No Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Release for PSP Go

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: PSP, Popular Games

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Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep is set for release on PSP in the U.S. on September 7, but not on the PSP Go. Square Enix has confirmed the game will only receive a UMD release, meaning owners of the digital distribution-based Go won’t have any way to play it.

The confirmation came first by blogger and Arizona Daily Star writer Phil Villarreal, who contacted PR firm Ogilvy, which handles Square Enix releases. “Just found out that there unfortunately are no plans to release KHBBS on PSP Go. If that changes, I will certainly let you know!” a representative told him. Kotaku later contacted Square Enix for first-hand confirmation, and were also told there are “currently no plans” for a PSP Go release.

Besides a delay before the PSP version of Little Big Planet was released digitally, there hasn’t been a high profile game that wasn’t released both on UMD and through digital distribution since the Go came out last year, so Birth by Sleep will be the first spurn Go owners. For the sake of those Go owners, let’s hope this isn’t the beginning of a new trend.

Telltale Teases Epic Crossover…for New Poker Game?

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games, Upcoming Games

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It wouldn’t exactly be Marvel vs. Capcom 3 or Street Fighter X Tekken, but the thought of an epic adventure game crossover starring Penny Arcade, Sam & Max, Strong Bad, and — inexplicably — the cast of Team Fortress 2 would be a dream come true for many. And even though a short clip on the latest episode of GameTrailers TV seems to be teasing exactly that, the odds are greater we’ll have to keep dreaming.

In fact, being able to calculate odds may be exactly what you’ll need for the game Telltale is teasing, as it’s likely to be a sequel to their Texas Hold ‘Em game released way back in 2005. But let’s back up for a sec — as you can see for yourself in the teaser clip, it shows four silhouettes looking unmistakably like Penny Arcade’s Tycho, Sam from Sam & Max, the Heavy from Team Fortress 2, and Strong Bad from, well, Strong Bad. “Bet you never thought these guys would get together,” a title card reads. “Fine out how 9.2.2010.”

If you look closely at the silhouettes, though, you can see they’re all holding something in their hands…something that kind of looks like a fanned-out hand of cards. So will these characters simply be playable avatars in a new poker game from Telltale? That sure seems to be the most likely explanation, but we’ll have to wait until September 2 — the day before the Penny Arcade Expo kicks off — to find out for sure.

Gabe Newell: No Half-Life Movie Unless Valve Makes It

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players, Popular Games

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Half-Life is one of the most popular franchises in videogames, so why hasn’t the world seen it adapted into a movie yet? According to Valve CEO and co-founder Gabe Newell, it’s because they don’t trust anyone to do it but themselves.

Speaking to PC Gamer, Newell revealed that they’ve actually gotten tons of studio offers in the past. “There was a whole bunch of meetings with people from Hollywood [after Half-Life 1 shipped],” Newell explained. “Directors down there wanted to make a Half-Life movie and stuff, so they’d bring in a writer or some talent agency would bring in writers, and they would pitch us on their story. And their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst. Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of.”

And that, Newell said, is when they decided only one company could get it right: Valve. “That’s when we started saying: ‘Wow, the best thing we could ever do is to just not do this as a movie, or we’d have to make it ourselves,’” he said. “And I was like, ‘Make it ourselves? Well that’s impossible.’ But the Team Fortress 2 thing, the Meet the Team shorts, is us trying to explore that.”

Those “Meet the Team” videos were certainly a big hit with gamers, so the thought that they could potentially be a small-scale test for a potentially bigger feature-length movie is definitely exciting.

Super Robot Taisen L Debuts on DS

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players

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Namco Bandai took the veils off Super Robot Taisen L in Japan today, marking the latest installment in their long-running series of robo-strategy RPGs. The new game is due out November 25 over there and is slated to cost 6090 yen.

SRTL will feature robots from a total of 17 anime properties, first and foremost no doubt being Evangelion Unit 01 from the new series of Eva flicks. Other new names making their SRT debut here include Macross F, Linebarrels of Iron, Dancouga Nova, and old-school tentacle OVA Fight!! Iczer One.

