Saturday, October 29, 2011

NYCC 2011: Gravity Lab

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


In the small developer world, a lot of games are heading to the App Store, but surprisingly, not too many games for iDevices were shown at this year's New York Comic Con. However, we did find a small developer, Mobile Snap, showing off their first major project which played quite well: Gravity Lab.

This looks like it is going to hurt.

Gravity Lab is a puzzle arcade game in which players trace a path for Steve the Robot in order to knock over blocks to have them collide with stars. What color those blocks are determines their gravitational pull; for example, green blocks fall down, while red blocks fall up. Each of the game's three labs contain their own unique element addition, making the puzzle of collecting stars more complicated quickly. The second lab uses special sectors which change the color, and, therefore, the gravity direction of blocks, and the third lab uses teleporting devices to launch blocks in other directions.

Falling blocks in all directions!

While the game released this summer, developer Mobile Snap is prepping to add another lab (that is, twenty five levels) to the main game for free. Mobile Snap is also prepping for a Gravity Lab release on PC and Android devices in the near future. At NYCC, Mobile Snap showed off the game on PC and iPad, and we were able to get our hands on the game. The game felt smooth, even with the occasional framerate drops. The style and design more than make up for any glitches in the system, and for a game developed by three guys, it comes off as a neat addition to the App Store lineup.

Now we're thinking with portals. Sorry, had to say it.

We got to interview Steve Melanson from Mobile Snap about some details for the game, and you can see it below. Gravity Lab is currently available on the App Store for $0.99.

NYCC 2011: yyrgames

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Xbox Live Indie Games does not get much of a good wrap; it is filled to the brim with poor graphics, hastily-prepared cash-ins, and all-around inadequate gaming experiences. However, there are a number of developers trying to make the service something respectable. One of those arcade-loving developers, yyrgames, had a booth at New York Comic Con showcasing two of the company's latest endeavors, and we got to try them out.

Yyrgames began its XBLIG lineup a couple years ago with Snake360, a fast-paced arcade title which took the basic snake concept and created hundreds of levels, multiple difficulty options, and a battle mode. However, Aaron Teplitsky, the mind behind yyrgames, thinks he can do so much more with the concept than make a few more modes.

Enter Snake361, a sequel with quite a bit more. On top of having the campaign levels from its predecessor, the game adds a myriad of new levels with new elements. For example, as you complete one level, the world expands, and your snake is as big as it was before; in other levels, which end you control swaps with each piece collected. Teleporters and other obstacles also come into play over time, ensuring a more intense snake experience. There are also leveling elements, replay recording, and a level editor with sharing elements to round out the game's contents.

And expanded level with teleporters to boot!

Another addition to the game is a set of 100 Challenges, which set speeds and certain rules on the player. At the yyrgames booth, Snake361 had a set of challenges to run through, and I found myself in a round of sudden intensity. One challenge, for example, required the level be finished in 17 moves, which promptly ended poorly for me. Another challenge rushed my snake around a level with pathways only one block-width in size. Needless to say, these challenges took me out in rapid force. By the way, for those who worried about using the Xbox 360 control stick, the game can be played with the face buttons or any other control input, including dance pads!

Battle Mode has also been improved, with lots of option to play with.

From the content-heavy to the content-crazy, yyrgames debuted its newest game at the show, also debuting its Mostly Random Games line. The game is simply titled B.F.T., which stands for Bungee Ferret Tossing, and the game involves all three of those words, with the addition of terrorists and explosions. In the game, terrorists have started to make their evil advances, and in order to stop them, one stealth helicopter and one brave soldier fly across enemy lines with but one weapon that truly works: explosive ferrets.

In-game, players control both the helicopter and the soldier on the bungee, but no matter what, the soldier sways back and forth in the air. Pressing any button causes a ferret explosive to be launched following the soldier's direction, hopefully toward the enemy. Over time, other ferrets are available, including proximity ferrets, timed ferrets, and more; unfortunately, the terrorists will only be getting stronger as the missions continue.

Graphically, B.F.T. is very simple, full of programmer art and simply-drawn characters. Teplitsky acknowledged this and made it known that he would be tweaking the graphics as well as he could. As for the game itself, it had a little bit of repetition going for it, but for a short and super-cheap experience, it might not be a bad game to try out when it is fully completed.

We spoke in length with Teplitsky about his current projects and any insights regarding the XBLIG services. In the interview, he also confirmed that his game SharpShooter is in the process of being ported to Windows Phone 7 and eventually Android. He might venture into further developments, but the two XBLIG titles are his big projects for now.

The first yyrgames product to become mobile.

Those interested in trying out his latest products can try out Snake360, CardArcade, Falling, and SharpShooter on XBLIG right now. B.F.T. will be available for 80 points late 2011, and Snake361 will be releasing "when it is ready," though 2012 is assured. Check below for our full interview.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NYCC 2011: Dragon's Dogma

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Capcom's booth was among the most active of the show, which made recording footage and grabbing any brief interviews hard for us on Friday. Fighting games such as Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Street Fighter X Tekken were crammed in the middle of the booth, while other adventures, such as Asura's Wrath and Dead Rising 2: Off the Record, were available for play around the outside. Asura's Wrath in particular drew crowds due to the Rage Booth, but in the chaos, we decided to take a look at Capcom's next large franchise: Dragon's Dogma.

