With MH4, Nintendo pulls a coup while Capcom hits the easy button

I've been a big fan of the MH series, having harshed it's unforgiving learning curve and dealt with it's less than intuitive controls for years now. While it's less than a blip on western gaming's radar, in Japan it's the kind of franchise that can make a system. So for fans of the series like me, the announcement of a move to 3DS was big news. For Nintendo it's a gutsy move that probably cost more than a pretty penny. But for Capcom, it's just another in long line of decisions that seems dedicated to keep the franchise always one step behind modern game design. Capcom's move to 3DS allows them to continue to use an older engine and therefore again escape the need to generate next gen graphically assets (which to be fair are time consuming and expensive). Additionally, Nintendo's inept understanding of how online multiplayer works fits perfectly with Monster Hunters' archaic multiplayer design. While the concept video for Monster Hunter 4 shows much more dynamic action than has been generally seen in the series, it's only a concept. Who knows how far those ideas will actually factor into the actual game, especially within the limits of the 3DS.
 
I was really hoping that the next MH would be the leap in game design the series is desperately needing. With the Vita, I feel Capcom would have been more inclined to try for a more interesting online multiplayer experience, and HD graphics the series has been in need of (I don't count the recent MH 3rd PS3 port, or Frontier. Both those games simply use up rezzed textures and relatively low poly models to middling effect). Sony and Capcom have both been silent on if we will even see a Vita version, with Sony execs basically saying the ball is in Capcom's court. My guess is Capcom will play wait and see with the Vita, and watch how things go for their 3DS offerings. But if history is any indicator, they are gonna place their cards on the safe bet as they always have, and keep the bar set at a level behind modern game tech. And I will probably still play the damn thing to death, ridiculous nub add-on and all.

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Why I love Dragon Age 2 so far.

So DA2 is out, and I thought I'd toss my two cents into this whirl pool of opinions. The game has a death grip on me, much stronger than Origins did. In fact around 20 hours into Origins, I got a little burnt out on it and it took me a few months to get back and finish it (Mass Effect 2's release probably had something to do with that also). If DA2 had to be described in one word it would be "Speed". The game moves fast, not just in combat, but with the story too. Quests and side-quests pop up left and right, and you can probably burn through a few in the same time it might have taken you to get through some of the bigger quests in DA:O. For me, this is a good thing because it allows me to focus on the parts of the game (and Bioware games in general) I like the most:  the characters.  

   I've heard a lot of people lament the lack of an epic world saving story line in DA2, and while I can understand that, I think the what we got instead is a much more personal and intriguing story. DA:O was often marketed as a mature modern bloody fantasy romp, but it was ultimately a very classic old school fantasy tale, that invoked the Lord of the Rings trilogy more than a little. There was a force of pure evil plaguing the land and a small band of adventures had to unite a fractured nation of divided races to rise up and fight it. It was great, but in the end it was the interactions with my party that I cared more about. I knew that the logical conclusion to the story would be the death of the ultimate evils leader and a united land. With DA2, we are thrown into a smaller area, but asked to deal with more complex internal issues. Ideas like ideology, racism and political control which were played with in DA:O are now the central themes of DA2. By focusing on Kirkwall and the surrounding area, I actually care more about the world they have put me in, which is more than I can say for any of the towns in DA:O. As long as they didn't screw with my base camp, they were free to ravage Denerim or whatever. When chaos breaks out in Kirkwall, I feel actual dread and the constant political machinations of the various factions and characters (including your own) help keep things fresh and exciting. In DA:O when things went rotten I would reload because I wanted my perfect playthrough. When things go bad in DA2, I let it ride because I want to see where the roller-coaster is going to take me next.  

   The biggest problem I've had (and many people are having) is the limited environments. I don't have a problem with Kirkwall or the surrounding area, it's logical that those would not change significantly over time and they are well crafted zones. It's the reuse of areas for sidequests and such that gets a bit annoying. The game suffers from the Mass Effect 1 problem of having only having a handful of basic environments for side missions. In ME1 it was container ship, container base and tunnels. In DA2 it's mines, mansion, and sewer area. On the plus side, side quests are fast and you can usually burn through them quickly, so you're not stuck in the environment for long. On the downside, side missions come so fast, that you will be visiting many of those places again soon. 
 
