E3 2009

TMNT Smash-Up E3 2009 Preview

Given the fanfare with which it was greeted, you’d think more game companies would be developing their own version of Nintendo’s cartoonish brawler Super Smash Bros. Brawl. We just didn’t expect the first one to star those heroes on a half-shell, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But while it seems like Smash-Up, which is slated for release by Ubisoft this September on the Wii, won’t be as deep as Super Smash Bros., from what we saw and played at a recent Ubisoft event in Los Angeles, this brawler does look like it’ll be fun for fans of these young adult-aged, genetically-altered, martial arts-trained amphibians.

Like Super Smash Bros., Smash-Up is an arcade-style 2D fighter. Accommodating up to four players, fights can be 1-on-1, 2-on-2, or even 3-on-1 if you’re feeling especially brave. You can even battle 1-on-1-on-1 or 1-on-1-on-1-on-1. All the expected characters will be playable, be they one of the turtles or such ancillary characters as April, Splinter, or Shredder, while the arenas are fitting settings like your dojo, the sewers, or atop the skyline of Manhattan.

Battle arenas also multi-layered and multi-leveled, though rather than just let you jump from one to another, you’re sometimes forced to move by, for example, a sudden blast of water that shoots you from one area of the sewer to another.

There are even some environmental hazards to be found here, such as a rather large alligator who, mistaking you for the little kid that flushed him down the toilet when he stopped being so cute, jumps up and knocks you down.

Befitting such an arcadey game, there are the usual requisite power-ups to be grabbed, including some that will give you the ability to breathe fire or shoot electrical bolts, though you can actually turn these off before you start a bout if you like. Other variables are changeable before each match, so you can customize each fight to your advantage when your opponent isn’t looking. Which may not be fair since your opponent will probably be your own son, but he should’ve thought of that before he kicked your ass at this game eight matches in a row.

Admittedly, this doesn’t look as accomplished or as deep as Super Smash Bros., at least not yet. But for anyone who prefers Michelangelo to Mario, Donatello to Donkey Kong, or Splinter to Samus, Smash-Up might be the brawl to end it all... amphibiously-speaking.

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There’s something to be said for not getting your hopes up. Or not jumping to conclusions. And yet, when I saw that Ubisoft was making a new Heroes of Might and Magic game for the DS, I got excited that they were making a hack-and-slash action game set in a Tolkien-esque world where men are men, women are women, and orcs are orcs.

Man, was I wrong. Instead, Might and Magic: Clash of Heroes — which Ubisoft is planning to release this August — is a strategic, puzzle-ish, role-playing game. This is not to say it’s going to be a bad strategic, puzzle-ish, role-playing game (or a good one for that matter), just that anyone hoping to button-mash some orcs better look elsewhere.

‘Might And Magic: Clash Of Heroes’ Preview ‘Might And Magic: Clash Of Heroes’ Preview

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C.O.P. The Recruit E3 09 Preview

When you consider that even Rockstar didn’t make Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars on the DS as a 3D open-world game, it seems ambitious almost to the point of foolish for someone else to try it. But undeterred (or uninformed), Ubisoft is going to try anyway with C.O.P. The Recruit, a very GTA-ish cop drama for the DS.

In the game, you play as a former street racer turned undercover cop. As a result, you not only drive really fast around the city you’re supposed to be covertly protecting, but you also occasionally have to race bad guys as well. In other words, the game isn’t just cribbing from GTA, but from Need for Speed as well.

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Call Of Juarez: Bound In Blood

At a recent Ubisoft press event held in Los Angeles, the company showed off a number of their upcoming titles, including the Wild West-themed first-person shooter Call of Juarez: Bound in Blood, which is a prequel to the suffix-less Call of Juarez released two years ago.

However, because there was no one present from Techland, the Polish developers who are making the game — probably because they were trying to finish the game in time for its announced June 30th release — we were somewhat left to our own devices to figure the game out. Well, our devices and our ability to email a PR person later for a fact sheet.

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Rabbids Go Home

At a press event they held last Summer in San Francisco, Ubisoft thanked every journalist who came with a set of action figures of the Rabbids from the recent Rayman games. And while we journos normally pretend not to care about such things, we (and I do mean “we”) were so happy with our new toys that within moments people were already posing them for pictures (and no, not the kind you’re thinking of, you pervert).

Given their popularity, and not just among game journalists, it seems odd that it’s taken this long for the Rabbids to shake Rayman and get their own outing, but that’s what they’re doing with this action-adventure game, Rabbids Go Home, which is due out on the Wii this October.