Dragon's Dogma takes place in old medieval times, and the player's created hero becomes the unfortunate victim of a large dragon. With the hero's heart removed and held by the dragon, the hero should be dead but is instead revived as an "Enlightened One," driven to find the dragon and get vengeance. The game is prepped to be an open-world adventure, full to the brim with massive monsters and large, sprawling lands to travel.

I don't know about you, but I think that adventurer is about to be Hydra food.

The actual demo was located in a small alcove with four demo stations facing each other, and in those demos, I had the choice of a dungeon or field-based scenario. There were not many people at this game, and after playing the demo for a short while, I realized why that may have been the case.

In the field scenario, my hero was with a group of NPCs, including an archer and a wizard, as they approached a number of monsters wrecking a small convoy. Without much hesitation on their part, the group rushed toward them, and I found myself in a bit of a bad situation. I was being thrown into battle with barely any knowledge of how the game played.

While this scenario was loading, I was met with a gargantuan, complex control screen. It seems I had missed out on some pivotal information, as my progress fell flat early into the demo. I tried to find a way to run and could not, and I quickly found my attacks to be less effective compared to those from my entourage. Before I could really get a grasp for my inventory, I was met with a greater foe: a massive griffin who had a taste for adventurers.

Had I been better, this might have been the outcome.

This was when the battle went from cumbersome to chaotic. I could attack the large monstrosity with my short blades easily, but in the air, I was met with difficulty. A wizard informed me that his flames would hurt the griffin greatly, and the archer let me know to attack its wings with my bow and arrow. Without any prompt or hint of how to use my bow, I started to pull it out, only to completely miss or mess up with my attacks. Less than a minute later, I was informed, yet again, from my NPCs. I got some more hits in, but still the others called out to me as if I was failing greatly. Shortly thereafter, convinced I was getting nowhere, I ended my playthrough.

They are helpful, but the others are also quite annoyingly verbal.

Was Dragon's Dogma bad? No, it was probably more the environment and lack of knowledge toward the game's control that threw me off than anything else. However, if this game is coming out early 2012 (which it is), there needs to be some level of polish in how the characters act and how the game flows. The graphics look nice in stills but chugged along way too slowly, and the controls were certainly not more accessible, despite what the director said in the past. Hopefully the final product will deliver better than this demo did.

See below for the video of my experience. Dragon's Dogma is slated for March 2012.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NYCC 2011: Get Me Off the Moon!

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Capcom was full of life at this year's NYCC, complete with a large booth showcasing new franchises such as Dragon's Dogma and new games in old franchises such as Resident Evil and Marvel vs. Capcom. However, despite this, there was one major franchise that Capcom has been keeping quiet, and there are some people out there who want it to come back with a loud bang: Mega Man Legends.

At New York Comic Con, a group known as GetMeOfftheMoon was located near the Artist Alley on the showfloor, with one major purpose: let Capcom know that Mega Man Legends 3 can be completed without the fear of losses. We got to interview one of the group's big representatives, Dashe Troxon, but before we show that, let's give a rundown as to WHY this is even here.

For those not in the know, Mega Man Legends 3 was announced for the Nintendo 3DS as the final chapter in a trilogy originally created back on the PlayStation. Mega Man father Keiji Inafune had been wanting to make this game since the second game was released, but it was not until just before he left Capcom that the hope of such a game arrived. Announced as Mega Man Legends 3 Project, the idea was to get every fan of the series behind its creation by submitting boss designs, choices of characters, and other inputs. This meant that when the game was finished, fans of the series could play something that the whole community had made together.

One of the first fan-inputs: the new heroine design.

Unfortunately, it was eventually disclosed to everyone that the project was not yet greenlit by Capcom executives. According to them, Mega Man was a dying franchise and was not liked by American audiences, thus restricting the company interest in the blue bomber. Inafune's influence was enough to let the developer create a prototype for approval, and from there, the community project was born. In the end, a Prototype Edition was to be released via Nintendo eShop, showing off some missions and even allowing a look at alpha stages of later areas. If sales of this were high enough, Capcom would greenlight the full game.

This boss was but one fan creation set for the full game.

Except Capcom did not even greenlight the Prototype Edition. The game was cancelled, and there was no Mega Man Legends 3 in any form. The reason? Not enough participation, even when the announcement trailer said people did not need to participate.

And now they are participating alright, just in another venue: Facebook. The GetMeOffTheMoon movement is a Facebook group aimed toward gaining 100,000 likes on Facebook in order to prove that Mega Man Legends 3 should be released. Like Operation Rainfall, a Facebook movement to get Nintendo to publish North American versions of some of its Japanese (and now European) products, it has become the center of spreading word to gamers and to the companies involved, hoping their voices bring actions.

For more information on the group and what it is doing, check out the interview below and visit the official home page.

Monday, October 24, 2011

NYCC 2011: Mario Kart 7

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Mario Kart gets its 7th iteration this year, and this time, it is on Nintendo's newest handheld. I got to briefly try out the game's demo station at this year's New York Comic Con, and it was a pretty good experience, even if it lacked all the modes mentioned in recent months.