You can expect few gameplay changes with this latest SRT, though — it’s still a mixture of turn-based simulation and conversation sequences between the story’s main players.

Although this is the third SRT game to hit the Nintendo DS in Japan, a stateside release is pretty unlikely as usual due to licensing difficulties. Atlus has, however, released three games in the “Original Generation” offshoot series so far, the latest being SRT OG Saga: Endless Frontier in 2009.

First Details On Phantasy Star Portable 2 Update

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: PSP

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Phantasy Star Portable 2 isn’t quite out in America yet — that’ll be saved for mid-September — but Japan’s already receiving a rather extensive update to the PSP online RPG. Sega officially announced Phantasy Star Portable 2 Infinity in that region today, an expansion that improves nearly every aspect of the game in one form or another.

“We’re emphasizing the fact that this is not a simple upgrade,” producer Satoshi Sakai told Famitsu magazine. “We aimed to pursue the very limit of the online RPG genre on the PSP with Phantasy Star Portable 2, and we put everything we wanted into the game. At the same time, though, we still felt we could do more, and now Infinity is going beyond the limit. The story alone is half again as large as PSP2’s.”

Indeed, Infinity will feature a whole “Episode 2″ which picks up where the original PSP2’s story ends. The central character of this episode is Nagisa, a mysterious young woman who seems to have no problem wielding gigantic Cloud Strife-size swords around. “Nagisa is lacking in general common sense a bit, and she has a personal mission in mind,” Sakai commented. “You can’t tell if she’s friend or foe at the beginning, but you’ll want to watch her as she kindles a friendship with Emilia and Yuto and begins to grow herself.” (All the other races are getting a visual facelift, too.)

Nagisa is a “duman,” a new race of mutated human beings that’s making their playable debut in Infinity. Dumans are described by Sakai as highly warlike in nature — “they can be summed up as ‘magic swordsmen’; they are highly skilled in all attacks, but weak in defense. Players will need to be able to deftly dodge enemy attacks with them, so they are somewhat geared towards advanced gamers.”

In addition to the big updates, Sakai and team are planning a wagonload of smaller fixes and improvements. Partly in order to celebrate PSO’s 10th anniversary in Japan, Infinity will feature PSO-style visual lobbies in online mode, as well as a variety of monster from the old games. There’s a skill-reset system that lets you reconstruct players if they’re below a certain level, a new screenshot applet, and “mission codes” you can trade with friends in ad-hoc mode. “There are a great variety of mission codes,” Sakai explained. “They may unlock missions with high rare item drop rates, or missions where dragons show up, and so on. Combining codes together can also give you new mission codes — a mission with high rare item drop rates where you get to fight a dragon.”

The Infinity update is slated for a winter release in Japan.

Yakuza 5 Revealed in Famitsu Ad

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games, Upcoming Games

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Sega advertised the next hi-def version of the Yakuza series in the first few pages of this week’s edition of Japan’s leading game magazine, Famitsu.

The advertisement depicts a destroyed and ruined entrance to Kamura-Cho, stand-in for real life Tokyo red light district Kabuki-Cho, and setting for at least five of the series’ previous six games (including the upcoming PSP Yakuza: Black Panther, which will be released in Japan on September 22.) A caption that reads “The End” sprawls across the ad’s two pages. Wrecked cars are strewn amongst fallen signs for massage parlors, gambling establishments and Korean barbecue restaurants. The ad seems to imply that Yakuza 5 will take place in the aftermath of some disaster that leaves Tokyo in shambles (we’re guessing an earthquake, but the ad doesn’t reveal the source of the destruction.)

The ad gives no gameplay, platform or release date information, but it’s likely that more will be revealed at Tokyo Game Show next month, and that the game will be a PlayStation exclusive like the previous titles in the series. The Yakuza series has traditionally used Japan’s yearly trade show as a coming out party of sorts. Yakuza 3 and 4 received widespread acclaim at their TGS showings in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Kingdom Hearts: coded Features Active Time Battles

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games

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If there’s anything that can make a Kingdom Hearts game seem less twee, it’s almost certainly Cloud Strife. His return to the Square-Disney crossover-fest doesn’t just involve his smug one-winged self, either — he’s also carting along his battle system, so to speak.

