character. It is a bit tricky though, I can’t even finish the first planet! It’s amazing that I like it so much and I’ve not even seen 1/5th of its 300 screens! Maybe some day, huh?

Everybody’s Golf – PSP (2005)

Everybodys Golf PSP

Until recently, this ‘slot’ was filled by Neo Turf Masters on the NeoGeo Pocket Color, a fine game by any standards, and probably my favourite golf game too. That is, until I got this little gem for my PSP! Generally speaking, there are two types of golf games. The serious, take-an-hour-to-prepare-each-shot type game (eg, Tiger Woods series), and then there’s this kind. The arcadey, fun, not-so-serious cartoony sort that come from Japan. And it is this kind which is by far my favourite. The series debuted, of course, on the PS1 some years before, but this effort, which was a launch title for the PSP, is a significant improvement over that already fun effort. It’s a lot more forgiving for one thing, but, perhaps more importantly, it has a lot more longevity. Many, many tournaments are available to play though, and there’s more unlockable items than seems possible to begin with. New characters are among these items, but they mostly consist of often nonsensical things to customise your chosen character with. Nonetheless, they are a lot of fun to collect, and give an excuse to keep playing! Just need to find a bikini costume for my favourite, Yumeri now!

Worms Armageddon – Dreamcast (1999)

Worms Armageddon Dreamcast

It’s almost impossible that no-one has played at least one game in this classic, not to mention sizeable series of strategy games from Team 17. It’s also likely that there are better offerings than this one, such as one of the online play versions, but this is the version I’ve spent the most time playing, and therefore, at time of writing at least, my favourite. I’ve most often played this in two-player with my good buddy, Luke, but it can be played by up to four people at once, which can lead to some chaotic but entertaining battles! Admirably, Team 17 have also tried to improve the single player game by including a mission-based game mode, but it is the main game you’ll return to most often, even if you’re on your own! Nothing beats creeping up on a lairy CPU-controlled worm, dropping a bundle of dynamite next to him, and sneaking off again! Hee hee hee!

Back with the next five tomorrow…

 

SNK Launches 8 new classic NEOGEO titles for the PSP on PSN

NeoGeo Station logo
NeoGeo Station logo

Today via the Playstation Network, you will be able to download eight new classic games for your Playstation Portable. Here is the list of released games.

ALPHA MISSION II
A classic shooter from the early days of the NEOGEO, blasts off once again from NEOGEO Station! Equip up to three pieces of armor, which also serve as weapons, for a variety of attacks such as the laser and flamethrower. Use them to defeat the evil “Fulvar” and save mankind!

ART OF FIGHTING
The fighting game that redefined the genre, also the first 100 Mega Shock title, is back on NEOGEO Station! Its innovative spirit gauge and super attack moves, combined with exhilarating effects and dramatic event scenes, make it a must-play for all fighting fans.

BASEBALL STARS PROFESSIONAL
A title that launched with the NEOGEO in 1990, suits up for NEOGEO Station! Inspired by big league ball, it features a VS Mode and a Tournament Mode, dynamic animation, voiced commentary, and an array of up-close action shots for the complete baseball experience!

LEAGUE BOWLING
A simple yet exhilarating bowling game, rolls onto NEOGEO Station! Players select their own ball and which arm to use. Then it’s just choosing a direction and how much power to apply! Features three game modes and hilarious, over-the-top animations when you get that strike!

MAGICIAN LORD
A platformer from ADK and a NEOGEO launch title is resurrected on NEOGEO Station!  Set in a mystical realm, players go on a quest to defeat the evil wizard Gal Agiese and his horde of monsters. Use magic attacks and combine elemental orbs to change between six different forms!

SAMURAI SHODOWN
The original weapon-based fighting game, is back for battle on NEOGEO Station! Samurai, ninja, and other exotic fighters star in this classic that focuses on powerful strikes. Features a rage gauge that turns incurred damage into attack power, and intense, button-mashing weapon clashes!