I only played one race, and I could not place the location's name itself, but it was a large collection of setpieces set on a large island. The demo allowed me to choose one of eight characters, the body of the vehicle, the tires, and the hang glider. Hang glider? In Mario Kart? Oh, yes, and there is more, too.

There's some Pilotwings in my Mario Kart, and I do not mind.

The track I raced had a number of unique setpieces, starting with a cave filled with flying bats which knocked my cart around. Then, all of the racers raced through the cave filled with stalactites, and shortly thereafter, large boulders rushed toward us as we climbed the steep hills. Once I reached the top, Yoshi barreled into the air, and his kart sprouted its hang glider, allowing me to fly through the air and rush between the trees from above. These kart transformations are the newest additions to the franchise, and my experience with this first one was fairly positive. The other additional transformation involves a submarine, but I did not get to try that one out here. These transformations almost makes up for the lack of bikes this time around!

The demo lacked new abilities, but this game's sure got 'em!

The game's graphics are very smooth, similar to that of Mario Kart Wii. Some elements have been cut back to ensure that the game runs at the full 60 frames per second, but when you are rushing through each track, I do not think many will care. There is some bumpmapping on the vehicles, which helps to mask any lower polygons the karts themselves might display. The 3D effect mixed with the game's worlds and power-ups was great; I got inked by a Blooper and was very surprised about how close the ink looked on-screen. The depth especially showed when in the air, no doubt partly why they decided on using the hang glider in the first place. As this was essentially the E3 demo, I could not experience the new first-person mode, but it should certainly be useful to show off the game's 3D effect.

Coming Soon: Mario Sim Racer.

I would say the game is pretty good so far, but those not interested in Mario Kart will clearly not be won over this time around. We have no footage of the game, but you can surely expect to see more in the coming months!

NYCC 2011: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


This year, Nintendo gets to end its 25th Anniversary of The Legend of Zelda with a bang. Using Wii Motion+ and a slew of new design elements, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword could be the last massive game on Nintendo's current gaming system. At this year's New York Comic Con, we got to check out some of the demos, which were taking up a large chunk of Nintendo's booth on the showfloor, and it was difficult to control at first, albeit rewarding once done right.

The demo was split into three parts, consisting of a flight section, a dungeon section, and a boss fight against Ghirahim, the game's main villain (or at least original villain). On my time, I only got to play the battle agianst Ghirahim, and from my short experience, I found the game more challenging than its predecessor, Twilight Princess. The battle takes place at the end of the Skyview Temple, in which Link encounters the dark being in his attempt to capture Zelda. While explaining his hatred toward those in the sky, Ghirahim eventually decides to bring Link to the brink of death, and the battle begins.

You know when you encounter a guy with purple eyeliner and a menacing smile, a fight will begin.

Swinging the Remote is vastly important, which can be confusing for some after playing several games using "waggle." In the battle, Ghirahim approaches link and tries to grab the sword from his hands, so it is imperative to slash where his hands are not. After doing enough damage, he will make his sword appear, bringing in a real sword fight. If you slash at his sword, he will counter with a powerful slash attack. The boss also creates a number of darts to shoot at you, but if you slash at them just right, they launch right back to the creepy villain. In the end, as with the rest of the game, where the sword goes is very tantamount to the success of a battle.

Forget Epona, this animal can FLY!

The other two sections, covered by the video below, were played by people other than us, but we were able to gauge the experiences in a mixed fashion. In particular, we noticed two differing reactions from the dungeon section of the demo. Sometimes the player would swish the sword in a swift, waggle motion, but that resulted in the Stalfos killing off Link fairly quickly. However, once a user actually used the Remote like a sword, the battle became a lot easier. From the experience, the game will be difficult for many gamers, particularly as it brings emphasis to direction of a slash rather than the timing of it. Hopefully people will not take this difficulty in a terribly negative way.

Wagglers will soon become strugglers, even early on.

The graphics and music are altogether charming. The music is mostly orchestrated, which adds to the emotional subtext to the areas around Link. From the adventurous sounds of the sky to the dark and ominous violin solo in the dungeon, the soundtrack has a lot of benefits from the use of real instruments this time around. Graphically, the game looks top notch; bloom is not overly used and is instead used sparingly amid the well-modeled environments. Animations were smooth, and the colors give the game an impressionist style.

While the demo was very minimal in content, it was still a good window to look through and see what will come to us this November 20th.

NYCC 2011: Super Mario 3D Land

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Mario is a character who is recognized greatly, regardless of the dimension of game he is in, whether 2D or 3D. Well, his upcoming adventure, Super Mario 3D Land, looks to try and combine the level elements of 2D Mario games while melding in a unique control and graphical element portrayed by his 3D adventures. This game also brings about a unique situation for our powerful plumber: this time Bowser has his Princess AND his power-ups!

Small Mario? Time Limits? This is sounding like old-school Mario to me!

From my short playtime at this year's New York Comic Con, this adventure felt pretty good, although I initially had a couple qualms about the controls. I got to play the underground stage and Boom Boom Airship levels out of the four available levels.

