Friday, September 25, 2009

Gay or Nay Review: Family Tennis (WiiWare)

If you're going to make a tennis game for the Wii, it's got to stand out from the crowd. And when I say crowd, I mean Wii Sports. After all, the celebrated Wii pack-in contains one of the most enjoyable and playable tennis games around.

EA Sports' recently released Grand Slam Tennis did a great job of differentiating itself from Nintendo's title by including many of the options that were sorely missing from Wii Sports tennis, such as career and online modes.

Aksus Games' Family Tennis also tries to set itself apart from the pack (i.e., Wii Sports), though it does so by going in the opposite direction of EA Sports' offering. For instance, rather than aiming to create a realistic representation of the sport, the folks at developer Arc System Works seemingly set out to create an easy-access, arcade-esque experience for Wii tennis fans.

Were they successful? Well, not exactly.



Don't get me wrong: Family Tennis has its charms. For starters, it's cute. It's also easy to pick up and play. Oh, and at just 500 Nintendo points ($5), it's pretty darn cheap, too.

Compare those positives to the title's negatives, though, and it's clear Family Tennis is only worth your hard-earned cash if you're a die-hard tennis fan. Among my complaints: The game looks like it could have been a launch release for the PlayStation 2 and features an ear-splitting soundtrack that I'm guessing even its creator can't enjoy.

Even worse: Although Family Tennis controls much like its counterpart in the world-conquering Wii Sports, it's not nearly as precise. Forehands and backhands work well most of the time, for instance, but every once in a while (too often, if you ask me) the same swing used to send a shot into the far corner of your competitor's side of the court becomes a lob that lands many feet beyond the baseline.

Speaking of competitors, don't expect to see many of them in Family Tennis. In fact, expect to see just four of them: Billy, Sally, "Mommy" and "Daddy." Players can compete against the titular family members in three modes: Elimination Match, Free Match and Thrilling Rally. Unfortunately, once you beat all of them in the first mode, there's little reason to boot up the game again.

As such, it shouldn't be too surprising to hear (see?) me say that Family Tennis, despite its cuteness and cheapness, is an absolute "NAY."

If you're like me and you have to play every single tennis game that's published, go ahead and drop the $5 needed to download it. If you're not, spend your dough on a much more deserving title (such as Art Style: Cubello or Orbient).

Coming (very) soon: "Gay or Nay" reviews

Don't you just hate how some people use the word "gay" to describe something that's bad or dumb or stupid? Yeah, I do too.

So, I'm going to do my part to take back that lovely little word by introducing "Gay or Nay" reviews. These reviews will be like any other game reviews you read on the Interwebs--with one small, but important, twist: Each one will end with me saying the game is either "gay" (good) or "nay" (bad).

I'm working up two such reviews right now--one for the WiiWare title, Family Tennis, and another for You, Me and the Cubes (also a WiiWare title). Both should be posted to the site early next week.

Let's go fishing, girl!

Why is it that every game I want for the Xbox 360 is an XBLA title? (Aside from Fable II, of course. Oh, and Tales of Vesperia...)

Anyway, another one, called Fishing Girl, came out last week. I could write up a little description of the game based on what I've read on other sites (like GayGamer.net) but, really, the same information can be gleaned from the official trailer:



I'm not sure when I'll actually get an Xbox 360, but I can assure you that when I do I'll be dropping 80 MS points (whatever that means) on this cute little title.

Revisiting “Nintendo’s most politically incorrect game ever"

I've been playing a lot of platformers lately--in preparation of the November 15th release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii. Sadly, I don't have many platformers for the Wii (just Lost Winds, really), so I've been playing them on my trusty DS. Which ones? Well, New Super Mario Bros., of course, but also a bit of Yoshi's Island DS. Oh, and a game no straight male gamer (and few gay gamers of either gender, I'm guessing) will admit to owning, Super Princess Peach.

Actually, I shouldn't be so hard on Super Princess Peach--it really isn't a bad game. In fact, if you can get over just how cute it is, it could be considered a pretty good game. What keeps it from being a good or even a great game, you ask? It's just too easy. (And when I say easy, I mean it. So many enemies can be disposed of with a single "bop!" of Peach's parasol that after a while you start to wonder why they're even in the game.)

I have a feeling if you posed that question to game designer Gonzalo Frasca, he'd provide you with a much different answer. I don't say that because I'm well acquainted with Frasca (I wish!), but because I recently stumbled upon an article he wrote (some time ago for SeriousGamesSource.com) about the sexism on display in this Tose-developed title.

"On the one hand," he writes, "it is a blessing to find a game targeted at girls that is also top quality on a technical level: they are not that common. Additionally, it is good to see how the Princess switches roles with the male heroes after so many years of mainly being a decorative element in the series. What is shocking is that from all the possible design options available, the creators of this game had to frame the princess as an emotionally unstable person."