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Kojima's Castlevania, A Slap In The Face To Igarashi

As TheFeed's Brian Leahy noted in his excellent coverage of the Konami press conference, Kojima Productions is working on Castlevania: Lords of Shadow. Lots of people are thrilled that Kojima Productions has been tasked by Konami to make a new Castlevania game. I'm not one of those of people. Initially, the news pissed me off. Later that day, it made me sad. To me, it's a slap in the face to Koji Igarashi (a.k.a. IGA), longtime producer and director of the series.

Before I keep going, I have to disclose that I'm a huge IGA fan. Symphony of the Night was one of my favorite games for the original PlayStation. His Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS Castlevania games were fantastic. He's been very nice to me when I've met him and we've rocked a few karaoke rooms in Tokyo together. Having said that, I know that his PlayStation 2 games weren't very good. A lot of people think that IGA is just much better at 2D than 3D, but I don't think that's the case. I don't think he's ever gotten a proper budget for a 3D Castlevania title.

On paper, it's easy to see why Konami went with Kojima. The Castlevania franchise has been floundering on home consoles. Kojima is, by far, the best thing Konami has going. Getting his team to resuscitate a dying franchise makes sense. To me, it would have made more sense for Konami to give IGA a real shot (with a real budget) at making a next-gen Castlevania.

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Okay, so it's not super-serious hardcore E3 game news, but I think you should take a moment to enjoy the following video I found on the YouTubes, in which Italian-American protesters take Mario to task for his perpetration of sterotypes...over he'ah.

The audio is a tiny-bit not safe for work, be warned.

The Entertainment Software Association gave G4 an exclusive bit of information: the dates for next year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3)! You ready? Good. E3 2010 will take place from June 15 to 17 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

So book your flights, make your hotel reservations (pro tip: if you're at E3 2009, see if your hotel will let you book for 2010), and plan your wardrobes for the best video game expo in the world!

Tags: E3, E3 2009

Echochrono E3 2009 Preview: A Delightfully Challenging And Original Puzzler For PSP

My biggest surprise of E3 2009 (so far) was Echochrono (working title) for the PlayStation Portable. As I was checking out Sony's various offerings for my E3 2009 previews, I saw a sign for this game and thought I'd spend like three minutes checking it out before passing it off to a minion. I ended up playing for an hour (oops). A spin-off of Echochrome, this PSP puzzler uses simple concepts in a wonderfully brain-teasing way. The art is simple and cool, while the challenge can get pretty intense. The basic goal of the game is to get from one side of the room to the other. How you do that can get really complicated and after every level I cleared, I was left with a satisfying sense of reward.

In every level, you have a certain amount of "lives" and a certain amount of time. When you start a new turn, a ghost (think racing game) of your character performs the same actions as his previous turn, so everything you did in the past will happen as you play in the present. Impeding your progress are numerous switches and baddies. For example, let's say your path to the exit is cut off by three pieces of missing platforms, you have five lives, and 30 seconds per life. You would use your first guy to activate two nearby switches in the allotted time. Next, you would use your second life to hit the faraway switch. When you start your third turn, the ghosts from the previous two turns will leave you a clear path to the exit.


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Fat Princess PSP E3 2009 Preview: More Modes, More Levels, And Single Player

Fat Princess for PlayStation 3 is one of my most anticipated PlayStation Network games. With gameplay that reminds me of Team Fortress and graphics that remind me of Animal Crossing, it's a unique blend of action, teamwork, cute characters, and blood (cute, hilarious blood, that is). When I found out that it was heading to the PlayStation Portable (PSP) as well, I was intrigued. I checked out the game at Sony's E3 2009 booth and gathered some additional details for my preview of Fat Princess PSP.

The E3 preview build featured two levels from the PS3 version and two original levels. I got to play the original levels. The designs were similar, but didn't quite feel optimal for a multiplayer game (there's a reason for that). The gameplay was just like the excellent PS3 version I enjoyed back at GDC 2009. However, the PSP build was definitely rough around the edges. There was a lot of stuttering and clipping going on. Hopefully the developers will have those issues solved for this game's Fall 2009 release, because one of the things that makes the PS3 version work so well is that the action is smooth and seamless.

The game will have six original levels, in addition to the ones from the PS3 version. It will also have four new play modes. Up to eight players can participate in multiplayer sessions. Both ad-hoc and infrastructure modes will be supported.

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Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days E3 2009 Hands-On Preview

I'm a Kingdom Hearts mark. I fully admit it. The magical blend of Disney and Square Enix (particularly Tetsuya Nomura's art) totally works for me, no matter what platform it's on. With that in mind, you can understand why I was totally happy to play Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for Nintendo DS. Telling the tale of Roxas -- the Nobody that was created when Sora became a Heartless -- this game will appeal to KH fans that enjoy the series' simple gameplay, numerous cameos, and complex story. For my preview, I was able to spend some time with the game running on a DSi.