Graphically, Super Mario 3D Land is astonishing. The game looks like a Wii game, partly like the Super Mario Galaxy adventures. There is a solid framerate, and while it has no bloom effects and the like, the game moves fluidly and is top-tier for the handheld, thus far. As for the 3D depth, it can get extremely intense, and when I got into the sweet spot, 3D Land looked like I was looking into a small block world, with Mario inside it. On occasion, though, the camera felt a little too close to Mario; it should have panned out a little, in my opinion. The 3D effect really helped the platforming, regardless; with it off, making jumps felt harder for me to accomplish.

The music is close to some music from Super Mario Galaxy, with new instruments here and there. The game lacks orchestration, but the tunes are basic Mario tunes through and through. This game will not win any awards for its music this time around, though. It will be an acceptable Mario soundtrack, at best, from what I have heard thus far.

The depth helps, especially when it comes to the inevitably difficult areas ahead.

As for the actual gameplay elements, the game controls much like Galaxy, except you have to use the run button to move fast and can only move in eight directions. These might have been to make the game closer to old-school Mario platformers, but movement still feels a bit odd considering the analog input. I especially had trouble doing a backflip; I had performed something like it once and was unable to do it anymore, despite many attempts afterward. Hopefully the controls become less of a problem the more you play it.

Throughout my little excursion, I got the fire flower and leaf powerups, the latter of which even the enemies make use! This game felt like it was pulling a lot from the older games, so much that I feel this game is more like a 3D Super Mario Bros. 3 rather than a new Super Mario Galaxy. Instead of the stars, we see flagpoles. Instead of star bits, there are lots of ? blocks to hit with Mario's iron fist. Oh, yes, this is old-school Mario in 3D. The more I played it, the more I wanted to keep playing it.

Yeah, he's probably not going to get that 1UP.

From the few levels I played, the game is certainly another good Mario game, but whether it sits among the near-perfect Wii adventures will have to wait until I get my hands on the full version. Here's a clip of Super Mario 3D Land, filmed by Jennifer Ivins from

Super Mario 3D Land emerges November 13th.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

NYCC 2011: Kirby's Return to Dreamland

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Last year, we got the first console Kirby adventure in a long time, but soon, a classic Kirby adventure will emerge for the Wii. This Comic Con, we got our hands on a part of the game, and it was all charm and no fuss.

Kirby's Return to Dreamland stars Kirby in his attempt to help out an alien being, whose ship has crash-landed onto Pop Star and scattered its pieces throughout the planet. Thankfully, Kirby is not alone in this adventure; if more than one player wants to jump in, they can either join in as different colored Kirbies or play as King Dedede, Metaknight, or a spear-touting Waddle Dee.

Even while cooperating, King Dedede treats Kirby with little respect.

Kirby's newest console adventure from HAL is as bright and inviting as any Kirby game in the past; while it lacks the severe heart attack-inducing cute levels of Epic Yarn, this game certainly fits the mold of a delightful platforming adventure. The game's graphics were very colorful and cheerful, very much how a Kirby game should be. The animations were smooth, so smooth that you could see the pink puffball jiggle with each movement he made.

Keep your jaw open like that and it will get stuck, mister!

The controls were very responsive, even when using the motion controls for the new Super-Inhale move. Shaking the controller to initiate the attack felt very natural, turning Kirby into a motion-controlled vacuum. The Super-Inhale is not the only new ability; Kirby also can obtain extremely-devastating Super Abilities. I got the Ultra Sword ability in the demo, in which Kirby pulls out an over-sized sword and slashes at everything in its path; at the event, anyone who saw this move called Kirby hardcore. There are quite a few more Super Abilities, so all those haters better beware!

Thunderkirbies, HO!

Do not judge this game negatively because of last year's Epic Yarn or this year's Mass Attack. If you want a traditional Kirby game with four-player co-op and plenty of super moves, this is the one to get. This is a definitive Kirby game. Although I did not play the game with anyone else, the impressions of multiplayer experiences with the game were fairly positive. Check below for a brief video clip of the demo.

Kirby's Return to Dreamland will be coming out today, October 24th.

NYCC 2011: Sonic Generations

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


Sonic Generations was available in split venues at this year's New York Comic Con; the console version of the game was situated at the Archie Comics booth while Nintendo housed the 3DS edition (which was on rotation with other third party games such as Skylanders and Shinobi). I only got my hands on the 3DS version, and it looks to have improved some since it last appeared in public.

Old Sonic Character, meet New Sonic Worlds.

Comparatively, Classic Sonic was both slower and tighter in control than Modern Sonic was. Classic Sonic required more of a running start to really get moving while Modern Sonic accelerated much faster, making it a tad harder to know what was in front of him. While I didn’t test to see just how close Classic Sonic’s physics were to the physics on the Genesis, I could tell there were some differences, but not enough to impede my experience. As for Modern Sonic, he played similarly to his Sonic Rush counterparts, which was fast and smooth.

Green Hill has gone 3D. Blast Processing has returned!