"I am not necessarily suggesting that Peach should go join Lara Croft’s women liberation army, burn her bra and buy an M-16," Frasca adds near the end of the article. "But at the very least, Peach should be allowed to have some fun without being portrayed as a mood swinger."

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pink-and-white PS3 Slim coming soon to a store near you ...

... assuming you live somewhere in Japan, that is.

One of the few newsworthy announcements made during the Sony press conference at the Tokyo Game Show yesterday involved the little beauty you see here:


For those of you who didn't stay up late trolling "teh Internets" for Tokyo Game Show news (like I did), the PS3 pictured above is a special edition that will be released in the Land of the Rising Sun on the same day (Dec. 17) as a little game known as Final Fantasy XIII. You may have heard of it?

Said system will sport a 250GB HDD and will set you back ¥41,600. (That's ¥11,620 more than the standard PS3 Slim.)

Personally, I'd rather have a plain white PS3 Slim, but since Sony's unlikely to release anything other than boring black PS3s in the States, my thoughts on the matter don't mean too much, do they? :)

New trailer for The Last Guardian (aka the "Game of Whichever Year it Comes Out")

I can't take credit for calling The Last Guardian the "Game of Whichever Year it Comes Out," by the way. Please direct your kudos to "leech" over at NeoGAF :)

Anyway, enough about that. The real reason you're reading this post is to see the new trailer (unveiled during the Tokyo Game Show yesterday) for Team Ico's upcoming PS3 title, The Last Guardian, right? Well, here you go:



Sadly, the title that's sure to be a contender for "Game of the Forever" still does not have a release date. Oh, well, back to that trailer...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ten Dreamcast games I'd like to see on PSN

It was a sad day in the Schochallagerdt (the name my husband and I created by combining our last names) household when Sega "went third-party," as so many gamers like to say. After all, many of my most favorite pixelated memories include games played on the Genesis, Saturn and Dreamcast.

Thanks to advancements in emulation (and the Dreamcast stowed away in my entertainment center), I'm able to relive most of those memories whenever I want, but I know many other Sega fans aren't so fortunate.

That's why I squealed with glee when I read a thread on NeoGAF this morning that suggested (thanks to the leaked notes of a supposed meeting between bigwigs at Sega of America and Sony Computer Entertainment America) Dreamcast titles may soon show up on PSN.

Unsurprisingly, the news sent gaming geeks from coast to coast to their keyboards to type up lists of Dreamcast they would like to see on PSN (assuming the leaked notes are, you know, authentic). So, I figured, why not join in on the fun?

Without further ado, here are (in alphabetical order) the first 10 Dreamcast games I'd like to see on the service:

1. Bangai-O--I've been holding out hope that this Treasure, er, treasure would show up on Nintendo's Virtual Console at some point (it was released on the Nintendo64 before being ported to the Dreamcast), but I think that ship has sailed. So, here's to hoping it'll show up on PSN.

2. ChuChu Rocket--Why on earth have the folks at Sega ignored this wonderful IP for so long? I have no idea, but I'm hoping someone there has enough brains to put it on PSN. Just make sure it allows online play!

3. Jet Grind Radio--Asking me to choose my favorite Dreamcast game is like asking me to choose my favorite child (if I actually had a child, of course), but if I *had* to choose (you know, at gunpoint or something like that) I might just choose Jet Grind Radio thanks in no small part to to its state-of-the-art (at the time) cel-shaded graphics. 'Nuf said.

4. Phantasy Star Online--Truth be told, I've never played this game. That said, everything I've ever read about it and seen of it (on YouTube) makes me wish I *had* played it. Give me the chance to correct my mistakes, Sega!

5. Rez--I knew I'd like this game when I heard it was made by some of the same people who made the similarly wonderful Panzer Dragoon. Well, guess what? I didn't just like it upon playing it for the first time, I *loved* it. And you will, too, if Sega does what it should and puts the title on PSN.

6. Seaman--This is another game I've never actually played (yes, my head is bowed in shame), but it's also another game that I *know* I would love. After all, when it comes to games, the weirder the better as far as I'm concerned. And everyone with half a brain knows this game is the definition of weird.

7. Segagaga--I tried to play this game through nefarious means (*cough* emulation *cough*), but the language barrier proved too much for me. Reading other players' accounts (and watching way too many YouTube videos) of the game has me convinced I'd love it if it was translated into a language I can understand. I know that's as likely as Sega releasing another console, but you can't blame a guy for dreaming, can you?

