Kathryn Bailey

Snide comments about the Nintendo Wii’s technical capabilities aside, it’s generally well-known that the Wii cannot output graphics that are anywhere near approaching those of its more advanced cousins. But that isn’t it to say that Wii games must be ugly, as games like Metroid Prime: Corruption prove. The Wii desperately cries out for stylish, visually appealing games that, while not comparable to next-gen poster boys like Devil May Cry 4 and Bioshock, has a feel all its own. One such game is Marvelous’s No More Heroes.

Picking it up for the first time, I couldn’t but help but be impressed. Though a bit grainy, the graphics, particularly the character designs, are still very nice. They made me think a little of a comic book. Evidently, this game is supposed to be almost on par with Manhunt in terms of violence, but I didn’t see much if any blood. Enemies just erupted into showers of coins after they were defeated. This, as I later learned, is because the Japanese censors are pretty unforgiving when it comes to blood. Breasts yes, gore no.

Perhaps more importantly than the graphics, the controls felt very solid. In no time at all, I was frantically waggling my Wii-mote at the baddies while my Japanese assistant tried to give my instructions in Japanese-English. I ran into slight difficulties when my lightsaber ran out of power and I wasn’t sure what to do, but after a few moments I figured out how to recharge, and I was back in business. The attacks felt immensely satisfying, and the sound effects did a great job conveying the oomph associated with each strike. The special attacks, from what I could pull off, were equally satisfying to watch, but they were difficult to pull off without glancing down at the control chart every few moments. Still, I imagine that after an hour, the controls will feel like second nature.

The actual gameplay is relatively brief, but it gave a decent impression of the combat. The initial enemies are just a series of goons who will leap in to attack, but are easily dispatched by locking on and swiping them dead with the lightsaber sword. After a few rounds with the average uglies, a Matrix-like agent wearing a suit and sunglasess stirkes with his own lightsaber, even unleashing a special attack or two, but he is also easily dispatched with a few combo hits.

Finally, a blue-cape clad wearing boss attacks, and he is a bit harder than the minions. Between wave-like energy attacks, he periodically lashes out with what can be best described as high-powered laser vision. Getting out of the way isn’t too difficult, but if you’re impatient like I am, you might be in for some trouble. Nevertheless, most of the savvier players were able to dispatch him without too much trouble.

Finishing up the demo, I was struck by just how much fun No More Heroes really is. Although the demo didn’t really convey it, the product will be more sandbox-style, and it’s supposed to be heavy on social commentary. I don’t know about the latter point, but I do think this is the kind of game that the Wii desperately needs if it wants to hold onto the console lead – a stylish, mature game with controls that are fun, unique and easy to understand. With games like these, the Wii can fill the niche that Nintendo envisioned for it. I just hope that the finished product lives up to the few, enjoyable minutes that I had with it today.

A lot has changed since TGS 2006, and the loss of the PS3’s Devil May Cry 4 exclusivity is a big one. Both Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 demos were on hand this year, though the PS3 version received a conspicuously larger booth, complete with nice headphones and huge displays.

Is Capcom feeling pangs of guilt, or do they just want to show off the better-looking version? My money is on the latter, though there didn’t seem to be much difference between the two aside from the Xbox 360 version’s colors being a bit more washed out. That, however, may be the fault of the screen.

In any case, Devil May Cry 4 is still one of the best looking games on either system, and it’s never been more apparent as Nero smoothly passed through classical architecture, snow-covered fields and a large castle that is reminiscent of the fortress from the first DMC. It all looks fantastic, though special notice should be given to some of the enemies. The Sin Scissors enemies that you encounter aren’t anything special, but the monsters in the snowfield leading up to the massive fire demon boss were impressive. The fire effects were particularly striking.

There are two modes in the demo, “executioner” and “exterminator.” The first pits Nero against a few simple demons on a snowfield before throwing them into battle against the aforementioned fire monster. It wasn’t difficult to get around its massive bulk and combo it with my sword, but its life bar took quite a long time to drop while it slammed me to the ground and smacked me with its tail. Not sure if it’s because I’m just really bad or because DMC4 is going to be as hard as DMC3. I wouldn’t be shocked at the latter.

