Sony’s PS4 Conference

In an extremely anticipated event on February 20th, Sony finally revealed the PlayStation 4 to the public, along with some upcoming games for the system. The system is coming out for the 2013 holiday season, and sports impressive technical specifications and a modified DualShock 4 controller with extra features like a touchpad and a built-in speaker.

PS4 Logo

As I did for last year’s E3 conferences, I have prepared a comfortable bullet-point summary of the major announcements during the conference, in order of appearance.

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Sideway: New York – fun platformer at the right price

During my visit in England recently, I came across a PSN demo on my friend Ranulf’s PS3 that he really liked. I thought I’d give it a shot, and it turned out to be a game that’s just over a year old, and one that I’d seen before, probably on Youtube, but hadn’t tried myself. It turned out to be just as cool as it initially looked – a 2D platformer with graffiti-inspired story and style. The main character Nox has to navigate his way in a graffiti-world that he unwillingly gets sucked into, and needs to find and fight the evil Spray. In the modern gaming era, the 2D-platformer genre has been diminished to a state where it’s mostly getting indie, modestly-priced entries on PSN/XBLA/Steam. There are some notable exceptions, like Rayman Origins, but those are quite few and far between. That said, having indies work on 2D platformers is not a bad thing at all – nowadays, they’re the ones most willing to innovate (be it due to willing to make a name for themselves, or just sheer passion and desire to deliver something unique – a drive that many big companies in the industry have either lost or are too afraid to exploit anymore). Sideway features some of that much-needed innovation, combined with game design concepts that have been tested and proven through the years.

Sideway New York Cover

Game: Sideway: New York
Developer: Playbrains
Platforms: PlayStation Network, PC
Original release: 2011
Territories: All
Price: $9.99

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Sonic Adventure 2 – a relic of the past

SEGA like to release their old stuff on PSN/XBLA/Steam lately, making some completely free money off their past work. I was a big fan of SEGA back in the 16-bit era, and, of course, the 2D Sonic games were a major reason for that. Sonic was WAY cooler than Mario in the 2D world, he carried SEGA forward, and that is why the Mega Drive/Genesis was such a success. I never owned a Saturn or a Dreamcast, though, so I had missed on Sonic’s later forays, this time in the 3D world. And while his more recent games have been widely hated (Sonic Generations being a recent exception), the Dreamcast entries Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 have always been beloved by the fanbase. Thus, quite curious to see just how good the first 3D Sonics could be in comparison to less popular stuff like Unleashed, which I’d tried a couple of years ago, I recently downloaded the demo of Sonic Adventure 2 on PSN.

Sonic Adventure 2

Game: Sonic Adventure 2
Developer: Sonic Team
Platforms: Dreamcast, GameCube (Sonic Adventure 2: Battle version), PlayStation Network, Xbox Live Arcade, PC
Original release: 2001
Territories: All
Price: $9.99

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Retro City Rampage – fresh with nostalgia

I occasionally try out demos, mostly on the PlayStation Network. Very rarely has a demo made me buy a game (the awesome early PS3 action-adventure Folklore comes to mind), but they’re a fine addition of the current generation, a real step forward from the years before when we only got demos rarely, through game magazines or the rare inclusions of a highly anticipated game’s demo in a previous game by the same company (think Metal Gear Solid 2’s demo in Zone of the Enders).

With this article, I’m starting a new section of the site, where I’ll share my quick impressions from demos I have found to be notable. And the first one I’ll write about is Retro City Rampage.

Retro City Rampage

Game: Retro City Rampage
Developer: Vblank Entertainment
Platforms: PC, PlayStation Network (playable on both PS3 and PS Vita); Coming soon: Xbox Live Arcade, WiiWare
Original release: 2012
Territories: All
Price: $14.99

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Journey

The moment Journey came out, it was an instant success, with fans and critics alike singing praises for thatgamecompany’s new creation. Like with their previous hit, Flower, the main qualities pointed out in reviews were the unique art style, the sheer beauty of the scenery, and the minimalistic storytelling. Despite the short length (reviews mentioned 2 hours), people around the world loved it, fans drew pretty art based on the game’s world and characters, and word of mouth contributed greatly to its success. And now, it’s my turn to share my thoughts of one of the 2012 gaming phenomenons with you.

