Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Second Place: Nintendo and the Wii

Coming in second: NINTENDO CO., LTD.

I’ve got to say I was really impressed with Nintendo’s presentation. My only qualm was with their spokesperson, VP of Sales and Marketing Reggie Fils-Aime. It seemed like he was glaring at me, shouting and barking the glory of the Wii at my face. After all, this was the guy who first appeared at the 2004 E3 declaring, “My name is Reggie, I'm about kickin' ass, I'm about takin' names, and we're about makin' games.” Interesting. But anyway, Nintendo’s presentation was not boring at all. It was refreshing and much appreciated, especially after Sony’s bland offering. Nintendo may have very well taken the cake by sweeping E3. That doesn’t necessarily make them number one, though.

Nintendo got right to the point with a movie demonstrating the capabilities of the Wii. It started out like a Wii demo video we’ve seen before, but quickly got into new territory: Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda: Twilight Princess, Excite Truck, etc. All were much-anticipated and I was pleased with how they unveiled the games. And unlike Sony who showcased their hallmark games with a traditional video game trailer, Nintendo showed us how we would be playing these games with the Wii’s intuitive and unique 3D motion-sensing controller.

This was the first time I saw the “Wiimote,” as it has been dubbed by some, used in conjunction with the analog stick attachment called the “nunchuck.” Both aspects of the controller-system have built-in rumble features as well as motion sensing technology. One of the new features of the Wiimote unveiled was the presence of a small speaker built right into the controller. This is so that, for example, when Link shoots an arrow from his bow, you would hear the twang of the bow and the sound of the arrow travel from the controller and straight to the TV. Amazing and innovative, well-done Nintendo.

If the Wiimote style of controlling your games doesn’t suit you, Nintendo also announced their new classic controller, which looks oddly like an SNES controller. It’s very minimalist in design with nice, rounded edges. Nintendo didn’t need to come out with this kind of controller, but it was a welcome change to see a company that knows its player base and the needs of that player base. I wouldn’t have expected anybody else to do this except for Nintendo.

We then saw demos of Red Steel, which looks like an amazing first person shooter experience. I’ve heard reports that the controller layout is too sensitive to the user’s movement, and the sword-fighting is not as amazing as it looks and sounds to be. Ubisoft can probably fix that in half a year, so the game should be a welcome treat come launch time.

Next up: The Twilight Princess demo was amazing. Albeit, I was a little overwhelmed with the complicated ways the game uses the Wii remote controller; so many things to do and keep track of, especially with the “nunchuck” in one hand and the remote in the other. The presence of the little fairy tracking the movements of the controller was also quite distracting. Regardless, I have not played the game first-hand, so I don’t really know how all of these details weave themselves into a unique playing experience.

The DS lineup looks very, very strong. It would be safe to bet that the PSP lineup pales in comparison with some of the individual titles the DS will be offering later this year. Ranging from Yoshi’s Island 2, a new Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy III all done up in new graphics (and released in America), MegaMan DS, Zelda DS, Starfox DS, to other import games. The introduction of the DS Lite in the US should boost sales for Nintendo as well. (I want one!)

The Wii is probably going to be much cheaper than the PS3, hovering around the price of around 250 dollars. The graphics are not as great as the Xbox 360’s or the PS3’s, but I think the actual fun factor you would get when playing with the Wii makes up for that lack in technical cutting edge. And what am I saying; the motion sensors in the Wii alone make it one of the most cutting edge technologies out there.

And what about the tennis demo at the end with Miyamoto and Iwata, Miyamoto and Spielberg, or Miyamoto and pretty much any high-level journalist/celebrity? Looks like it’s going to be a workout!

As for the top spot...you can already probably guess who it's going to be.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Third Place: Sony and the Playstation 3

And coming in last, but certainly not least:


To be honest, I was quite bored with Sony's press conference. I was eagerly anticipating some big, high-budget show where they would unveil the successor to the undisputed king of the consoles: the PlayStation 2. Why then was I almost falling asleep thirty minutes into their much-hyped presentation? Probably because it was the same old thing. Okay, there is the PS3 that we've seen a lot of times before (nothing surprising there), and there are the landmark games that we would expect on it. Expect is the keyword of this press conference. Everything was expected. Well, maybe not the astonishing price.

Here is the trailer for Metal Gear Solid 4. There is the trailer for Gran Turismo 5. Oh wow, there are some screens of the new Silent Hill, the new Killzone, Armored Core, Tekken, and of course Final Fantasy XIII. Oh, and here are the PSP games coming out. Alright. Some of those games are like on their 6th iterations (oh wait, excuse me, Final Fantasy is on its 13th iteration (or is really like 15th because of FF: Tactics and FFX-2?), hooray!)! Give me something new!

