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First Wii MotionPlus Battle: Virtua Tennis 2009 vs. Grand Slam Tennis

With the Wii MotionPlus release rising in the distance, Wii owners are anxiously anticipating the chosen device to bring 1:1 controls for the system. Images of lightsaber duels, realistic sword fights between Link and Ganondorf have lined many gamer’s dreams since the MotionPlus announcement.

We might have to wait a bit for some of the dreams to come true, because the first demonstration of the Wii MotionPlus technology will come by way of….tennis. That’s not to put down tennis based games, because I’ve enjoyed many of them in the past (Pong, Mario Tennis, Virtua Tennis). It’s just kind of funny that two of the first demonstrations of Wii MotionPlus are tennis games. Then soon after those releases we’ll have Wii Sports Resort.

So, if we’re going to have two options for MotionPlus based tennis action, which is the more worthy? It’s hard to say with certainty at this point, because neither are out yet. It’s fun to speculate though, so let’s take a look at what we know about them currently…

EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis

EA Grand Slam Tennis

Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: EA Canada
Release Date: June 16, 2009

Previews:

Wii MotionPlus Hands-on – IGN: “Playing Grand Slam Tennis with the device, movements are interpreted more accurately – for instance, delivery of serves can be controlled more by the speed of your swing. A gentle arc produces a gentle shot, while a strong, decisive push sends the ball spinning toward your opponent much faster.”

EA SPORTS Grand Slam Tennis Preview – Gamezone:“EA Sports showed off Grand Slam Tennis at its Season Opener event in San Francisco Thursday, and while the game plays intuitively enough using the motion controls of the Wii remote, it is when the motion-plus attachment is hooked in that the game becomes not only more challenging, but much more interactive.”

Sick of Wii Sports tennis? EA Sports to serve up its own flavor of the Wii sport – Gamedaily: “EA Sports finally heads back to Wimbledon with an officially licensed tennis game, due for release on the Wii this summer. EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis hopes to capture the authenticity of the sport, while still offering fun gameplay for all. We recently got a chance to go hands-on with it at an EA event and came away impressed.”

Dark Horse Factor: John McEnroe – Even after 17 years of retirement, you could still call John McEnroe the face of Tennis. He basically took this reserved sport which was adorned with golf clapping and silence, made it loud and approachable. With his antics on court to his savvy with the media; McEnroe was not only a tennis star, but a celebrity.

Celebrities sell.

Virtua Tennis 2009

Virtua Tennis 2009

Publisher: SEGA
Developer: Sumo
Release Date: May 19, 2009

Previews:

Virtua Tennis 2009 Hands-on – IGN (Pre-MotionPlus Announcement): “Sumo’s lent an attentive ear to the rabble of forums and addressed several key complaints with Virtua Tennis 3, while some of the improvements elsewhere in the game also feed into the on-court action. Player’s propensity to dive for every shot has been toned down, meaning some of the exaggerated acrobatics that marred Virtua Tennis 3 are a thing of the past, and the often broken lob mechanics have been given a thorough once over.”

Virtua Tennis 2009 Preview – Gamedaily: “In addition, developer Sumo Digital tweaked the lob mechanics to make them feel natural and toned down the excessive diving that plagues Virtua Tennis 3. Now, instead of falling over, your selected player stumbles.”

Dark Horse Factor: Depth of Gameplay Modes – SEGA based sports games have always been heralded as being some of the deepest simulations around. Virtua Tennis 2009 is no different, as it looks to bring the goods. World Tour mode sounds like an entire game in and of itself. You’ll take a tennis player and bring him up through the ranks. Then you’ll be able to take them online. Being the deepest tennis game around will be what sells Virtua Tennis 2009.

Wii MotionPlus Compatibility : Since the topic of this post is these two games being the first Wii MotionPlus compatible titles, should atleast make a mention. It’s hard to judge one over the other because very few people have had hands-on experience. EA seems to be bursting with confidence as they’ve let many people preview Grand Slam Tennis sans MotionPlus announcement. Not so with Virtua Tennis 2009. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Grand Slam Tennis’ MotionPlus will be better, just that EA is bragging a bit more than SEGA.