Journey Cover

Game: Journey
Developer: thatgamecompany
Platform: PlayStation Network
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

I got my hands on this game thanks to my girlfriend’s sister who gave her a PSN voucher as a birthday present, with the explicit instruction to buy Journey. The $15 price the game launched, and is still sitting at, didn’t seem justified to me, considering its length. I was going to wait for it to drop to at least $10, but, thanks to the aforementioned circumstances, I was apparently going to play it in the year it actually released. 🙂

In the beginning, I thought that people had praised this game for a good reason. The visuals, while not going into much detail, were really beautiful, much like in Flower. I spent a minute or two to admire the scenery before even starting the game. And this stayed consistent throughout the game – every new environment was as pretty as the previous. The atmospheric music and sound effects also impressed me… And the protagonist, with his strange clothes, long scarf, and Final Fantasy black mage-like face, seemed mysterious and cool. But we gamers know that all these things complement a game, they are the side-dish to the meat…

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Scarygirl

In a world full of run-of-the-mill shooters, sequels, and even indie games that try so hard to be different, they end up looking the same, Scarygirl is a game that really stands out. While the game in itself is not that different from your typical 2D platformer, the art style is incredible, and it was the first thing that impressed me and prompted me to play all three Scarygirl games available.

Scarygirl Cover

Game: Scarygirl
Developer: TikGames
Platforms: Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, PC
Original release: 2012
Territories: All

The Scarygirl I’m reviewing here, the PSN/XBLA/PC version, is the most polished of the three, but I have to also highly recommend the browser version, which is the best browser game I’ve ever played (and you can pass on the PlayStation Minis version, which is a watered-down version of the browser one – but it’s still the one that got me into the Scarygirl franchise because it was free with PS Plus during the period when PS Plus was free due to the PSN hacking fiasco :)).

Scarygirl is a 2.5D platformer (the game takes place in 3D environments, but movement is in one 2D plane at a time) with a nice combat system which has combos and blocking. It supports couch co-op for 2 players (a feature many game developers seem to have forgotten about) and is a good deal of fun with a partner. The gameplay is quite varied, featuring, aside from the normal platforming, also swimming and wall-climbing segments. Jumping is a bit floaty and not precise enough, but you can fly a small distance forward through the air by holding the jump button. The bizarre art style is truly the highlight, it gives the game a unique feel and a lot of charm.

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Vagrant Story

The second review of a game on the original PlayStation I will do is of a game that came out relatively late in the console’s lifespan. Like Xenogears, Vagrant Story is one of the less known Squaresoft gems. It is a single-person dungeon-crawler action RPG with a really unique concept and design choices. It’s also not a very long game – it took me under 30 hours of playtime to beat. Playing through it was a very interesting experience, and I will elaborate why.

Vagrant Story box art

Game: Vagrant Story
Developer: SquareSoft
Platforms: PlayStation; PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita (PSOne Classics)
Original release: 2000
Territories: All

Vagrant Story is set in Ivalice, the world of Final Fantasy Tactics, however, it takes place many years in the future and the two games are practically unrelated. The setting is medieval, with dukes, knights, swords, all that jazz. There is, of course, also magic, and already in the intro you see some very strange things happen that make you wonder just what kind of world is this game throwing you into.

You take the role of a single protagonist named Ashley Riot, and that sets Vagrant Story apart from most other RPGs – you have to watch over your character carefully because, if he dies, it’s an immediate game over. You do not have party members to revive you. Nevertheless, once you get used to that, you can immerse in the really rich gameplay and start looking for the best ways to use the particular mechanics for your purposes. An interesting thing to note is that Vagrant Story features a bunch of fascinating cube puzzles. You encounter them occasionally, and solving them is necessary to progress further in the game. But I’ll get to the specifics in a bit.

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PS4 “Orbis” rumours – no used games or backwards compatibility

A rumour has recently surfaced regarding the next PlayStation console, codenamed “Orbis.” The most important points being:

  • Is called, or at least carries the working codename, “Orbis”
  • Is scheduled for a Holiday 2013 release
  • Won’t be backwards compatible with PS3 games
  • Will lock new games to a PSN account as an anti-used games measure
  • New games can be bought either on Blu-Ray or downloaded
  • Current specs are an AMD x64 CPU and AMD Southern Islands GPU

Source: http://kotaku.com/5896996/the-next-playstation-is-called-orbis-sources-say-here-are-the-details

With the rest of the points being either details or expected (such as the release date), the two in bold are the ones I’d like to comment on.

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