ACE in the Hole: Will the Real Final Fantasy 13 Please Rise

.. AND SOON!!  You all know what Final Fantasy game I’m talking about.. I’m talking about Final Fantasy 13 Versus and not that other piece of s#!t (forgive my french).  The original Final Fantasy 13 was in development for 5 years, and the result Square-Enix gave us was lackluster to say the least.  I mean let’s look at the facts: it received non-stellar reviews for a Final Fantasy game (receive an 83 on metacritic), the host of characters weren’t well received (particularly Vanille and Hope), the new battle system was visually impressive yet a lot of people felt it made the game easier needing to only control one character, no puzzles and logic to get around, and the very-linear path of the game all lead to a failure for the franchise.  You can find the game in stores now as a used or discounted game only a few months after its release.. especially in Japan.  But no worries, the real Final Fantasy 13 is here.. at least we hope.

The Tokyo Game Show is on the approach and rumors are rolling around in talks of a Final Fantasy Versus gameplay trailer and release date.  Now I know it sounds like I’m putting faith in Square-Enix and that I’m getting my hopes up, but let us take a look at what we know so far.  First off, it is currently a PS3 exclusive and directed by Tetsuya Nomura (Nomura is to Final Fantasy what Kojima is to Metal Gear).  With other stellar and impressive exclusives like Uncharted 2 and God of War 3, Final Fantasy 13 Versus is almost forced to step up to the plate of excellence.  This also allows the FF13V team to focus on perfecting the game for only one console.  Secondly, by the looks of things, this game is going back to its roots.. the ones that Final Fantasy fans value such as open-world adventure, cars and airships, towns, and all the other necessities that the original Final Fantasy 13 forgot.  But the most important thing to me is the tone and cast of the game.  Final Fantasy 13 has a really light, goofy cast that did not connect to the audience, but FF13Versus seems to be a different animal entirely.  The cast seems to be pretty badass, similar to Final Fantasy 7.  The main character alone looks like he may be taking Cloud’s Place as favorite character simply because of his attitude, mystery, and badassness (i know that’s not a word, but there is none other to explain him).  Just watch him run around in this trailer.

All-in-all, FF13Versus looks like the real Final Fantasy 13.. the one that Square-Enix should of released first, and the one that could possibly save the Final Fantasy series’ name.  Unfortunately we can only wait, but I only hope they don’t make us wait for much longer.  But if the pain hurts so bad, I leave you this Final Fantasy 13 Versus clip to ease your suffering.  Until next time guys.

http://www.veoh.com/browse/videos/category/gaming/watch/v16902105DR7q4CJ3

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To the Next Level (TNL Fridays)

This week’s TNL is inspired by Tony Stark, one of my favorite fictional icons.  Do you remember when Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr., was using his transparent phone in Iron Man 2?  I thought it would be awesome if we could have something like that in our time.  Not likely, right? But from the looks of things, we may start to see things like this in our lifetime.  Below are pictures of Mac laptops with a transparent screen!  I personally don’t understand the logic behind this technology, but its pretty damn cool.  Enjoy.


Best Buy, Target entering used-game market

If you didn’t know already, I am not a fan of used-games.  Gamers pay $60 for a game and later sell it back for less than half the game’s price just to see it back on the shelf at Gamestop for $5-10 below retail.  Gamestop seemed to own a ‘Monopoly’ on this used-games market, but it sounds like all that is about to change very soon.  They have serious, new challengers now.. Best Buy and Target.

This week, big-box retailers Best Buy and Target both announced their video game trade-in programs are now open for business. Target’s announcement signals its entrance into the used-game business, while Best Buy had indicated its renewed interest in the used-game market in June.

Target’s entrance into the used-game sector is part of a larger consumer electronics service program that also includes a new product-support helpline and mobile-phone business. As for trading in games, the in-store program is now available in select Northern California shops, and Target plans to roll out the program to more than 800 stores across the country by the end of the year.