Wii

MadWorld First Impression – It’s Bloody, and Good

MadWorld

Introduction:

I really got to start doing more ‘reviews’ than first impressions. My MadWorld review should be ready this week, and I couldn’t begin to tell you how long it will be for Rune Factory: Frontier. Anyway, I was able to get about 4 hours into MadWorld this weekend and so far have come away quite impressed.

The most impressive thing about MadWorld is how great a time I had, going in with low expectations. My low expectations stemmed from how disappointed I was with ‘No More Heroes’. I thought this would be just another dumb beat em’ up with stale gameplay masked in a gore-fest, and excessive swearing. Instead I was met with some tight, fresh gameplay, an interesting control scheme. Not to mention great visuals, audio, and comparable story.

First, I’d like to give kudos to Platinum Games with providing a very simple introduction to MadWorld. I think it’s a lost art in video games to provide a humble start menu. There’s no robust options, or create-a-name, or create-a-character. Just hit the “A” button, and you’re in.

Story – A little Escape from New York, a bit The Running Man, with shades of Metal Gear Solid:

Before you begin playing, you’re introduced to the story behind MadWorld. So far, I’ve been blown away by the story elements provided in MadWorld. Kind of loving the fact that it has a story at all. The narrative reminds me a lot of Metal Gear Solid, only more simplistic. Jack, the protagonist is dropped into what I could only call a mish-mash of ‘Escape from New York’ and ‘The Running Man’. The comparisons to Metal Gear Solid begin with the hero, Jack. He’s quiet, a total badass and also has a past that’s starting to catch up to him. Yet he’s trying to do the right thing against insurmountable odds.

The story that runs alongside Jack is a lot more deep than I was expecting. Jack is dropped into Varrigan City which has been turned into a deadly game show called, Death Watch. It’s here you’ll see the similarities to the 80’s classic ‘The Running Man’. What I’m considering the main villain is the CEO of Death Watch, who has turned Varrigan City into a breeding ground for murdering (hence Escape from New York). Jack has been dropped in undercover to play Death Watch, to thwart the shenanigans. You start out with a sponsor, XIII, who provides hints early on. Things take an interesting twist towards the middle, but I won’t give anything else away. Just know you’ll be somewhat intrigued with the story.

Gameplay – Bloody, creative, and fresh, and a chainsaw:

Once the intro to the story is over, you’ll begin with the gameplay elements of MadWorld. I’ve played to the final level of the third world. So far, everything has been a delight to play through. The controls are the backbone of the gameplay experience, and nearly all of them are executed well. The ‘A’ button is your basic attack, which leads into certain combos. Once you pound on someone enough, you’ll be provided with a few options for finishing moves. You can press the ‘B’ button which generally has you finishing up a bad guy with your chainsaw. Or the ‘A’ button which has you slamming your opponent back and forth. Most of the finishers have a motion attached with them which adds a heightened sensation, dare I say.

MadWorld

If you press the ‘B” button outside of a finisher you’ll whip out your chainsaw. This is your means for quickly dispatching opponents. Your chainsaw is attached to motions as well. Swipe vertically to cut top to bottom, or horizontally to cut your foe right to left. Again, very rewarding. You’ll unlock various weapons as well, which will have different styles attached to them. It keeps things quite fresh, and trying to find more interesting ways to dispatch villains.

The last element of gameplay is the ‘grab’ mechanic. This is where things get really creative, and important. There’s two things you can grab, enemies, and objects. If you grab an enemy, you have the option to throw them, drag them around, or headbutt. Throwing an opponent can clear space for you if you’re being hounded. You can drag your enemy to various locations to utilize some of the level’s surroundings. You can slam them against the prickly ‘Rose Bush’, or toss them into a barrel. There’s level specific additions, so things stay mostly creative in terms of killing options. You pick up certain objects, most of which will go on or through your victim’s head. There’s of course health items as well.