One thing I noticed was that the Classic Sonic stage layouts were copies of the original level layouts back on the Genesis. This is a tad disappointing as Green Hill Zone Act 1 is only 30 seconds long and there is no feeling of experiencing new levels. Luckily, Modern Sonic’s stages are completely new with rails and other stage gimmicks. I was happy to notice that both Classic and Modern Sonic had complex platforming elements as well as multiple paths to choose from, adding to the game’s replayablilty. One element I did not like for Modern Sonic was that in some parts you needed to boost in order to get through while other parts punished you if you didn’t take you time. As far as level layouts go, they were pretty much on par with Sonic Rush’s level design, which is okay by me. As for the boss in the demo, Big Arm, I found the battle challenging and fun. Compared to videos I have seen online, this boss fight felt tougher as a result of his constantly changing attack pattern; this more difficult battle also allowed me the time to hear the music, which was a neat combination of both new and old themes.

After playing both versions, I found a problem I had not thought of before. In the console versions, both Sonics have different looking stages and play styles, but in the 3DS version, both Sonics look the same and have similar levels. This caused some confusion mid-game; at times I would forget that I had special abilities or that I could not use special attacks. Hopefully this will not be too much of an issue for me later on!

Well, as long as it is fun, I won't complain about including Sonic Heroes.

After seeing both versions in person, it was clear that the console version is getting far more attention than the handheld version. Both games look nice, but some corners are being cut in order to get the 3DS game out this year. My other concern is game length. The HD version has 9 stages each with two acts and 10 missions, but so far it appears that there are only 7 stages with 2 acts on the 3DS. Besides that, the game does appear to be improving and should be at least enjoyable to fans of the more recent Sonic handheld games.

On Thursday, I had the pleasure to speak with Aaron Webber about Sonic Generations, which you can see in the video below. While no release date has been announced for the 3DS version, the 360, PC, and Playstation 3 version of Sonic Generations is expected later this month.

Friday, October 21, 2011

NYCC 2011: Shinobi

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


At New York Comic Con, one of the third party games on display at Nintendo's booth was Sega's Shinobi for 3DS. This action-packed ninja adventure promises to bring back the old-school arcade experience that gamers have been wanting for the last few years. We got to play some of it there, and it feels like it is going to match the old school pretty well.

The demo started off with the protagonist talking with his sensei about basics and some advanced controls, and there was quite a lot to learn. I quickly decided to skip through the tutorial and jump head-first into the game, although in hindsight perhaps I should have gone through the tutorial a little bit. From the quick-passing screens, I could see a large amount of moves that the main character can do, from sword slashing to parrying to a new magic move which clears the screen in one blow.

As soon as I passed the tutorial, invading forces attacked the dojo and the game began in earnest. Like the older Shinobi games, this game is a side-scrolling action game in which you use the circle pad to move the ninja around and attack a vast onslaught of enemies using long-range shurikens and close-range combat. Unfortunately, the enemies can also throw throwing stars at you, and at the time, I did not realize that the parry move could knock off projectiles as they came to me. As a result, I got pummeled quite often in my time.

In the future, ninjas fight everything and everywhere!

Like real ninjas, the enemies do not give you much time to react, making the whole demo a high-octane experience, which was only made more complicated around the crowded and loud convention floor. If you can manage to sneak behind an enemy, you can take them out in a one-move takedown; if they spot you, you earn a sword to the face. While fighting, you can throw a chain upward to launch yourself toward higher places and especially toward airborne enemies for special combos. However, I could not find a way to launch the chain in any other direction; this was no Bionic Commando for me.

Of course, this screen shows we might be a little mistaken.

Besides fighting, the platforming felt pretty straight forward. The game allows you to use ninja skills to grab onto platforms, ropes, and anything else that a badass ninja needs to grab to get the job done. The game is clearly more combat-based, and perhaps that is a good thing when it comes to the Shinobi franchise.

Graphically, the style is more comic-based, if the boxart did not give this away. The fire effects and cel-shaded enemies further emphasize the comic style, but the backgrounds are pretty flat and lack detail where it should be expected. With stylized games like Okamiden showing up at the end of the DS's life with great aethetics, Shinobi came off to me as a simple, upgraded DS game in the texture department rather than a full-blown 3DS game. In 3D, the game looks nice, but there could have certainly been more usage of the display with the actions in the backgrounds. There should have been more to emphasize the 3D effects where possible.

Perhaps later worlds will better show off the 3D effect better.

While I was fairly inept at playing the game at the show floor, Shinobi looks like it will match the difficulty expectations of the series. I continued to get beaten up by the enemies and was confused by all the moves throughout; NYCC was probably not a good venue for me to try the game out, especially having skipped the tutorial entirely. Initial qualms aside, the game looks like it'll meet the expectations of Shinobi fans of yore.

Shinobi is expected for release this November.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NYCC 2011: Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion XL

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


There is no denying that Cartoon Network has become one of the biggest child and adolescent programming channels on cable today, and it has a lot of characters new and old to thank for that. From the eco-friendly Captain Planet to the chef-in-training Chowder, the variety of characters is so large that it eventually spawns the question: who would win in a battle, Samurai Jack or Ben 10? Or Flapjack? Or the Powerpuff Girls?