Best Buy’s trade-in program lets gamers buy and sell used games in some 500+ stores nationwide beginning at the end of August. While some Best Buy stores will have dedicated trade-in desks, most locations will handle game buybacks at the customer service desk. Customers will receive their compensation in the form of a gift card good for anything in the store, and any used games purchased will be covered by the store’s return policy.

The only good thing about all of this is there is now more competition.  Competition allows for more affordable games and better service.  Hopefully the introduction of these two companies to the used-game market will spice things up a little bit.

Call of Duty Black Ops: Can Treyarch out-due Infinity Ward?

When the founders of game studio Infinity Ward were fired in March, fans wondered if they would ever see another installment of the successful and increasingly popular combat game franchise.  Luckily, parent company Activision is demonstrating that it has a pretty good backup plan with Treyarch.  Call of Duty: Black Ops is that game, and Treyarch is trying to step out of the dark and into the light that use to shine on Infinity Ward.  Treyarch has designed a genuine Call of Duty experience, with intense combat scenes and realistic animations, but it all seems too familiar.  Can Treyarch differentiate itself from Infinity Ward?  Can they out-due Infinity Ward?  Only time will tell.  Let us know what you think in the comments.

Call of Duty: Black Ops will arrive on consoles November 9th this year.

ACE in the Hole: Recent Gaming Industry Mistakes Part I

Doesn’t it feel like the gaming industry is moving too fast now-n-days?  It seems like it was just yesterday when the PS3 and XBox360 launched, and now everyone is talking about and anticipating the rumored PS4 and XBox720 ‘next-gen’ consoles.  I know its in gamer’s nature to always look for the next thing to come out, but sometimes you have to take it a little slower and not rush into things.  In fact, rushing into things have created some of the biggest gaming industry mistakes thus far.

Price Point Confusion. When this ‘next-gen’ era began, developers and producers were extremely excited to see what they could do with all the new technology out there.  The problem is in all their excitement, they forgot how much it was going to cost consumers.  Sony is one of the biggest culprits.  They packed the PS3 with tons of impressive hardware, but forgot how expensive it was going to be for us, gamers.  The PS3 launched on the market with a $600 price point.  Now was a blu-ray player, SATA hard drive, graphics card, 7 CPU and a cell processor worth the price at the time? Yes!  But was it something that gamers can typically afford? No.  Microsoft was also a culprit, but not as much as Sony.  Sony pushed the limits of what gamers would pay for hardware.  Fortunately, these price points have began to normalize and are now more affordable for gamers.

A quick release = quick profit + problems. A lot of companies have been an offender to this issue, but the biggest and seemingly most detrimental one was Microsoft.  Why?  One phrase that I don’t even have to spell out for you to understand… RROD.  The Red Ring of Death was apparently due to Microsoft rushing their console to market.  Microsoft wanted to be the first to market, but this backfired.  They were sued for more than a billion dollars and had to extend all Xbox360 warranties to 3 years.  Now there are rumors that Sony wants to be the first to market for the next next-gen cycle.  Let’s hope they learn from Microsoft’s mistakes.

Downloadable content for everyone. This issue targets most developers in the gaming industry.  Am I the only one tired of buying a $60 game and then seeing downloadable content 2 weeks later?  Some of the biggest culprits are Microsoft, Activision and Capcom.  Microsoft is only guilty of buying downloadable content.  They made multiple deals to secure the DLC’s exclusivity, even it was just timed.  The problem is that Microsoft has showed the gaming world that DLC is not only ok, but possibly necessary and expected.  Activision also has a problem releasing DLC for Guitar Hero and Call of Duty weeks after a game’s release.  But none is bigger than Capcom.  Capcom has been abusing DLC. Resident Evil Versus is a great example.  They released Resident Evil for PS3 and XBox360 for $60 (the normal price for games this semester).  They later released Resident Evil Versus much later than the release date, which is fine.  But did you know that RE Versus DLC was already on the disk?!?  Yea, that’s right… you were tricked into paying $75 for the whole thing.  It’s alright for DLC to be made after a game has finished development.  But selling a game with DLC on the disk and asking gamers to pay for it is outrageous.  Selling Street Fighter costumes that are usually unlocked is also a DLC corruption.

