Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What If a New DS Was Announced at E3 2008?

Many rumors are flying around already about this year's E3 and I'm sure there will be many more as July draws closer. One of those rumors was a remodeled or next generation of the money making machine also known as Nintendo DS. I can see why people would think a next gen model would be coming soon. Game Boy Color came out in 1998, Game Boy Advance in 2001, the original DS was unleashed in 2004 and followed up by the DS Lite in 2006. It would seem every three years or so Nintendo makes us empty our wallets for a new handheld. A new DS system in 2009 would seem to be a safe bet. Personally, I think a redesign is more likely. The DS has plenty of life left. The dual screened wonder has sold over 100 million units worldwide (source) and doesn't show too many signs of stopping. Games are still being released like wildfire (I'm talking quantity, not quality), it's still way ahead of PSP and Nintendo still has some key franchises they haven't covered yet. I predict we'll see one more redesign before a totally new version emerges. But what if I'm wrong?

I present to you my Nintendo DS "Next" Wishlist...

» Wi-Fi Enabled PictoChat: This would seem as such an obvious feature but, knowing Nintendo, it would still require Friend Codes to chat (which we all know I love!). A buddy list similar to AIM/MSN would be convenient to see if your friends are available for playing.

» Quality Speakers: I usually play with headphones because those cheap speakers sound awful. One of the few things the PSP got right was quality speakers.

» Backwards Compatibility: Another obvious one, but it still needs to be said. First gen DS games are a must. GBA should still be there, too. Slot 2 is also useful for accessories (Guitar Hero, anyone?).

» Internal Rumble: Not too important, but would be nice. As long as it isn't overused, it shouldn't affect battery life too much.

» Improved Download Play Speeds: DS Download Play is a great feature for people that want to play but don't own a copy of the game. Even Multicard Play load times are pretty hefty. Hopefully they are working on ways to decrease the waiting time to play.

» SD Slot: Nintendo has to compete with the PSP as far as multimedia. Being able to store game saves, pictures, video and music would be a nice addition for an on-the-go gamer.

» Larger Buttons: Notice I didn't say more buttons. Even though the DS appeals to children, us older folk have bigger hands and I don't think bigger buttons would cause any kiddies to not be able to play. The only button addition needed is a home button similar to Wii.

» Improved Graphics: There's only been a few games that really pushed the DS to it's limits in the graphics department (Exhibit A). So it's hard to tell what "improved graphics" would be. It won't be a huge jump, but even increasing cart size may help developers pack some more punch.

» Ergonomic Design: The DS "Phat" was actually easier to hold on to for extended periods of time than the Lite. We all like out tech toys to be small, but it has to be comfortable too.

» Widescreen: Another feature that could be cool, but not needed. The touch screen should probably stay around the same size but the top screen could prove quite useful in wide screen.

» Updated Firmware: The next DS should be Wii's true counterpart. The channel menu interface would be touch screen friendly and very familiar. Having a game channel and home button would be useful for hot swapping (it's really a pain to keep turning on and off the system). With a touch of a button on the home screen you can flip the bottom screen with the top screen where you'll find your buddy list, messages and data management. And of course, it's all upgradeable.

» Internal Flash Memory: Time to stop wasting room saving on the cart. If an externalcard slot isn't included, I don't see it impossible to include at least 256 MB worth of memory built in for downloading demos and games (see below).

» Virtual Console: It worked for the Wii! With your My Nintendo account linked to your DS you can transfer your purchased games to your DS. With the current button layout most NES/GEN/SNES/SMS games should work fine. It also seems DS homebrew is all over the place so the only logical thing to do is cash in with DS Ware. The addition of GB/GBC/GBA games would be the icing on the cake.

Nintendo is infamous for doing a lot right and a lot wrong with their systems. I highly doubt all these features could be included, but I like to think that at least a few of them will. You have to think about the production costs, price points, etc. Parents aren't going to shell out $300 for a hand held for their kids. A nice balance of the above features will get 1st gen DS owners to migrate over and should attract some new customers as well (if there's anyone out there without one already!). Then there's people like us that will buy whatever Nintendo tells us to.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Take your sword and FIGHT! Its Ninja Gaiden II

One game developer had an image. He had a dream. One Tomonobu Itagaki had a vision to create the greatest action game of all time. Mr. Itagaki has succeeded. Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you Ninja Gaiden II, the most awesomely hard game filled with action to see in this current generation. I've decided to give Gaiden II the proper review it deserves. Don't listen to those big league IGN critics who base their review off of the normal setting. This is not the review it deserves.

Ninja Gaiden II takes place chronologically after the 2004 release of Ninja Gaiden, and starts off with quite a kick. The opening cinema is gorgeous and fluid but don't get comfortable, this game kickstarts right into gear. Ryu Hayabusa finds himself rescuing CIA agent Sonia from a pack of fiends. Here is where the tomfoolery begins. All that talk about making Ninja Gaiden II easier for possibility of inviting new fans to jump on the wagon is completely effaced. You will be overwhelmed by the difficulty of the "regular enemies" and overwhelmed by the amount of enemies you actually face. This game screams oldschool in every sense of the word. Ridiculous patterns? Check. Crazy platforming? Oh yeah. Now add in the fact that every enemy has an "Anti-Ryu" specific move set, and you're pretty much dead. These enemies don't chill and wait for you to attack. They attack you effortlessly and relentlessly. The story in this game is very similar to the first game. While its no Lost Odyssey or Okami in terms of story, it is more than efficient for an action game of its caliber.

The sound in this Gaiden does not let down either. Temco offers several Japanese ninja-esque beats that will get your blood pumping in no time. The legions of enemies you fight plus the rush of the music you listen to at the same time makes regular battles seem almost too epic. But you can't get epic enough with this game now can you?

The environments and the character models are slick, smooth and look pretty but they still suffer from that "clay" or shiny look. That's quite alright, as you won't be spending the time looking at the character models and environments. You'll be spending all your time dismembering fiend ninjas and sewer mutants as you fill the room with so much blood it looks like a slaughterhouse. That's the kind of detail that makes you go, "Wow."

And seeing as though you're a ninja warrior, it only makes sense to move like a ninja. Ninja Gaiden's controls are both tight yet loose at the same time. Tight in the sense that you can execute any deliberate move and get out of tight squeeze. Loose in the sense that Ryu moves like quicksilver and can easily string all of his moves together (and show it off with a little pasaz as well). Ryu moves like an badarse ninja on a mission, and rightfully so.

But let me be the first to warn you, Ninja Gaiden II is no Call of Duty 4 or Gears of War. Its not a walk in the park by any means, and you may find yourself cursing the heavens on multiple occasions. The game offers an exponential amount of reply value as it offers several ranges of difficulty from Mentor to Master Ninja. If you think Warrior is hard, then you haven't played anything yet. That is, if you think you can handle it. You can compare your feeble Ninja score on the Leaderboards to the true King of Kings who dominate the the top ten score. All the the more to beat those harder difficulties right?

So does Ninja Gaiden deserve the reviews its been getting? Not a chance. Hard games filled with ridiculous enemies and bosses are a dime a dozen nowadays. Ninja Gaiden II is truly a standalone action game in our current generation of games. There is nothing, if not very little that compares to Gaiden on its level.