   Overall that's been only a minor problem for me compared to the pretty much amazing everything else I have enjoyed so far. I'm probably going to write a full review soon, as I'm getting done with my first playthrough. At this point I can say that this is not the Mass Effect fantasy game some people were dreading/hoping for. It's still Dragon Age, but it's seen some changes that I have greatly enjoyed so far, but totally understand why it will piss people off. Now back to my Hawke.

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Monster Hunter cameo time! Big Boss and the Boss go hunting!

 If you can't tell from my avatar and background theme, I am pretty hyped about Monster Hunter Portable 3rd. I chose to skip TGS this year since last year was so dull, but seeing the recent press conference on youtube makes me regret it a little.  Go to about 43 mins in here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoA4GeqW1bE. Looks like Capcom is continuing the tradition of doing cross brand cameos by bringing in Snake/Big Boss and the Boss from MGS. Seems logical considering the tie up they had in Peace Walker and it's a good way to add some more heat to the upcoming 3DS remake. The demo is out next month, and I can't wait to get my hands on it (just need to figure out how to register for the damn Monster Hunter Fan Club first). I am also seriously contemplating getting the limited edition PSP for MH3P. My old PSP-1000 has served me well, but I wouldn't mine a swank black and gold Monster Hunter PSP. Had a friend who went to the show today, hopefully he got some hands on time so I can get some impressions from him. I won't lie, this maybe my #1 holiday game this year. MHFU took over 250 hours of my life (and counting!) so I wanna see if MH3P will have the same death grip on me. Gonna work on my PSP Claw technique. Here's a pic of Snake and the Boss:

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MGS: Peace Walker: Day 14 The Peace has been Walked

So I've wrapped up the main story in Peace Walker, and I overall have to say I enjoyed the ride. It's classic Kojima with movie references abound, and a mix of profound moments of genius and stupidity. Gameplay wise, I thought the last two boss battles dragged a little, and if Japan wants these Monster Hunter type games to work in west, they really need to do a better job of tuning these things for Solo play. That said, I immediately dug up my copy of MH: Freedom Unite after this and picked up where I left off months ago. I have yet to try Co-op in the game, but with Ad-hoc party reinstalled, it might try and see. I'm probably gonna write a review for this to get a more concise analysis of how I feel about the game, but overall I think if you're an MGS fan, you owe to yourself to play this game. Borrow a PSP from someone if you have to, but give it a try. It offers a valuable piece of Metal Gear history, and makes the end of MGS4 all the more poignant. I really hope with upcoming HD Classic line for PS3, this game gets put on the disc somehow, as it really completes the MGS saga, and it would allow a wider audience to play it. And another analog stick would be nice to. 

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MGS Peace Walker: Day 9

 
About 18 hours in, and I'm just about to finish off the single player (I did a lot of side missions). Having researched a lot of equipment, the Metal Gear fights have been pretty easy so far, and I've farmed the hell out of all three models. But the big thing is I finally opened up the Monster Hunter quests, which was something I was really looking forward to. So nearing the end of the single player story, what do I think? I think Kojima delivered on his word, putting a AAA Metal Gear Solid title on the PSP. While I enjoyed his previous efforts on the system, he obviously focused way more of his attention and team resources into this game. The origin of Outer Haven has been really interesting, and all the PSP specific features are also great (been scanning everywhere around town). Even after the almost 20 hours, I could still see my self playing this for awhile. Now if you don't mind I have to take care of something...  

 It's go time.
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Doctor Who Season Finale: Part 1

If anyone has had any doubts about this Doctor, I'm pretty sure the few that remain by the end of the season will be gone after you watch the the first part of the finale. It's the Doctor at his finest, and Matt Smith has completely owned the role. Without giving away any spoilers, all the various build up about the cracks in time come to a head. Steven Moffat deserves an award for this season, as he kept everything very tight I felt, with little in the way of filler. It's probably the best cliffhanger I've seen in awhile, and situations don't get much dire than the ones at the end of this episode. Can't wait for next week, except for the fact that it means I will then have to wait for Christmas before we get anymore of the Doctor. Maybe Torchwood will be back by then?