8. Shenmue--I debated putting this title on this list, to tell you the truth. It's definitely a love-it-or-hate-it affair, this game, but that's exactly why it should be a prime candidate for placement on PSN. Plus, you know all the Sega fanboys and fangirls would come out of the woodwork for it. Cha-ching! (Oh, and it should go without say that if they put up the first title, they have to put up the superior sequel, too.)

9. Space Channel 5--You now how I said Jet Grind Radio may be my favorite Dreamcast game? Well, this game is the reason for my indecisiveness. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if Michael Jackson's inclusion in the game would increase or decrease its odds of being re-released at this point.

10. Typing of the Dead--This game is in the same boat as Segagaga (i.e., it's about as likely to show up on PSN as Hello Kitty's Waku Waku Cookies). That's not going to stop me from asking for it, though. Don't understand my desire to see what's basically an educational game show up on Sony's service? Check out a few YouTube videos (like this one) and I think you'll see where I'm coming from.

Note to any Sega fanboys or fangirls who stumble upon this post: The titles listed above are the first 10 Dreamcast games I'd like to see on PSN if such a thing came to fruition. Obviously I'd like many more Dreamcast titles to make it to the service, too--such as Ikaruga, Power Stone, Skies of Arcadia, Toy Commander and Virtua Tennis, just to name a few.

Waiting for Wii Fit Plus

I'm not ashamed to admit that I bought Wii Fit as soon as it hit store shelves last year. I do a pretty darn good job of staying fit on my own, but I thought Nintendo's latest (and possibly greatest) attempt to conquer the so-called casuals might shake things up a bit. Well, guess what? It did. To say I've become a bit obsessed with the "push up and side plank," for instance, is an understatement--despite the fact that it practically reduces me to tears :)

As such, it probably shouldn't be all that surprising to hear that I'm going to buy Wii Fit Plus as soon as it hits store shelves--on Oct. 4--too. The main reason I'm interested in this budget-priced--Nintendo's selling it for just $19.99--release is that it'll allow me to create circuits that include all of my favorite exercises. The fact that Nintendo has added a slew--15, to be exact--of new mini-games doesn't hurt, either.

Anyway, the reason I'm going on and on about all of this is that Wootini over at GayGamer.net recently got to spend some quality time with the title and he seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. "[Wii Fit Plus] really expands upon the first game, and has found some interesting new ways to use the Balance Board in mini-games," he writes. "It's not an entirely new game, but if you've already got a Balance Board, at $20, it's looking like a decent buy."

Orioto's deliciously deviant video game art

Remember how I said I used to want to be an artist--and be the next Shigeru Miyamoto? Well, Paris-based artist Mikaël Aguirre (aka Orioto) must have felt the same way as a child. The difference, of course, is that Aguirre (who is gay, by the way--yippee!) actually followed his dreams while I, well, write about them :)

If you've never come across Orioto's art, may I suggest you make your way over to his deviantART page pronto? After that, head to NeoGAF to learn more about him (and interact with him, if you'd like). Another worthwhile destination: BeefJack.com, which recently posted an in-depth interview with this multifaceted and multi-talented man.

Monday, September 21, 2009

What Scribblenauts' 'sambo situation' says about racism in the U.S.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you've heard that one of the 20,000 or so words included in Scribblenauts' extensive dictionary is "sambo"--and that when a player uses said word in the critically acclaimed DS game a watermelon-like object appears on screen.

Many writers have waxed poetic about this situation since it first came to light, but few (if any) have addressed it like author, critic and designer Ian Bogost did in an article posted on Gamasutra.com yesterday.

You might not agree with everything the co-founder of Persuasive Games has to say (I can't say I do), but it's well worth a read regardless. Oh, and make sure you read the comments that follow the article, too--they're just as enlightening as Bogost's conclusions, if not more so.

How to make it in the back door (of the games industry)

I dreamed of being a lot of things when I was a kid--an artist, a criminologist, a veterinarian--but none of those professions excited me more than the one that appeared in my dreams shortly after I played Super Mario Bros. for the first time.

Yep, like millions of other kids who came of age in the 1980s, I wanted to make video games when I grew up. I actually held onto that dream until my freshman year in college--when it was shattered just a week into my first programming class.

Anyway, if you're anything like the old me (the me that existed before I gave up on being the next Shigeru Miyamoto), you should head on over to GayGamer.net to watch videos of the PAX 2009 panel, "How to Make it in the Back Door: A Rainbow Colored Perspective of the Game Industry."

The panel featured a number of gay folk in the games industry, including Chris Shroyer, a producer at n-Space, Matt Marquess, a PR associate at SparkPR, and Helen McWilliams, a producer at Harmonix.

In the clips, the trio talk about what it's like to be "non-standard" in the games industry and whether or not it's a hindrance or an asset. They also talk about how they made it into the industry and how others can follow in their footsteps.