SUPER SIDEKICKS
SNK’s first soccer game, takes to the field on NEOGEO Station! Dribble, pass, and shoot your way to victory as you go head to head with powerhouses from around the world in the SNK Cup. Come out on top and enjoy a toast worthy of a champion!

THE KING OF FIGHTERS ’94
The first game hailed as a dream match of SNK characters, makes its way to the NEOGEO Station! Still beloved by countless fans, its revolutionary three-on-three team battle system sets it apart from all other fighting games.

The titles are available for $6.99 each.

Angry Birds and Tetris to the PS3 and PSP

Playstation Network
Playstation Network

As a follow-up to our review on Angry Birds the game is set to fly onto the Playstation 3 and Playstation Portable Console this week.  The only question that remains is will the addictive puzzle game be a winner on a major console system.

In other news one of the most famous puzzle games out there, Tetris will be making its debut on the Playstation Network this week.

Parasite Eve: The Third Birthday

Parasite Eve The Third Birthday
Parasite Eve The Third Birthday

Oh look, another game from a series we love on a game system we don’t. While it was true many fans of the Parasite Eve series did not think part two was a proper follow-up they were still chomping at the bit for another installment. Unfortunately, the next PE is only going to be available on the PlayStation Portable and to add to that the game is going through some… changes.

The story this time starts with an assault on Manhattan by creatures the police call the Twisted. Within a year a task force called CTI or Counter Twister Investigation is formed and our favorite supernatural superpower heroine is part of that squad.

The gameplay will have a bit more third person shooting elements, but will still have a little survive horror and RPG aspects to it. You will have a number of new abilities including one called Overdrive which allows you to not only control team members, but jump into the minds of the Twisted to do some major damage.

As you can see in the video most of the gameplay is from a behind the back or over the shoulder view and you spend most of your time running and gunning which could turn off fans of the slower but more interesting RPG and puzzle style. Most of Aye’s power-ups will be there including liberation which gives her a burst of super energy to mow down her enemies.

Personally, I am torn because while a run and gun game can be fun it is not Parasite Eve. Yes, there was a lot of action and shooting in PE, but the RPG aspect of the game really made it worth a purchase for me. In addition, being forced to buy a PSP just leaves a sour taste in my mouth and it is the reason I did not buy the latest Final Fantasy 7 game.

Sony needs to wake up and realize that while the PSP is not a bad system it is not a winning system and they should spend their time focusing on the PS3. If you want to go the Nintendo route and release new versions of fan favorites fine, but do so for your main console and stop trying to ram this system down our throats.

The Third Birthday is set to release today in Japan and Q1 in the US and EU.

Games to Buy: December: Week 3

Sony PSP
Sony PSP

I am going to name this report turn-back Tuesday because there are a number of retro games being released. So, I have some good news and bad news. The good news is these classic games are awesome, the bad news is you will have to have a PSP to play them. Ah, the PSP, it’s like the ugly daughter of a billionaire. You don’t want to take her out, but if you do you get to drive the Mercedes.

As a boycott all the videos will be from the original games.

Metal Slug

The ultimate in slide scrolling shooters, if you haven’t played this on an emulator go do so now. This is one of those games you can play over and over forever. It’s you, the lone wolf with an arsenal of weapons from machine guns, to flamethrowers to tanks, against a horde of bad guys. This game is fast paced with great graphics and music and it is hard as well.

Art of Fighting

This title shows its age a bit more than other Neo Geo games. It’s really like a mix between Street Fighter and Final Fight in the way the characters move along with the backgrounds. Having the ability to move back and forward added an interesting dynamic to the game. One thing I personally thought this game suffered from was the cheap combos some characters could use, but honestly if you are good you can overcome them.

Fatal Fury

SNK, that is pretty much all you need to know. This is yet another great fighter from the Neo Geo that is more geared to counters than most other fighters. There are a lot of great fighters in Fatal Fury and learning all their combos is the key to winning, but with almost all fighters from SNK there are some shoe in characters that will just own you with a few moves. The graphics and sound isn’t as high end as other Neo Geo titles, but the moves were pretty fluid for the time. As for the music, not personally my favorite soundtrack, but they did a decent job.