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MGS Peace Walker: Day 5

Finally reached the first Metal Gear battle, and it was relatively easy, but I had been doing a significant amount of research and side missions, so I was more than prepared. Only stumbling block was figuring out how to use supply drops, didn't realize I had to drop the marker then activate it, like you do with C4. Other wise, probably an easier fight than the tank battle, since there weren't any extra troops with the mech. I've enjoyed the story so far, and I think Metal Gear fans will get a kick out of it. There is definitely some weird tangents in the conversations, but it's nothing new for people who have been following the series. Two new features have opened up also, the metal gear building portion of the game (which didn't have to much to do, since I did not have enough parts yet) and the "Outer Ops". The latter proved more interesting, as it plays out like a very basic war strategy game. Using the combat troops you've collected, and any vehicles (like tanks and APCs) you captured, you send them out to attack specific targets in between your missions. So far the fights have been easy, again thanks to my over collecting. But I could see things get rougher soon, as the enemy has yet to show any armored vehicles of their own. 
 
Focusing more on the gameplay in missions, the new CQC features make it much easier to neutralize soldiers in the field. While I still rely on headshots from my tranq gun a lot, the simple of tactic of luring a solider around a corner and chocking him out is becoming equally useful. Speaking of headshots, the game totally does the thing where now soldiers are showing up with helmets so, you guessed it, first you have to shoot the helmet and then you shoot the dude in the face. Otherwise, now that I've gotten used to activating the auto-aim when I get into firefights with alerted troops, the game is feeling much better controlwise. That said, I am tempted to buy a PSP Go just to use PS3 controller with it. A second analog stick is all that is keeping this game from feeling like MGS4, which was the pinnacle of controls for this series as far as I'm concerned. If Sony were to release this as a PSN game, or even a PS2 game, they'd have a solid million seller I think. Maybe when / if the MGS Blue-Ray edition comes out.


  
Anyways, I'm off to kill a Metal Gear repeatedly, so I can harvest it's robot guts and for my own Frankengear. Never thought I'd be grinding for drops in a MGS game, but I'm down!
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MGS Peace Walker: Day 2

Just a pinch over 4 hours on my recorded game time now. Although a couple of mission restarts probably puts me closer to 4 and half hours. This is a game where checkpoints would have been nice. The Motherbase stuff is picking up some, the X-Com feel to it is pretty strong. Watching all your teams and balancing them correctly is important to keeping things running smoothly. And it's becoming more and more obvious they have taken more than a peek at the Monster Hunter Portable play book (which makes the collaboration between the two franchises make even more sense). The extra ops sit in where the more benign gathering quests would have been in MH. They are usually quick ways to grab some new soldiers for your team, and  pick up some resources, great for the short bus hop. Story has been the proper balance of the grim nature or war and geopolitical machinations, juxtaposed against the sometimes random and wacky conversations that Kojima seems to love. The boss battles are ramping up as  the following screenshot will show: 

 The second after I took this pic, they came after me.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Still feels like the game has a lot to show me and I'm eager to dive deeper in. Time to test out my newly developed RPG-7 against that tank.
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E3 2010, the rest of the stuff.

Mortal Kombat and I parted ways after 2, which I loved, but the new MK looks like it might just get me back. Child of Eden is definitely on my radar, and I'll say I'm feeling a little better about XCOM after seeing more video and reading more articles. It might not live up to the original, but it looks interesting. Was hoping for at least a teaser for Mass Effect 3, but I guess that that will have to wait a little longer. Dead Space 2 trailer might finally motivate me to go and play Dead Space. I've never bought a game from Games on Demand, so that might be my first. Interesting show, and the day 3 Live Feed was crazier, which seems to be the theme so far this E3.  I imagine that the last ustream will end with the guys setting the house on fire.

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MGS Peace Walker: Day 1

Only about an hour and a half in so far, but I am digging this game quite a bit. I played a good amount of Portable Ops, but this feels much more refined, and much deeper. I want to try the co-op, but I'll probably wait until I become a little more comfortable with the controls. Tempted to try the Monster Hunter controls to see if those feel more natural. Always been an Ashely Wood fan, so the cinematics are right up my alley. So day one, pretty impressed. I even snapped my first in game photo, picture of a dude I tranquilized, and right before I Fultoned his ass into the air.
 

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