I mentioned that your grab mechanic is important, because your progress through most of MadWorld is based on points. Your points are mostly calculated based on creativity, and depth of your kill. Stick four sign posts through your victim’s head, and slice them in half with a metal garbage bin and you get more points. Or get less points just chainsawing them in half. All the stages have progressed the same, in that you unlock items as you gain points, until you’ll unlock the Bloodbath Challenges, and the boss of the stage.

MadWorld

The Bloodbath Challenges are the mini-games of the stages, but unlike most mini-games these are a blast. The Bloodbath Challenge intros are conducted by the pimptastic host, Black Baron. The intros are quite funny, if a bit sadistic. The Bloodbath Challenges are great because they actually add to your point total, so they mean something to your progression. You’ll have a time limit to conduct various objectives. Throwing enemies under a giant metal press, or golf clubbing them through targets are just a couple of examples.

The boss fights are probably my favorite part of the game so far. For me there are two requirements for a great boss, creativity, and balance of difficulty. MadWorld has exceeded expectations in both of those elements. The bosses for the most part haven’t been all that creative in terms of personality, but make up that with looks and strategy. Each boss I’ve fought against has had different patterns I’ve had to learn, coupled with some puzzles you’ll have to figure out as well. The balance of difficulty has been solid as all my encounters have gotten progressively harder as I’ve moved on.

Visuals – It’s Sin City, only with more red:

After the gameplay, another element of MadWorld I was impressed with is the visuals. Going into the game, I wasn’t really sure what to think of the black, white, and red motif. It’s definitely ‘Sin City’ inspired, but holds its own in terms of style. The textures are smooth, and the levels are filled with tons of detail. Feels a lot like a well drawn comic book. The game is truly appreciated once it gets set into motion. All of the animations are tight, and more crisp. Even with the most amount of enemies I’ve seen on screen, there hasn’t been a hiccup in frame rate. The kill effects, specifically the blood are some of the most over the top you’ll see in a game. On par, or even better than the chainsaw and curb stomp kills in Gears of War.

Audio and Music – Too much commentating, with too few lines; music rocks though:

The visuals are a delight, and that can be said for half of the audio. Unfortunately, the commentating is a bit of a letdown. Just like all other parts of the levels, the commentating is specific to the part of the game your in. Even with this, it begins to get repetitive. I appreciate the mood they’re trying to set with the cheesy, grandiose nature of the commentary it just gets old the longer you’re in a level. The music however makes up for the commentating. Again, it’s all specific to the level you’re in. In fact, you could turn off the commentary and just get caught up in the music. It’s all adrenaline inducing, and so far has fit in well with the levels they’re attached to.

The Bad – Have to like a certain style; it’s a blast but more than likely a short one:

The negatives I’ve found with MadWorld, are specific to length, and choice of style. Judging by amount of levels per world, I’m a little more than halfway in with only 3:50 clocked so far. There’s a multiplayer segment of the game which I haven’t tried yet, but doubt it will be enough. If the game released at $39.99, or $29.99, I would be more lenient. Unfortunately, in this economy people are looking for more depth in their video game purchases.

If you like a more linear beat-em-up experience, MadWorld might not be for you. Each level is basically a playground for you to romp around through. You progress by points, so everything is unlocked by you taking on hordes of enemies and killing them creatively. This might be great for some, but for those who like to just progress and fight ‘through’ a stage it might turn you off.

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So, who’s played through MadWorld already? I’d like to get your feedback, and let me know what you thought of the game. Is the comparison to MGS too much? Feel free to blast away.

Cursed Mountain: Mixing Buddhism and Horror

Around September of last year, I posted a video of an upcoming survival horror game that piqued my interest. It was called Cursed Mountain, and showed a lone man surviving on top of a cold mountain somewhere in another country.