Enter Papaya Studio's Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion, a CN-themed fighting and action game. Originally released on the Nintendo 3DS this past summer, Punch Time Explosion is getting a special XL edition for home consoles this holiday season, and from what we saw at Comic Con, it is certainly improving on what the original game had established. For one, the new adventure consists of as many as eight brand-new characters, including Him from Powerpuff Girls and Kevin Eleven from the Ben 10 series. Also, a large number of new battle maps have been added, expanding the locales of the many worlds, including Mandark's Lab and Candied Island. So for those who liked the 3DS version and wanted more of everything, there is nothing to worry about here.

Toiletnator is about to get beat down.

Of course, an XL version is not just more characters and levels. The console version's graphics have been improved, and the framerate has been stabilized, which is certainly helpful for keeping up with the action. Players can play the Story Mode cooperatively, and there are a number of new battle modes for multiplayer. There is even a Practice Mode so you can learn each new character's abilities before you jump into the fray. Even older characters have new abilities, particularly the Synergy Attacks, in which an assisting character and the playable character join together to perform a special destructive attack on unsuspecting opponents.

In this lab, it is all fun and no work.

From my experiences, the game has quite a bit of activity happening, and at first, the controls might be a little daunting, but even less experienced players should do rather well, what with the Punch Time Explosions and assist attacks. Considering all the characters, crazy level selection, and new Synergy Attacks, this game will certainly compare well against Super Smash Brothers Brawl, and considering there are not many games like this on HD platforms, this could be a good contender for children's wish lists this holiday.

Check the pecks, then check this punch!

We had an interview with Senior Producer Richard Robledo regarding the game and its new features, not to mention the controversial question: which Cartoon Network character is his favorite?

Cartoon Network: Punch Time Explosion is available now for 3DS and the console XL version will be available this holiday season under a budget price. For more information, head to the official website.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

NYCC 2011: Skylanders: Spyro's Big Adventure

Our adventure into this year's New York Comic Con was not exactly as peachy as we would have liked, but when is a convention not stressful? We were only able to attend the Thursday and Friday events for both economical and physical reasons, but we got a handful of videos and impressions to make for you all.


When it was announced earlier this year, Skylanders: Spyro's Big Adventure was met with a mixed reaction, mostly toward the cash-grab mentality the concept reflected. Essentially, Skylanders is a toy and game combination aimed toward children, all while rebooting the Spyro franchise and introducing a myriad of new characters for marketability. Using a portal device, players input characters to the game via individual toy statues; the games each come with three figurines, and there are over thirty in total. Consequently, not only do you have to purchase the games, but you also have to purchase additional toys to play as every character.

While this negativity toward Activision is understandable, that negativity does not necessarily outdo the fact that the game is pretty darn fun.

At New York Comic Con, I got my hands on the 3DS version of the game, and a developer from Vicarious Visions was there to answer my questions and help relay information on the titles. While we chatted about the game and its features (as we talk about in the below video), I played through the first few areas the game had to offer, and overall I was pretty impressed.

A scene from the console version, when it was first announced.

Unlike the console versions in which the portal needs to be activated at all times for character swapping, the handheld edition allows players to store two heroes in the game at one time, but to change characters outside of the stored ones, the portal will need to be used. Also unlike the console version, the 3DS version of the game is more platform-intensive, and from what I played, that is certainly true. In the last Spyro series, the games were more focused on beat-em-up scenarios; this rendition puts more emphasis on quick battles and unique character abilities. According to the developer, the handheld version is more fast-paced than the console version, and while I cannot confirm that, the game did feel well-paced.

The Portal, not just a display for your Skylanders figurines.

Swapping characters was quick and easy, and as I played, they did have their little differences. Dark Spyro, for instance, glided across gaps while Ignitor, the other character in the demo, provided a double jump for platforming. As the game progresses, each character gains experience and, subsequently, abilities as they venture through each level of the game. While there are no extreme RPG elements in here, the leveling concept does make replaying the game more acceptable; having so many characters to choose from helps that as well.

Perhaps my biggest fault with the game from my hands-on time was the framerate. Seeing as this demo was probably a very complete version of the game, the framerate was disappointing. Sitting at roughly 20 fps, the game felt occasionally stilted. Thankfully, the 3D effect is greatly utilized, with large towers and drops which make good use of the 3DS display. The graphics are bright and do not show much of the faults a number of third party games on the 3DS did before. It certainly does not feel like an up-port, thank goodness!

The handheld game accepts all characters from the console versions, too.

We were told that there will be at least 30 characters, of which two are exclusively included in Starter Packs: Spyro with the console game and Dark Spyro with the handheld edition. This does make the game initially expensive. Thankfully, the game seems very solid and certainly welcoming to younger gamers. Will it be brought to the same height as the original Spyro series? Well, perhaps that depends on your perception of the original series. At the very least, this is a unique take on the franchise, and it is certainly not a bad one.

Skylanders is out now, but if you want some quick impressions over Comic Con footage, look no further!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

eShop Rating-Sales: September 2011

The Nintendo eShop is Nintendo's online shop through the 3DS where people can download games from old Nintendo hardware, DSiWare games, and new download software specific for the 3DS. Because Nintendo does not disclose sales numbers, and developers are most likely barred from revealing them, we do not know how games are doing on the service.