The exterminator mode drops Nero into a city infested with Sin Scissors enemies. They move slowly and are easily knocked around with Nero’s sword, so there was no real problem there. This was a good chance for me to practice my aerials because the enemies in the other mode were too heavy to lift very easily from the ground.

I was pleased to see that the trademark gameplay is still extremely smooth. I had no problem sweeping the enemies into the air, juggling them with my revolvers and slamming them back to the ground. Nero also sports a sort of demonic arm that is also useful for slamming enemies around, but I found that I wasn’t using it much in favor of the more traditional gun/sword combination. Whether this is my loss remains to be seen.

Devil May Cry is famous for its wonky camera, and though it got a bit of an upgrade in DMC3, it hasn’t changed much here. For the most part, it did a very good job of giving me comfortable angles for the slicing and dicing of enemies, and it did feature the ability to make limited adjustments. Only once did it get stuck behind a pillar, but that was only a momentary problem. Regardless, I can’t figure why DMC still hasn’t given players complete freedom with the camera in the new generation. Surely the PS3 is powerful enough to handle such a feature? In any case, it’s a fairly minor complaint this time around, and I didn’t really feel any camera-related pain as I moved Nero around the stage.

Playing through Devil May Cry 4 on the PS3, I was pleased to see that the graphics have never looked sharper, and the controls have never felt smoother. There’s no doubt that this is a AAA game and will be a required addition to any PS3 owner’s library.

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A lot of people don’t seem to know what to expect from Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, the game expected to sell Nintendo’s new Wii zapper. Reactions were mixed when it was announced several months ago, but anticipation has steadily climbed as details and screenshots have trickled out from Capcom. Having finally gotten my hands on it, I’m still not sure how I feel about it, but my initial feeling was disappointment.

The Wii Zapper itself generally feels good. The end tucks itself into the crook of one arm while the nunchuck is held in the other hand. It’s comfortable, but it also makes the aiming feel a tad off because it doesn’t naturally come to eye level like most zapper peripherals (or guns for that matter). Still it doesn’t really detract all that much from the experience, and it shouldn’t be a problem for players to bring it up for more precision aiming.

At first glance, the graphics are excellent, particularly the opening cinematics. Capcom knows how to do presentation, and its flagship games are always top-notch in that department. The details on the enemies are generally very crisp and clear, and the environment (a train), is quite detailed as well. However, once the shooting begins, the shiny coat of paint begins to wear off a little bit.

For one thing, the guns just don’t feel very powerful, which is of course a big problem for a game that’s trying to sell itself on a Zapper peripheral. The first weapon is the handgun, and the bullets don’t seem to even phase the zombies as they approach. It seemed possible to take out their legs, but otherwise the bullets felt like they were bouncing away until they died. Perhaps this was Capcom’s intention, handguns aren’t very powerful after all, but it wouldn’t have hurt to add a little extra oomph to the shooting.

The submachine gun and the shotgun definitely felt better, but both also felt a bit wild. It was easy to end up spraying bullets all over the place with the submachine gun. The shotgun, while definitely more powerful than the pitiful handgun, lacked ammo, so I didn’t get much time with it. Regardless, perhaps it’s an unfair comparison, but I tend to feel like House of the Dead III was the pinnacle of the arcade-style use of a shotgun , and I don’t think Umbrella Chronicles even comes close in that regard. It’s true that House of the Dead III was built from the ground up around that one weapon, but it just goes back to my original point that the guns really need to feel good for the shooting action to be effective.

The graphics, as mentioned before, were generally very good, but they seemed a little bit muddy at times. More than once I found myself squinting against the dark palette of browns and blacks in an effort to make out the little leech creatures that seemed to spend a lot of time attached to my character’s face. They blend in a little bit too much with the background, and suddenly they attack. The zombies themselves are nicely animated and detailed, with all of the usual trappings in place like tattered clothing and hanging flesh. I generally think that the Los Ganados of RE4 are the current zombie gold standard for the series, and the Umbrella Chronicles zombies are at least as detailed as their parasitic cousins, if not more so.