There wasn’t much else to talk about Cursed Mountain, until now. The publisher/developer of the game sat down with IGN to talk about the game, and show off some gameplay footage. If you want to read the entire interview, click here. All you really need to know is the backbone of the plot which is quoted by Martin Flipp…

Cursed Mountain is the first game that combines the elements of mountaineering, Buddhism and horror. We are offering the player a new and very unique setting on the top of the world.

The gameplay footage looks beautiful, but I have some qualms. First, there’s a couple of places in the video that look really dark. Not spooky dark, but I can’t see where I’m going dark. I’m sure there’ll be brightness settings for the game so it’s a very minor setback. Anyhoo, enjoy the videos below…

MadWorld Releases Today – Review Roundup (and a rant)

MadWorld Logo

Today marks the official release of MadWorld, which means many Wii gamers are excitedly anticipating playing some ‘Man Darts’. Before we get into the post let me make a brief statement about ‘release dates’.

I wish retail outlets, and publishers could get their act together about when a game actually will be readily available to the general public. Too many times a game has an “official” release date, but isn’t available for purchase until the day after. I used to work at Best Buy, and this not only annoyed the customers but me as well. So, online gaming publications, and huge gaming publishers if you’re reading, try and provide better information to consumers about when they can actually purchase a game. I bring this up because in Best Buy’s print ad, it says the game isn’t available until Weds.

Ok, rant over; now on to the good news…

With the official release date upon us, MadWorld has been receiving reviews. Most of them have been positive. Here are a few thoughts from various sites.

IGN – 9.0/10
: “I realize that not everybody will find MadWorld’s unique visual and aural presentation appealing, but to me, the game is an instant collector’s item and a Wii showpiece, not just for its amazing style, but for its label-busting content. Anybody who says Nintendo’s console is just for kids will see things very differently after a few chainsaw- induced mutilations. More importantly, though, MadWorld does not place emphasis on style over gameplay, so there’s plenty of fun, smart mechanics to back up the overwhelmingly slick look and sound of the title. “

Nintendo Power – 90/100
: “Although the game is unquestionably brutal, the violence is so over-the-top that it’s more humorous than gruesome…For any hardcore gamer, this one is not to be missed.”

Eurogamer – 7/10 : “Still, as a piece of violent spectacle MadWorld is unrivalled. The creativity of PlatinumGames in providing ever more unlikely and delicious ways to kill and maim Jack’s antagonists boggles and delights the mind at some deep, base level. And so, no matter how much the schoolboy-humour commentary grates, no matter how repetitive the bits in between the set-pieces start to feel and no matter how frustrating the later levels become, MadWorld provides a rush of blood to the head almost as often as it provides a rush of blood to the pavement.”

It seems as though everything we hoped and dreamed MadWorld would be is coming true. Over-the-top violence, and style that isn’t hampered down with contrived gameplay. Just tell me where to sign up….

Just make sure I’m given the date when I can actually pick the game up(ok, NOW the rant is over).

Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics (Official)

Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics

Earlier this week, WiiBlog reported on an ‘unofficial’ announcement of Mario & Sonic at the Winter Olympics. You can now turn the switch to ‘official’. SEGA has released a website, featuring a debut trailer, and has issued a press release.

Mario & Sonic, snowboarding, and balance board compatibility? I’m down…

TOKYO (February 12, 2009) – SEGA® Corporation and Nintendo Co., Ltd today announced that two of the biggest video game heroes, Mario™ and Sonic™, will be coming together again, this time taking their rivalry to the snow and ice in another officially licensed Olympic-themed smash hit Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games™. Heading to stores late in 2009 on the Wii™ home video game system and Nintendo DS™, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games will take players to Vancouver, Canada, host city of the official 2010 Olympic Winter Games. This gaming experience invites players of all ages and skill sets to face-off in some of the most intense winter competitions available for the Nintendo platforms.