But we might have at least a small hint.

After playing a game on the 3DS for over a hour, players are capable of rating these games via the eShop, and the totals are shown on each game page, showing up to five stars based on what the population thinks. At the very least, we now have minimum sales figures for the games, but with a very large disclaimer: these numbers represent the users who have done the following:

1) Purchased the game
2) Played the game for over an hour on the 3DS, and
3) Chose to rate the game on the eShop.

People who play the games on their DSi systems cannot rate games, nor can people who have not played the games for less than one hour. Since rating cannot be done outside of the eShop, some might have forgotten to or chosen not to rate said games. Also note that a rating does not necessarily correspond with a sale in the month in which it appears, only emphasizing the number of additional people who completed the above steps.

With that disclaimer in mind, let us take a look at how the games performed.


Free Apps
1/1 Nintendo Video 7158 19206
2/2 Pokedex 3D 5371 31464
3/3 Netflix 3331 14147

Unmoved from last month, Nintendo Video remains the most-rated product in Nintendo's applications, but Pokedex 3D is still the most-rated download software on the eShop to date. At the very least, roughly 30 to 40 thousand people have accessed the eShop at some point, but I imagine the number to be greater overall.

Pre-eShop DSiWare*
1/1 Plants vs. Zombies 647 3623
2/2 Photo Dojo 496 2643
3/3 Cave Story 424 2791
4/5 Inchworm Animation 419 1707
5/4 Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! 404 2387
6/7 Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 - From the Abyss 304 1342
7/10 Zenonia 299 1128
8/6 Shantae: Risky's Revenge 281 1911
9/8 Bomberman Blitz 211 1091
10/12 Mario Clock 209 972
11/9 GO Series: 10 Second Run 203 839
12/11 Tetris Party Live 194 999
13/13 Pop Island - Paperfield 168 788
14/15 Army Defender 162 614
15/14 Soul of Darkness 122 595
16/16 Dark Void Zero 119 622
17/00 JellyCar 2 108 585
18/17 Dr. Mario Express 96 580
19/19 Anonymous Notes Chapter 2 - From the Abyss 71 386
20/18 Extreme Hangman 59 424
21/00 Arcade Bowling 56 267
22/20 GO Series: Defense Wars 33 136
23/21 WarioWare: Snapped! 31 180

*The list might not include games with higher rating counts, as it omits a large portion of prior DSiWare releases.

More or less the top 6 games remained as such, although there are some movements lower down the list. There does not appear to be any surprise in the current listing of old DSiWare games, at least not yet. Meanwhile, Nintendo this past month posted a "Biggest Movers" category in the eShop, and including newly charted games, represent the added chunk of games to the list for next month.

Crystal Monsters 638
Nintendo Countdown Calender 353
Pop Island 332
Touch Solitaire 317
My Farm 279
Paper Airplane Chase 227
Blazybloo: Super Melee Action Battle Royale 217
Mario Calculator 193
5 in 1 Solitaire 180
My Exotic Farm 175
Castle Conqueror 168
Gangster 2: Kings of L.A. 160
Earthworm Jim 149
AiRace 144
A Topsy Turvy Life: The Turvys Strike Back 63
Petz Dogz Family 51
Petz Kittens 38

Yes, Nintendo listed two Petz games in the "Biggest Movers" section. I have my doubts, but we will see next time if the category meant much.

Post-eShop DSiWare
1/00 The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition** 1679 1679
2/16 Let's Create! Pottery 99 112
3/01 Afterzoom 80 376
4/00 GO Series: Fishing Resort 61 61
5/02 Extreme Hangman 2 56 213
6/05 Go! Go! Kokopolo 51 96
7/18 Magical Whip 47 58
8/03 The Lost Town: The Dust 46 168
9/20 Build-a-lot 29 38
10/32 Calculator 29 32
11/06 My Australian Farm 27 71
12/13 My Asian Farm 25 42
13/07 Moto eXtreme 22 96
14/04 Antipole 22 113
15/31 Zoonies - Escape from Makatu 19 23
16/09 Make-Up & Style 17 82
17/00 House M.D. - Blue Meanie 17 17
18/12 Pro Jumper! Guilty Gear Tangent!? 16 70
19/00 Defense of the Middle Kingdom 16 16
20/19 Kung Fu Dragon 14 25
21/26 Crazy Hamster 14 20
22/10 GO Series: Portable Shrine Wars 13 45
23/23 Blockado - Puzzle Island 13 20
24/00 Break Tactics 13 13
25/08 Stratego: Next Edition 12 87
26/14 Farm Frenzy 10 35
27/15 Heart Spaces Euchre 8 32
28/17 Puzzle Fever 8 29
29/25 Roller Angels 7 26
30/11 Jewel Keepers: Easter Island 7 44
31/22 Trollboarder 7 17
32/27 Zimo: Mahjong Fanatic 6 19
33/24 Delbo 6 28
34/00 DotMan 6 6
35/28 Hidden Photo 5 20
36/00 Puzzle Rocks 5 5
37/00 Escape Trick: Ninja Castle 5 5
38/34 Boardwalk Ball Toss 4 15
39/36 Go Fetch! 2 4 6
40/33 Gold Fever 3 18
41/21 Beach Party Craze 2 20
42/29 Oscar's World Tour 2 7
43/30 Play & Learn Spanish 2 7
44/00 Bridge 2 2
45/35 Just SING! 80s Collection 1 3
46/37 B-Team - Episode 2: Ice & Venom 1 2
47/00 Bugs 'N' Balls 0 0
48/00 Crystal Caves of Amen-Ra 0 0