When you reach the Olympic Colosseum section of upcoming DS release Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, you’ll have a chance to work alongside Hercules and find a way to deal with all the “bug blocks” bouncing around the world. Cloud is paying a visit to the Colosseum himself, trying to settle things once and for all with a certain rival, and Hades is once again taking advantage of lust for revenge.

As a result of his presence (?), battles in the Colosseum use a classic, Final Fantasy-ish Active Time Battle system, with Sora and gang on the right and a gaggle of enemies on the left. Hercules and Cloud (who eventually joins you, of course) each have a set of special moves, and there’s also an action component to it, with quick button presses required in order to block enemy attacks.

Re:coded is due out October 7 for the Nintendo DS in Japan and presumably sometime thereafter in the States. It turns out that each individual area of Re:coded has its own way of having Sora fight, so we ain’t seen nothing yet, perhaps.

Hiroyuki Kobayashi Talks Devil Kings, Japan Game Biz

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Games and Players

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Hiroyuki Kobayashi may be renowned as the producer of Resident Evil 4 and the Devil May Cry series, but right now in Japan he’s probably best known for his role in Sengoku Basara (aka Devil Kings), a series of Dynasty Warriors-y action games that has become wildly popular in Japan in recent years.

“We came up with the project plan for Basara around the time game sales began to slow down in Japan,” Kobayashi recalled in an interview printed in Famitsu magazine. “We thought a lot about how to to make a game sell here, and during the trial-and-error phase, we went to a bookstore and found a section devoted to the Warring States period. Stuff like that has a very constant sort of popularity; something set in that period is easy to get into, and it’s better to have a base to work with anyway, even with an original game.”

What was Kobayashi’s inspiration for Basara? Mainly, to make a game that sold more than a handful of copies. “Before Basara, I was producer on a couple of games that didn’t sell at all [P.N.03 and Under the Skin],” he said. “The people on the development teams decided they wanted to make a game that sells for a change! It was tough for all of them, making good games that don’t find an audience, so that’s what they wanted to do. That’s what connected to Basara. It’s certainly rare for me to get inspired because I was frustrated by sales figures — but I felt like the first Basara had to succeed, no matter what, or else I’d have three games in a row that didn’t sell!”

It’s a very interesting statement for Kobayashi to make, because even today, Capcom has a rep for hardcore action games and fighters, not million-selling blockbusters. “Capcom makes a decent variety of games so they’re probably more flexible than all of that,” Kobayashi responded, “but I did get a lot of comments along those lines, more from the team than the company. The team was surprisingly conservative in their thinking — a lot of them saw Basara as an affront to their pride, which was a surprise to me. That’s starting to change lately, but I didn’t have a lot of people on my side back then.”

How did he overcome this resistance? “During the team meetings, I used concrete numbers to egg everyone on — “Don’t worry, Basara is going to sell 300,000 copies without breaking a sweat,” and so on. I had nothing to back that up with, but it didn’t matter! Someone has to say it. The first game did wind up breaking 300,000 when you count the budget re-release, but in my mind, it was still a shock that the game’s full-price edition didn’t break 200k. I figured it was good for at least that much, though I’ll admit the first game didn’t have many of the little things that later made Basara popular.”

Looking at the Japanese game business in 2010, Kobayashi sees reason for both alarm and applause. “When I go to game shows overseas, I can really feel Japan taking its own path and diverging from the rest of the world,” he said. “However, I also think that Japanese people can make fun things that can connect on a worldwide level. You see a lot of people thinking about pushing something for the West or hoping something sells in the West — but it’s Japanese people making this stuff, and it seems strange to simply leave behind the large Japanese audience of gamers.”