The point I’m trying to make is that developers and producers need to stop rushing and take their time to produce a great product that will please games.  Polyphony Digital and Rockstar are great companies that do just that.  And as always, support your console(s) and the developers you value so we can keep seeing innovative games that blow our socks off.  Until next time guys enjoy gaming and make sure you “Pick up your Sticks!”  Also look for part 2 in the near future.

ACE’s Gamescom 2010 Predictions

E3 2010 came and went, and many of you found it to be a bit lack-luster.  The big two ( PS3 and Xbox360 ) didn’t seem to impress, although the Wii did.  Everyone expected so much from these two just to be let down.  Now it is time to look to the future.  Gamescom 2010 is almost here.  For those that do not know, Gamescom is to Europe what E3 is to America.  In other words, this is a big deal.  I’m personally excited to see what the big two have to bring to the table, but I like to predict what they might show.  Here are my predictions:

Microsoft

Halo Reach and tons of Kinect content. Was I the only one that wasn’t impressed with Microsoft’s Kinect content at E3? I think I hyped it up to much for myself..  It is honestly an amazing piece of hardware with tons of potential in and out of the gaming industry, but we need to see that.  Microsoft will show off Kinect more and show some gameplay from the upcoming Halo Reach.

Codename: Kingdoms. Crytek has teamed up with Microsoft to create a new IP.  I am looking forward to what this game is.  All we saw at E3 was some weird trailer that told me nothing about the game.

Call of Duty: Black Ops. Microsoft is going to give you more reasons to buy the newest installment of Call of Duty for the Xbox360.  Microsoft and Activision seem to be ‘friends with benefits’ and will more than likely announce some exclusive content for Black Ops.

Valve Announcement.  We’re back on your side! If you didn’t already know, Valve and the PS3 were not the best of friends before E3.  But after Sony announced Valve and Steam coming to the PS3, the gaming world seemed to be in shock.  I have a good hunch that Valve is still on Microsoft’s side.  I see some kind of exclusive content coming to the Xbox360 at Gamescom.

New Epic Game, maybe Gears of War 3. Microsoft doesn’t have many first party studios, but they do have many friends.  Epic has been pretty quiet, and I think they are going to reveal their newest IP.  If not, then they will definitely show Gears of War 3.

Do the Wave! Have you seen the new ‘wave’ icon in the corner of newer Xbox360 games?  This wave is apparently Microsoft’s new identity.  And with a new identity,  new clothes should follow.  Expect some kind of Dashboard transformation in the near future.

Honorable Mention and Hopes: Doom 4.  New Rare IP.. they too have been quiet for too long.  Microsoft makes some more alliances, possibly with Rockstar.  Timed exclusivity for Mass Effect 3.

Sony

Killzone 3, Gran Turismo 5, Motorstorm: Apocalypse and LittleBigPlanet 2 of course. Guerilla Games, Polyphony Digital, Evolution Studios and Media Molecule are all European Sony studios, so it makes sense we would see a lot of these games at Gamescom.

Collections, Collections and more Collections! Sony is really liking these Collections especially after the God of War Collection was received so well.  I see a Team ICO Collection and Mortal Kombat Compilation coming to the PS3/PSN.  On top of that, I believe Sony has a megaton to drop.  And I think this is Mass Effect on the PS3.  EA and Sony have obviously made an ‘alliance’ in response to the Xbox360 making one with Activision.  I can easily see Mass Effect Collection coming to the PS3 especially after finding out that Microsoft does not own rights to the Mass Effect series.