**This game is free and will be available for free until February 20th, 2012.

Even a couple of days after its debut, Four Swords Anniversary Edition happens to become the most-rated game from new DSiWare titles, although that is to be expected. The game is and will remain free for months, so I suspect it will stay at Number 1 until then. Outside of that large outlier, the highest new release goes to GO Series: Fishing Resort with 61 ratings. Last month's biggest rated title, Go! Go! Kokopolo, only debuted with 45, although it has since more than doubled in ratings, a good sign for a good game. However, the biggest mover from last month's releases was not Kokopolo but Let's Create! Pottery, with 99 ratings this past month.

The last two games, both without a single rating, were only out for a full day when I gathered data, so if they are good, expect them to shoot up the charts come next month.

After Zelda, the most-rated post-eShop DSiWare title remains to be Afterzoom.

Virtual Console

1/1 Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX 1693 14452
2/2 Super Mario Land 1006 8464
3/4 Kirby's Dream Land 595 2572
4/3 Donkey Kong 463 3319
5/00 Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge 275 275
6/5 Mario's Picross 238 806
7/7 Gargoyle's Quest 225 350
8/6 Game & Watch Gallery 185 802
9/00 Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins 81 81
10/8 Alleyway 64 585
11/9 Avenging Spirit 48 119
12/00 Pac-Man 47 47
13/10 Qix 30 170
14/11 Baseball 27 126
15/12 Radar Mission 23 203
16/14 Tennis 17 138
17/13 Fortified Zone 15 91
18/00 Golf 14 14

The top 4 games remained as expected, although Kirby outdid Donkey Kong this month. The most-rated new release was Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge with 275 ratings. The other Capcom release, Gargoyle's Quest, sits at the top of third-party VC releases. The worst-performing game of the bunch was Golf, which also debuted this week. Word of advice for Nintendo: do not release a GB Golf title within weeks of releasing an NES Golf game for the Ambassador Program. Also, Super Mario Land 2 was barely out when the month ended; expect it to do well next month.

Link's Awakening DX remains the highest-rated title on the eShop that was never available for free at any time. Outside of new releases, Fortified Zone remains the least-rated VC title, with only 91 ratings.

3DS Download Software
1/1 3D Classics: Excitebike* 1399 17490
2/2 Let's Golf! 3D 456 1351
3/3 3D Classics: Xevious 241 901
4/4 3D Classics: Urban Champion 210 401
5/0 3D Classics: Twinbee 67 67

*This game was available for free during the month of June 2011.

Like last month, the actual 3DS games from eShop went up in count by one, and it happened to be another 3D Classics title. Twinbee only had a week to perform, and it did poorly, with only 67 ratings. Urban Champion, despite being seen negatively upon release, still sits at a total of 401 ratings. Let's Golf! 3D surpassed 1000 ratings, and Xevious appears to be on the verge, as well.

As expected, 3D Classics: Excitebike remains the most-rated 3DS download software and, outside of Nintendo Video and Pokedex 3D, is the most-rated product on the eShop. I do not expect this fact to change into the near future.

1/2 Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX 1693 14452
2/00 The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Anniversary Edition** 1679 1679
3/1 3D Classics: Excitebike* 1399 17490
4/3 Super Mario Land 1006 8464
5/6 Plants vs. Zombies 647 3623
6/5 Kirby's Dream Land 595 2572
7/8 Photo Dojo 496 2643
8/4 Donkey Kong 463 3319
9/7 Let's Golf! 3D 456 1351
10/9 Cave Story 424 2791
11/12 Inchworm Animation 419 1707
12/10 Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! 404 2387
13/15 Anonymous Notes Chapter 1 - From the Abyss 304 1342
14/19 Zenonia 299 1128
15/13 Shantae: Risky's Revenge 281 1911
16/00 Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge 275 275
17/14 3D Classics: Xevious 241 901
18/11 Mario's Picross 238 806
19/29 Gargoyle's Quest 225 350
20/17 Bomberman Blitz 211 1091

*This game was free for the month of June 2011
**This game is and will be free until February 2012

In a way, it is sad to see only two new games appear on the Top 20, but between free games, great handheld virtual console titles, and the 10-game Ambassador Program, I suspect the ratings to have dropped as a result. Link's Awakening DX remains at the top, but Four Swords Anniversary Edition almost surpassed it, followed by the other-once-free title on the eShop 3D Classics: Excitebike. The only paid-for debut in this now Top 20 is Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge. Meanwhile, the only August games on this list are Mario's Picross and Gargoyle's Quest.

What's in store for October? Well, there will almost certainly be a 3D Classics title, and Japan is getting a unique game developed by Intelligent Systems. As for other titles, Wayforward's newest title might appear in the next couple months, so keep a look out!