Developed by SEGA of Japan, under the guidance of Shigeru Miyamoto, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games will take players to lifelike Olympic venues where they can choose from a legendary cast of playable characters, including new faces to the series to be revealed later this year. Following the phenomenal worldwide popularity of Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, which has sold over 10 million copies worldwide, this fresh gaming experience will feature completely new Olympic Winter Games events from the official competition schedule including Alpine Skiing and Speed Skating with more events announced throughout the year.

Tailored to the specific system controls, Nintendo DS and Wii gamers will enjoy completely unique experiences thanks to each platform having its own specific gameplay features and modes. Players of all skill levels will enjoy the intuitive controls of both the Wii and Nintendo DS systems, in both single and multiplayer gaming modes. The Wii game will offer an even richer multiplayer experience offering co-op and competitive gameplay where the Nintendo DS brings an intense competitive element using the Nintendo DS wireless capabilities. Additionally, one of the new features to be found in Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is the inclusion of the Wii Balance Boardâ„¢ which can be used in some events featured in the Wii version, allowing for a more interactive and realistic gaming experience.

Published by SEGA® across Europe and North America, and published by Nintendo in the Japanese market, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is again licensed through a worldwide partnership with International Sports Multimedia (ISM), the exclusive interactive entertainment software licensee of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“We are extremely happy to again team up with Nintendo and ISM on what promises to be another global success.” says Naoya Tsurumi, CEO, SEGA of America and SEGA Europe. “Sonic will partner with Mario once more beneath the spotlight of the legendary Olympic Games. Together they will face new athletic challenges that will provide gamers with more of the exciting experiences unique to this series.”

”SEGA has been a valued publishing partner of Nintendo for many years and Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games is the ultimate representation of that relationship,” said Reggie Fils-Aime, president and COO, Nintendo of America. “We look for this game to continue the tradition its predecessor started by bringing new events, new characters, and new gameplay experiences to fans worldwide.”

“To once again have Mario and Sonic and friends compete in Olympic sports and events in a winter setting is tremendously exciting for the Olympic Movement and the millions of gamers worldwide who enjoyed the characters’ previous match up”, says Raymond Goldsmith, Chairman & CEO of ISM.

Mario & Sonic Going To The Winter Olympics (Vancouver)

Mario and Sonic Winter Olympics

For the millions around the world that enjoyed playing the olympic events, in the smash-hit Mario & Sonic: At The Olympics should be excited. It’s been officially announced that a sequel will be released. Is anyone really surprised?

It’s really interesting to see how the success of Mario & Sonic: At The Olympics was shaped during its reign. The game sold well everywhere around the world, but really found its love in the UK. The Wii & DS version of Mario & Sonic: At The Olympics sold 1.2 million copies going into June 2008. It was also #5 on the Top 10 video game sales list for 2008, in the UK. SEGA has estimated that the title has sold over 10 million copies worldwide.

All of this news of success has led to the ‘unofficial’ announcement of a Mario & Sonic Winter Olympics title. Dennis Kim, director licensing of SEGA did everything but come out and say “we’re making it” with this statement, “Last year, 2008, they had a very successful game using Mario and Sonic at the Beijing Games, as well as a multi-sport simulation type of game…That is what is being discussed and planned for Vancouver. We are feeling optimistic about sales because of the Beijing experience.”

So, there you have it. For those who were getting super excited about another Mario & Sonic olympic title can rest easy. I’m guessing that the game will be releasing early next year, or late this year as the Olympic games begin in February.

I’m pretty excited for this game actually. I’ll admit that I haven’t played the Mario & Sonic: Summer Olympics game, but that’s because I’m not really into the summer olympics. I try to watch the events, but beyond synchronized swimming I find most of the events dull. The winter olympics is a whole other beast though, as I enjoy most of the events. Specifically, bobsledding and hockey.

I think that the winter olympics make for a much more enjoyable gaming experience. You already have skiing, and snowboarding games so you know the recipe for success. Of course until we get a list of events, it’s all speculation as to what SEGA decides to include in the game. It will definitely be interesting to see if SEGA decides to add wheelchair curling to the mix.

[via: CVG]