Samurai Shodown

Another awesome fighter from the Neo Geo. Samurai Shodown is all about the art of the weapon and it allows players to pick a character based on their play-style. If you love to attack from far you can pick a character with a longer sword or a ranged attack like that damn bird that owns me. Like in Art of Fighting you can move forward and backward as well as side to side in order to better setup your attack. Graphic wise it is a little cleaning and clearer than Fatal Fury and the soundtrack is more slated to the time period. Samurai Shodown is one of the best weapon fighters of all time.

The King of Fighters ’94

Rounding out the Neo Geo flashback is King of Fighters where here you pick teams of three and represent your country in team based fighting. The King of Fighters takes characters from various SNK game including pre-NEO GEO ones and allows you to battle it out. The gameplay is the same as Fatal Fury or Art of Fighting as far as controls and combos. However the Team Battle System is what makes KOF so cool.

PSP or Emulator….

Look, sure you could go and get a ton of emulators that could play these games. In fact you could even mod your PSP in order to play these very games emulated, but you wouldn’t want to do that would you? I didn’t think so, see you next time.

GAMES COMING OUT FOR CONSOLES: NOV 2nd 2010

vote McCain Obama Super Mario Bros
vote McCain Obama Super Mario Bros

Hey, its election time and you have the awesome choice between spineless yes men and tea baggers, why not skip all that and play some video games instead. Okay, fine. MTV told me to rock the vote so how about you game the vote. While you are out picking up these games stop over at your local voting station and get your democracy on.

God of War: The Ghost of Sparta

I have a love hate relationship with the PlayStation portable. I like the games and all, but why all the remakes and such like Final Fantasy and Parasite Eve being PSP only? Oh, well in GOW Sparta we follow the events of our hero between the story from GOW 1 and GOW2. This story takes place during Kratos visit to Atlantis and if it wasn’t sunk before we now know how it got that way. The game is the second to find its way onto the PSP and has all the brutality it did before and stunning visuals to boot. One thing we know for sure, he really dislikes King Midas.

Golden Eye 007 – Wii

Hey, pop quiz, how do you get people to keep playing the Wii, answer, you remake games that were awesome on previous consoles. Yes, my Wii hate runs read, but my love for Golden Eye never dies. It was one the best console shooters of all time and even ranks up high for all-time best FPS shooters. Now those of you with the Wii gathering dust have a reason to celebrate as a remake of this classic is coming to you Nov 2nd.

Now the game is new meaning new graphics and even a new bond as you play as Daniel Craig, but all the classic gameplay that made it great is still there. You can still decide how you want to finish missions going in Rambo style or playing it like Bond really would being stealthy and cool. Multiplayer is back with a four person split screen tons of modes and support for the Wii and classic remote, nunchuk and even the zapper. Will I be buying a Wii to play this, no. Will I get my friend to buy it and camp his house, yes.

What about the Kinect Games?

Yeah, about that, as I said this list is for games I would buy and this week these two are the only ones I would consider. However there is also the new Sonic Free Riders and Dragon Ball Raging Blast 2 that look good. However, I need to be a little more hash and this week you only get two from me. Next, week we will be back for our countdown to black Friday report so stay tuned and until then keep the spending to a minimum.

Villian Spotlight: Kefka Palazzo

Insanity Kefka Palazzo demotivational poster
Insanity Kefka Palazzo demotivational poster

Kefka Palazzo

Since the dawn of video game culture, there have been a lot of subjects you don’t bring up unless you want some greasy, unhygienic, nerd frothing from the mouth with a rabid induced rage. One of these subjects that is commonly brought up by RPG geeks which ends up in a heated debate is who is the greatest Final Fantasy villain? Normally, the debate is stomped by a wave of Sephiroth loving assholes. For some reason, long white hair, trench coats, and absurdly gigantic katanas are cool. Not just that, this guy’s freaking theme song is an orchestra chiming in death and destruction. The problem a lot of people seem to not realize is that the question asked who is the GREATEST villain in Final Fantasy. People seem to confuse cool with greatness.