The two most shocking highlights of the press conference were (1) the price of the PS3, and (2) the unveiling of the "real" PS3 controller (no more boomerangs!). These announcements weren't even welcoming surprises. There were purely absurd. I will not lay down 600 dollars for a PS3. Oh, what is that you say? There is also a second model for 500 dollars?! Whoop de doo, it lacks significant features that the 600 dollar version has, so who wouldn't shell out the extra hundred dollars if they were already ready to pay 500 dollars. What exactly do you get when you save a hundred bucks? Let's see:

499.99 vs. 599.99
- Only 20GB instead of 60GB HDD
- No HDMI (High-Def) output
- No MemoryStick/SD Card/Compact Flash slots
- No wireless 802.11 b/g (this feature is worth the extra $100)
- $100 in your pocket.

Uhh, considering all these features you would forego, you might be stupid if you buy the 500 dollar iteration of the PS3, but who am I to judge. You might really really want to save that extra hundred bucks for a game or two.

Secondly, the "new" controller. What the freakin' hell! Sony, that controller is not new. It looks exactly like your Dual Shock 2 controllers. But wait! What's that? No more "dual shock?" No more vibration because of the primitive motion sensors you stuck inside the controller? This is like a ‘de-evolution’ of your controller, Sony. I was hoping for a new, fresh design. But no, your controllers still look very similar to your PS1 controllers. You are working with an eleven-year old controller design! And don't tell me you were seriously going to market that "boomerang" crap. Gah!

Nothing groundbreaking. Nothing spectacular. PSP lineup wasn't stellar. I wasn't even impressed with the graphics of the PS3. Looks pretty much like the Xbox360's graphics, maybe even worse, who knows. And why would I need a Blu-Ray player. Being the primary reason for the high cost of the system, you don't even know if it will be the standard format with HD-DVD still on the prowl. I wouldn't get too cocky Sony. Remember the miniDisc? Mmhmm.

Who's number two? Wait and find out!

The Big 3 at E3: Who's Number One?

We've seen some great stuff happening over at E3 for the past couple of days. Both Nintendo and Sony unveiled their next-gen systems, Microsoft announced their 2006-7 gaming lineup, and the PC gaming scene was very much alive with its own shocks and surprises. It would be without a doubt, however, that console gaming took center-stage this year. After watching the press conferences of the "Big 3" console makers, who do I think came out number one? Read on and find out.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

North Korea: Super Awesome or Super CRAZY?

In East Asian History class today we talked about the evolution of North Korea from fledgling, isolated communist state in the 1950s to the fledgling, isolated communist state it is today. Under the direction of two eccentric leaders (more notably Kim Jong Il than his father), North Korea has gone pretty much nowhere over its more than half a century of existence. It's neighbor to the south, South Korea, has exploded in terms of the economic and political clout it holds in the international scene.

From a purely childish point of view (barring all notions of human rights violations, government corruption, and hostility towards the United States), North Korea is quite a happening place. That is, if your name is Kim Jong Il. This guy kidnaps Japanese film directors and recreates blockbuster American movies with him in the lead role. He has an impressive garage of exotic cars. His culinary taste intimidates even the most jaded of palettes; wines imported (illegally) from Napa Valley, Beluga caviar from Russia's royal reserves, foie gras from the best farms in France. His bodyguards are made up of an elite guard, trained to withstand the harshest conditions and concrete blocks being smashed on their faces. His gun collection is wide and extensive, containing standard issue rifles from the armed forces of more than 25 countries; soldiers and aides also proclaim great respect for Kim Jong Il's marksmanship abilities, they say he is "most deadly." He's pretty much the only person in the country with internet access. He has an assortment of grand villas scattered across the country; one inland palace has seawater pumped in just because Kim wants to swim in sea water sometimes. He's a huge fan of the NBA, always up to date with current standings; Madeline Albright presented him with a souvenir autographed basketball signed by Michael Jordan. He's supposedly has had nine illegitimate children and is constantly seen as drunk or divulging in "sexual excess" affairs.

I want to go to North Korea to see what it's life to live in a country run by this kind of leader. If you get anything out of this post, go to this Flash detailing the Korean Friendship Association...AWESOME music. Believe me, just wait for it.

Oh! And don't forget to pick up your official North Korean badge over at the government's gift shop! Sweet!