We’re gonna MOVE you. I was actually pleasantly surprised by Sony’s MOVE content at E3.  I’m looking forward to what Sony has to show, and they will definitely show it.

Quantic Dream reveals a new IP. David Cage has made it clear that he does not want to make sequels even though fans want him to create Heavy Rain 2.  I am right there with him.  I would rather have more classics and fewer hits.  I am pretty sure David Cage is going to reveal his next project tomorrow.. I’m just not sure what.

PSP Phone or PSP2. Rumors from multiple sources have been flying around about the new PSP2 or PSP Phone.  I personally think the latter is legit and will more than likely happen even if it is not announced at Gamerscom.  Sony Ericson hasn’t released a smartphone in a while, Google is itching to get into the gaming market, and the PSP Go wasn’t exactly a commercial success.  This is a match made in heaven, and the fact that both are not fond of Apple makes this collaboration more believable.

Resistance 3. Now and days for the PS3, it seems like a 2-year development cycle produces great results.  Just ask Naughty Dog who created Uncharted.  It is believed that Insomniac is ready to show us Resistance 3, and I pray they do.  Unfortunately, it will more than likely be given a Holiday 2011 release because of Sony’s already crowded shooter lineup.

PS3 Price Drop or New SKU. I know everyone says this prediction every year, but this time it is going to happen.  Sony doesn’t have much choice in the matter.  They have to compete with Kinect and the Xbox360 slim. A price drop is essential for holiday success.  On a side note, Sony might reveal a limited edition GT5 SKU which would definitely drive holiday sales.

Honorable Mentions and Hopes: Uncharted 3, Hitman 5 and Starhawk get announced.  Rockstar reveals a couple PS3 exclusives (including the already announced Agent).

So these are my predictions, but I want to hear your predictions.  Post them in the comments.  Enjoy Gamescom!

ACE in the hole: Stand for your Brand

Hey guys.  This is my ‘ACE in the hole‘ series that talks about the issues that gamers choose to ignore.  I will be creating these posts once a week.

Calling all fanboys, wannabe fanboys, those in denial and gamers in general.  All of you seem to support your console of choice to the fullest when it is being attacked, but fail to actually support it.  I hear comments such as “The 360 can’t do..” or “Sony promised..” and both sides defend their brand’s honor, but certain game sale numbers would show otherwise.  So what am I talking about?  The one thing that fanboys take immense pride in.. CONSOLE EXCLUSIVES.

Both have great exclusives, but what depresses me the most is the lack of support for new IPs.  Killzone 2 was one of the most anticipated and hyped-up games for the PS3 last year.  It had amazing graphics, an immersive story, an addictive multiplayer and stellar reviews.  Sounds like a keeper right?  Unfortunately, sales seemed to differ.  Killzone 2 surpassed only 1 million units one month after its release.  Doesn’t sound like triple A sales to me.  Although Sony fanboys brag about this beautiful game, they failed to support it like XBox360 fanboys support a brand new shooter.

On the other side, XBox360 recently had an impressive game that many fanboys bragged about.  Alan Wake was in development for a few years and received great reviews and complements about its gameplay and originality, yet the game did terrible according to the charts.  Now some can say it was a different kind of game and one shouldn’t expect large numbers..  well I say tell that to Heavy Rain, the PS3 exclusive that is considered an immersive and  commercial success.  Some even say that if Alan Wake was on PS3, it would have sold much better even with a smaller install base.

The fact is that gamers ask for originality, creativity, excitement and overall great exclusive, triple A games time and time again, yet they are unwilling to go out and support those games and the brand that essentially developed them.  Brand new IPs need extra support so that we can see more like them in the future.  In fact, the support of new IPs may encourage other developers to try it out as well.  The point? .. support your brand.  It is a win-win situation.  The developers get rewarded for their hard work and we gamers get to enjoy great games.

Until next week..  Enjoy gaming and make sure you “Pick up your Sticks!”