I’m unsure if the sway towards Sephiroth is because a lot of people played FF VII as their first real RPG and considered anything before that garbage or mediocre. I do agree that Final Fantasy VII was a fantastic game and that Sephiroth was indeed a cool villain. The thing is, he didn’t accomplish much and his role as a villain was rather one dimensional. His creativity for slaughter was usually left with a sword swing and some fire. His actual development as a character was rather bland and nonexistent.

I know. I know.

Take a deep breath.

It hurts to hear this kind of criticism about the One Winged Angel but I’m about to open your eyes to a true villain. Someone who’s appearance was comical but their lust for destruction was their only drive in life. There wasn’t a waking moment where this monster didn’t think about the end of the world. Many villains feel this way but he isn’t a Cobra Commander or Doctor Claw replica. Where many villains fail and constantly try again, Kefka succeeds. Here’s a look into the devilish antics performed by the supernatural sociopath known as Kefka Palazzo.

As the game begins, Kefka Palazzo is only known as the Emperor’s Court Wizard and doesn’t seem to be more than just some queer looking clown. The Emperor decides to begin a process of infusing Magitek into humans. Kefka decides to volunteer for this process and is able to wield magic. Come to think of it… how was this guy the Court Wizard if he couldn’t control magic to begin with? Anyway, an obvious homage to Captain America occurs and Kefka becomes Captain Magitek and stops the World War that is plaguing the planet and is pronounced the savior of the world.

The End.

Things didn’t work out that way, sadly, for Kefka and he turned into a psychopath who deemed that everything ever in the entire world had to die. He became the Joker with magic. He forces Terra, the main character in the story, to wear a slave crown and attack a town that claims to have an Esper in their mines. Terra manages to escape the enslavement and runs off. Kefka, obviously angered by this decides to burn down an ENTIRE fucking castle just to kill a bitch. Pretty hardcore right? Sephiroth lit up a small secluded town but Kefka razed a whole castle.

Final Fantasy 6 Kefka Palazzo – poison
Final Fantasy 6 Kefka Palazzo – poison

After burning down a castle what else should you do? Grow impatient obviously! The Empire decides to attack the Kingdom of Doma and begins a long and drawn out siege. What does Kefka do to make things move a long faster? Does he impale a girl in the back with a sword? Hell no. Kefka poisons the kingdom’s water supply killing everyone inside, including Cyan’s, one of your party members, wife and his children. I don’t remember any Final Fantasy villains poisoning the innocent because they were consuming too much of their schedule.

When you’ve poisoned an entire kingdom what else can you do at the end of the day? Drink a cold beer and watch some TV? Take a hot shower and go to bed? Or freeze all your enemies in place and order one of them to prove their loyalty and kill their friends? The latter sounds like the best idea for this bad ass motherfucker. Unfortunately, the character he ordered to prove their loyalty stabbed him instead. But guess what? Big whoop. Instead of getting medical treatment he kills his king and draws in the powers of a couple of magical statues to become a God.

Looks like your team fucked up, huh? This guy is God and you know what his first order of business is? He isn’t going to hang a meteor over your most populated city. He reshaped the entire planet pushing it into a post apocalyptic world and then demanded people to worship him. You know what happened to the millions of people who said “Fuck that!” collectively? Independence Day. He burned them down with enough force to carve scars into the planet’s surface.

He became a God and forced people into his worship and still that isn’t good enough. This cum dumpster decides it’s a damn good idea to just end life since that shit is meaningless to him. Sure he’s defeated by the heroes of the story but that’s the point! He didn’t care if he died. In reality, he probably let them win because he was too much of a bad ass to die. He figured he was way to cool for the world of the living anyway. His death was his final “F U” to the world since he already fucked it up and now he’s dead and doesn’t have to bother to clean that shit up.