The first singleplayer level I played was set in Twilight Town. The level started off with Roxas and Axel (a member of Organization XIII) chatting. I got to control Roxas, with Axel providing support. The object was to get through a maze-like building and defeat a guardian (generic boss character). Navigating through levels in 358/2 Days is pretty easy, as a nifty corner map guides your way. As expected, numerous baddies pop up as you're making your way to your goal. This required the typical KH technique of bashing the hell out of everything in sight and sidestepping anything that might harm you (it's an advanced technique). I imagine this was one of the early levels, as it was a snap.

After the level ended, Axel shared some salt ice cream (which totally sounds gross) with Roxas, as they chatted about the latter's spotty memory. From what I understand, the two spend a lot of time on top of a clock in Twilight Town after a long day of killing Heartless. As the dialogue scrolled through the DSi , I could see the bond forming between the two characters. While all the Disney cameos in the game are awesome, I really enjoy the Kingdom Hearts mythos that Square Enix has built up over the years. I fully expect to enjoy this plot, which fills in a lot of gaps between KH1 and KH2.

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Dissidia: Final Fantasy E3 2009 Trailer »



Remember Ehrgeiz? I do. It's been a long, long time since Square Enix decided to take their Final Fantasy characters and throw them into an arena, but with this August's release of Dissidia: Final Fantasy, it's happening again. But whereas Ehrgeiz was a mix of characters from Final Fantasy VII (some of which may as well have been straight-up Tekken rip-offs) mixed with boring newcomers, Dissidia: Final Fantasy pulls the best good, bad, and unknown from old Final Fantasy games.

If you've ever wondered what Super Smash Bros. would be feel like in an open, 3D playing field, Dissidia: Final Fantasy has what you're looking for. Though the Dissidia: Final Fantasy team told me Nintendo's popular fighter wasn't an influence on their game -- though they do admit to being fans -- it only takes a round with Dissidia: Final Fantasy to feel the similarities, even if it wasn't intentional. Dissidia: Final Fantasy is fast, flashy, and highly encourages button-mashing.

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Uncharted 2: Among Thieves Sony E3 Press Conference »


On the second day of E3, I sat down with Naughty Dog CEO Evan Wells to briefly preview Uncharted 2: Among Thieves’ singleplayer mode. “We figured we’d let everyone get hands-on with multiplayer first, and it helps us preserve the story, since we don’t want to give away too much of the plot,” he told me. Bummer. After watching Wells’ live demo at the Sony press conference, there were few things I wanted to do more than jump into Nathan Drake’s weathered shoes and blast away at armed goons. In solitude.

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As Day 3 of E3 draws to a close, your cordial and well-manicured G4tv.com editorial staff would like to share with you some cool things we saw at the big show today. If we listed all the cool things we saw, this post would be thousands upon thousands of words. Or maybe just a bunch of pictures. If you missed it, here's Monday's report and Tuesday's report.

Andrew Pfister, Sr. Games Editor

New Super Mario Bros. Wii:  I think back to a few years ago when four of us sat in front of a giant television, Game Boy Advances and Link Cables in hand, and got it on, CONNECTIVITY STYLE with The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords. The amount of backstabbing, item ganking and friendly sabotage became legend -- and I'm getting the same vibe with NSMB on Wii. I just hope there's more encouragement for cooperative play, because being an S.O.B. is tiring work. Just ask Patrick, who swallowed me up using Yoshi and tried to spit me into the pit. Wall jump, jerk! (And two consecutive first place finishes. In case you forgot).

New Super Mario Bros. Wii Screenshot

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If I had to guess why Guitar Hero 5 wasn't playable in Activision's booth this year, and only briefly previewed to the press behind closed doors, my logical side would say that it's because this year's spotlight belongs to DJ Hero. My speculative side, if you're interested, might claim that they're politely conceding to the incredibly high-profile Beatlemania in the Rock Band camp. Paul, Ringo, and Yoko will do that to ya.

Regardless, the announcement, artist reveal, date reveal, feature reveal, and setlist reveal sequence of a Guitar Hero game is now an event as natural as the lunar cycle. At E3, as private as it was, we are now at the feature reveal stage. And as big of a Guitar Hero fan as I am ("I saw them play at the Red Octane back in '05, man, before they got big!"), I find myself balking slightly at the notion of a numbered sequel after I assumed last year's World Tour was Activision firmly establishing the franchise on the same footing as Rock Band -- de facto music game "platform."

Guitar Hero 5 Logo

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