The final battle is with a scorpion-like boss that keeps its claws tucked in front of its vulnerable face/mouth parts. Here, the games strengths and weaknesses seem to be the most apparent. The boss is very detailed, those nasty claws look real enough anyway, and comes off as fairly impressive as leaps in and out of combat with the player. However, like with the zombies, the bullets don’t seem to even register, even when you are hitting the vulnerable head. It’s hard to tell whether or not you’re doing damage without glancing at the life bar every few minutes, even when you pull out one of the other weapons.

Unfortunately, my game ended prematurely as the boss presumably devoured my intestines, but I feel like I played enough to justify leaving with mixed feelings. It’s not the definitive shooting experience by any stretch of the imagination, especially when compared with the forthcoming Time Crisis 4 on the PS3, but it played well enough to likely be the zapper’s premier game. I only hope that Capcom uses the time left to it before release to tighten up the experience just a little more so that Umbrella Chronicles can jump from A

As many westerners as there are attending TGS, it’s easy for the overseas audience to forget that this show primarily caters to the Japanese media, with a lot of the materials and presentations being almost entirely in Japanese. Bandai/Namco felt our pain though, and drafted localization team member Austin Keys to organize a press event at the Namco/Bandai booth just for westerners.

Now wasn’t that nice of them? Yes, yes it was.

Six games were shown for the assembled media, four of which we know a fair amount about already. While Austin only briefly touched on Beautiful Katamari (still no Katamari for the Wii, sigh), he did treat us to new TGS trailers for Soul Calibur Legends, Soul Calibur IV, Time Crisis IV, Ace Combat 6 and the newly revealed Family Trainer – Athletic World for the Wii.

The Ace Combat 6 trailer looked to be an extender version of the trailer released earlier this year, which primarily consisted of numerous beautiful shots of dogfighting jet fighters, missile trails and explosions interspersed with images of a young civilian woman and a swelling orchestral score. The high resolution ground textures are still absolutely stunning, and the planes themselves have never looked shinier.

Out of the two Soul Calibur trailers, Soul Calibur Legends did a good of helping us understand what exactly the game is all about (Siegfried, Soul Edge and a lot of slashing, if you want to know). It’s still pretty ugly, running on what appears to be a modified version of the four-year old Soul Calibur II engine, but the action at least looked pretty entertaining. Soul Calibur IV primarily hinted at a final, cataclysmic battle between Nightmare and Siegfried. I don’t think this will be the last Soul Calibur by a long shot, but as a fan of the series, it’s nice to see the long-running story finally come to a head. Naturally, the action was pretty impressive too.

Time Crisis IV was touted by Austin as being “better than the arcade fiction,” a feat ten years ago but somewhat more commonplace today. That isn’t to say that the trailer was bad, quite the contrary. The trailer boasts “full freedom of movement” with the GunCon peripheral, which Austin called a “well thought out bit of design.” The graphics are pretty much par for the course for the PS3, which is to say that they are better than average, but perhaps not as stunning as the likes of Metal Gear Solid IV or perhaps Devil May Cry IV. Naturally, like every cheesy action flick ever made, the trailer had to end on a A

It’s been a difficult year for for Sony, the formerly dominating company being hammered on all sides by bad press, disappointing sales and stiff competition from Nintendo and Microsoft.

In his TGS keynote speech, Sony President Kaz Hirai largely abandoned lucid dreams for the kind rhetoric employed by losing NFL coaches – It’s time to get back to basics. Sony has decided that it’s now all about games and gamers, and to prove that they were serious, their first move was to finally unveil the Dual Shock 3 for long-suffering PS3 owners.

“We have received many opinions from our users, and one of the largest voices we heard is that they wanted the addition of vibration to the Sixaxis,” Hirai said, citing 2008 as the return of vibration for North American and European players.

Sony wasted no time getting the DS3 into the hands of players, with several games on the show floor utilizing the new controller, including the all-important Metal Gear Solid 4. There isn’t much to say about the controller itself save that it feels like a slightly heavier Sixaxis, a welcome improvement since the original Sixaxis felt far too light in my hands. Outside of that, it’s basically the same controller you’ve been using since roughly 1998, but it’s great to have what should have been there in the first place.

Other than the expected DS3 announcement, there was relatively little in the way of new information. The demo reel was largely underwhelming, mostly featuring games that have been around for months. New Home details were also lacking, with Kaz’s only comment being that he expected it to be a A