By now, I’m hoping your frothing has ended and you realize the error of your ways. I know it’s going to be hard to put away your Sephiroth figurines and wall posters but you have finally been educated or rather re-educated in the makings of a true monster and villain. You may subconsciously still blurt out Sephiroth’s name like a slutty wife screaming out her secret lover’s name when the question arises as to who is the greatest Final Fantasy antagonist but you will feel that itching in the back of your mind. You know you’re wrong and some day you can even accept that.

Sexy Parodius

Sexy Parodius box

Sexy Parodius

I’ve played a lot of strange games in my time, but it has been a while since I have constantly yelled out WTF during gameplay. Sexy Parodius is an arcade shooter made by Konami and from the research I did is the fifth and last in the series. Sexy Parodius is a parody of the Gradius series with a lot of strange enemies, bosses, oh and sexual innuendo.

Sexy Parodius screenshot
Sexy Parodius screenshot

Now my version was not in English, but from what I was able to tell an evil octopus is taking items from different people and it is your job to get them back. You can choose from a team of characters including sexy bunny sisters Hikaru and Akane, Takosuke the Octopus, Koitsu the stickman.

Sexy Parodius screenshot
Sexy Parodius screenshot

Some characters have a normal looking ship while others, like stickman, ride a paper airplane. As stated this is a side-scrolling shooter so your main job is to avoid enemy incoming fire and take them down. However, the enemies can be everything from flying foxes to cows being flung out of a jar that says milk. At the end of each level you come up against a boss and once you defeat it you can move on.

Sexy Parodius screenshot

In the video I only completed the first level, but from there it get’s, uh, sexy. The enemies and bosses change to things like skimpily clad women and it makes me wonder why would you want to shoot that.

Sexy Parodius screenshot

Sexy Parodius is one of those games that would be even better drunk or perhaps that is how the game was imagined, I don’t know. Sexy Parodius was released to the arcades in 1996 and ported over to the Sony Playstation and Sega Saturn. In 2007 it was ported to the PSP.

Three Horse Race

wii-ps3-xbox360

Every year there is a major race on for the consumers’ money. And this winter is no different. So what is the form guide for the runners going into the race, and what are the odds on a new leader?

Sony has trailed in third place for much of the year. A lack of big name exclusives and the relative failure of Home to attract users was a severe penalty. The redesigned PS3 Slim and PSPGo gained a lot of momentum for Sony after E3, and the sales surge came on the back of a much improved advertising campaign. Titles such as LittleBigPlanet and Uncharted 2 have been put across to the viewer in a much better way, along with other useful features including the BBC iPlayer.

Microsoft has maintained a good grip on second place. Reliability is still an issue, with the Red Ring of Death and other failures affecting many users. The exclusive Episodes from Liberty City and a continued strong showing from Live Arcade (with titles such as Shadow Complex) have meant that for much of the year the sales curve has been steady – good work in a difficult time for the industry as a whole.

Nintendo had galloped ahead of the pack with the DS and Wii, but both have struggled in hardware terms. Wii sales have slowed dramatically, and the uptake of the DSi has not been as widespread. The newly revamped LL with its larger screens has not helped matters. The key for Nintendo is the long “tail” on many of its games – Wii Fit continues to sell strongly, and no doubt the same will be true for the enhanced version. Motion Plus has added a new dimension to the titles that use it, and both WiiWare and DSiWare have been attracting some strong releases.

The music genre continues to be the strongest, with so many good releases – new Lips, new Singstar, Band Hero, Lego Rock Band, Rock Band Unplugged on PSP, and of course the new expensive peripheral-based DJ Hero. The standout has to be The Beatles Rock Band, with its exquisite presentation, vocal harmonies and attitude to DLC (with money from the release of All You Need Is Love going to charity).

But undoubtedly the biggest thing to hit the industry is Modern Warfare 2. Not only is it set to dominate sales in the run up to Christmas, but many big name titles shifted back into 2010 to avoid it. The bad news is that the supermarkets are prepared to use it as a loss leader in their battle for sales – devaluing the game and affecting dedicated games retailers.

So can Sony and Microsoft make ground on Nintendo? And when will the fanfare sound for the next generation, bred from what has been successful this time around?