Kobayashi believes a balance can be struck between the domestic and international audiences. “Why can’t we make something that overlaps, that Japan can enjoy too?” he asked. “There are common threads of ‘fun’ that unite the human race, that are shared by Americans and Europeans. We just need to be aware of the ways gamers from different countries are affected by their games. Japan has some very talented creators, so I think we can manage that. It’s not like Resident Evil or Devil May Cry were meant for the West from the start; we just wanted to make a fun game.”

As for his personal plans, Kobayashi is resolute. “I want to keep on making games for home consoles,” he stated. “I’m a movie fan, but I think movies should concentrate on making the sort of entertainment that only that medium is capable of. They shouldn’t worry about how they’ll look on a home television or whatever. In much the same way, if a console game is like a movie, then portable or mobile games are like TV shows or miniseries.”

What about something more casual in nature? “I don’t know what the future holds, but for now, I have no desire or interest in making a ‘casual’ game. I’m much more enthusiastic about making good, well-rounded games, something closer to movies.”

Famitsu Rates Metroid: Other M

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Popular Games

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After a fairly hefty wait, Metroid: Other M is finally hitting Wii shelves next week. The new issue of Famitsu magazine in Japan has the first review, and by and large it’s pretty complimentary — Nintendo and Tecmo’s collaborative effort got three 9’s and one 8 for a total of 35 points.

The sheer variety of moves available to Samus in Other M received adulation from nearly every one of Famitsu’s reviewers. “The Sense Move lets you move quickly and easily dodge attacks, which make the controls feel really good,” one said. “You occasionally lose track of where you’re going next, but that in itself is very Metroid-like. Switching to first-person by holding the remote vertically also works surprisingly well.” “There’s a wide variety of moves available, but Sense Move is by far the best,” another added. “It allows even casual gamers to enjoy the battles well enough.”

“It’s impressive how many moves are at your disposal, especially considering the lack of buttons,” a third editor wrote. “Switching to first-person instantly takes some getting used to, but you can use it in both exploration and combat and it gives the game a very fun Metroid-like vibe.”

The writers also had praise for Other M’s exploring and fighting aspects. “Every map has tons of stuff to interact with, and some of the puzzles can be hard to solve,” one said, “but the feeling you get when working them out is something else. The bosses work the same way; they all require some sort of trick to defeat.”

The chief complaints the reviewers had with the new Metroid all had to do with the difficulty. “The game’s tough, making you wish for a difficulty selector at times,” one writer said, “but the high-tempo action and dramatic story are enough to keep you enthralled.” Another brought up “the way minion-level enemies respawn” as “debatably annoying.”

Other M officially comes out August 31 in the States.

Microsoft Working on Windows Phone 7 Multiplayer

Author: Arthur Ricky  //  Category: Microsoft

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We know Microsoft’s upcoming Windows Phone 7 will have access to Xbox Live, but it looks like their connectivity ambitions between the Xbox 360 and Phone 7 are even loftier than that, including not just turn-based gameplay but eventually real-time multiplayer between Phone 7 games and Xbox 360 games as well.

“So initially we’re turn by turn-based,” said a Microsoft representative to rgbFilter during the recent X10 event in Toronto (via Joystiq). “We are working on real-time phone-to-console, likely initially through Wi-Fi — again, operator networks are sensitive to that. That’s not on day one; day one will be turn-by-turn as well as companion-type gaming where you play a level on the phone and it may unlock a level or a weapon or some special achievement on the console game.

“But, uh yeah — absolutely working on phone-to-console real-time. That is something we’re working on and expect to have in the near future,” the rep concluded. He also confirmed they’re working on multiplayer connectivity between the PC and Phone 7 as well, referencing — believe it or not — 2007’s Shadowrun as an example (which itself was noteworthy in its time for offering cross-multiplayer between the PC and 360).

The rep didn’t get into much detail about how exactly real-time 360-to-Phone 7 multiplayer would work, what kind of games to expect it in, or when it’ll even be ready, so there’s still much to be revealed. Windows Phone 7 is planned for release in October.