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Koei Still Chopping Down Hordes of Dudes

Billions sliced, diced, shredded, minced since 1978.

Koei held a media day in the big scary city yesterday, and I rolled over there to see what the House That Dynasty Warriors Built had to show off. All this went down in the Clift Hotel's famed Spanish Suite, one of the most overused venues for game industry press events in all of San Francisco. The Spanish Suite is known for its lousy old electrical wiring that shorts out at the drop of a hat, so I was looking forward to seeing whether some overzealous camera crew would plug in one too many lights and bring the whole thing to a halt.

No such luck--the event was awfully low-key, with just a few game stations and a small handful of press dudes and dudettes milling about. After Koei opened their Toronto studio a few years ago (the one that cranked out the middling racer Fatal Inertia), I was hoping to start seeing more variety in the types of games the company puts out. Nope. How about some games where you run around a battlefield and slaughter thousands of enemies? Maybe you're familiar with this concept? Throw a few kid-friendly DS titles in the mix, and you've got Koei playing it disappointingly safe with the stuff it knows best. Can't blame them if people are buying, though; everybody's got bills to pay, and I don't think Fatal Inertia served that particular need.

Here's a wrap-up of the games at the event.

Warriors Orochi 2

Orochi is kind of like Dynasty Warriors All-Stars, bringing in a bunch of the noteworthy characters from Dynasty Warriors and its Japanese-themed counterpart, Samurai Warriors--if you can remember who those characters are, I guess. There are so many of them, they all started to run together for me over the years, but then again so did the games themselves. You get some fantasy-style original dudes thrown into the mix here too. Anyway, I'm happy to report that hammering on the X button ad nauseam is still a viable tactic. I couldn't see a lot of difference between this one and the innumerable past Warriors games; keep on running around a big battlefield and waste endless mindless drone soldiers with your gigantic weapons. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Actually, the only thing that really piqued my notice in this one was the main character, Orochi the dragon king. That guy is way metal! He's like eight feet tall, scaly reptilian armor, big snake-looking tails hanging off the back, big horned helmet, the works. The only thing that could rejuvenate my interest in this series is if they went all the way to the extreme end of the crazy spectrum and filled it full of big gnarly metal imagery. I want the next one of these to look like some Dio and Iron Maiden album covers had an ugly baby.

Prey the Stars

Me so hungry.
Me so hungry.
Looking at the invite for the event, this is the title I wanted to know more about based on its name alone. Turns out it's a kiddy DS action game that's part Mario Kart, part Katamari. You run one of four animals around a small map that's filled with random everyday objects, from fruit and cakes to buses, houses...basically whatever fits the theme of the map. You're competing to see who can consume the most objects within the time limit. There are three ways to eat something--bite, lick, or suck--so you have to figure out which one to use to successfully chomp down. Yes, this is supposed to be a game for kids. I don't suppose anyone noted the irony there. The items you pick up give you different kinds of special powers, but the key is that you have to eat three of the same item (or at least the same type of item?) to get a power. So you're trying to eat stuff as fast as you can, but you also need to turn an eye toward eating the right kind of objects so you can unleash some offensive abilities at your opponents.

The Katamari element comes in as you increase in size by eating more and more objects. The bigger you are, the bigger the stuff you can devour. Eventually, you'll be eating stars and entire galaxies and whatnot.

Prey the Stars is actually coming out of the Toronto studio, so at least that place is still kicking even though Fatal Inertia failed to impress.

Monster Racers

Gotta race 'em all?
Gotta race 'em all?
This new DS game was just being announced at the event. As you might guess from the name, you race. With monsters. The racing is all in 2D so you're basically running left to right all the time, jumping over pits and up to higher ledges when appropriate. There are some power-ups you can pick up and use against your opponents. There's four-player wireless play. The racing gameplay had a simple, old-school feel to it that sort of reminded me of the NES era, though I don't know it would hold your interest for very long.

Per Koei's own description, this is basically Pokemon with racing replacing the standard turn-based battling of that series. So there's also the light RPG components you'd expect: roaming around an overworld, visiting other cities, chatting with and racing against other trainers. Of course there's the requisite "gotta catch 'em all" element where you collect some or all of dozens of monsters, train them to improve their stats, etc.

Come to think of it, I've been thinking we need a Gotta Catch 'Em All concept page of some sort, to attach games like this, Pokemon, and Mega Man Star Force to. Is there something like that in the database I'm not aware of? If not, somebody go make it! It might need a more elegant name, though.

Pop Cutie

This is a game for the DS where you make and sell your own fashions know what, no. Nevermind. I do like that you start out selling your stuff in a flea market, though.
Brad Shoemaker on Google+