After spending some time thinking about why there’s been an uptick in press activity talking about how pricing for Xbox LIVE Arcade games has been rising of late, something clicked. At first, I thought it was weird that people were talking about it now, given that it’s been a trend for well over a year now, as I posted here back in May of 2010. But then… it made sense to talk about how XBLA games are getting more expensive. Why?
Microsoft will be rolling out a new 1600 Microsoft Points cost level for XBLA games soon.
You could see it as soon as Microsoft‘s next Arcade promotion. At first, the new pricing level will be rolled out across a few hand-picked titles… but the new standard will spread and should be in wide use by Q3 2012, if not sooner. Publishers and developers will likely cite increased development costs as reasons for the increase– along with natural inflation– but it’s worth wondering when or if enough is enough for consumers. How far is the industry willing to push its limits before the market is priced out of caring about these games, in general, or is that even a fear at this point?
The 1200-point plateau has had its share of winners (Bastion, Shadow Complex), but there have been some stinkers (0 Day Attack on Earth) and unexplained pricing decisions (RayStorm HD) that tended to make the plateau a questionable one. There are still some games that buck the 1200-point asking price, like Ms. ‘Splosion Man for 800 points, but by and large most consumers expect new releases to sport the higher price tag. The expectation is that consumers will be conditioned to gradually accept the new price point, as well.
The problem with adopting this new price point will be for publishers and developers to prove the value of their games, especially when some new full retail titles can be purchased for the same amount of money. Games with this price point should and will be subject to tighter review standards and criticism. Expectations for graphics and sound, gameplay, and replay value all rise a little bit. This is why Microsoft will need to be selective with the games that are chosen and green-lighted to sport the new price tag. If games come out of the chute that don’t impress as much as they should, reaction to the increase will be negative and could adversely affect sales moving forward.
Even if consumer conditioning takes longer than desired, don’t expect this move to be reversed or for it to not happen. With the next generation of hardware on the horizon, games across the board will be more expensive in some way– whether it’s directly at retail for $70, sporting fewer features in lieu of DLC down the road, or perhaps even renewable licenses. The standard for downloadable games will undoubtedly move to $20 each. The industry’s path towards getting more revenue will continue unabated, and there’s plenty of confidence that consumers are far too invested to move on to another form of entertainment at this juncture. It might be a bit of a gamble, but revenue continues to be strong despite rising prices and fewer features for software.
I talked last week about something called an HD Tax, which is what I define as the extra $10 that Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 owners are paying for software versus what consumers paid for games a generation ago. This extra cost tends to accumulate over time, so if you average buying one new game per month, you wind up spending an additional $120 over this time five years ago. While some games have arguably “earned” the right to charge this premium, many others (take the recent disaster Iron Man 2, for example) don’t. While this tax/premium seemed like a more reasonable idea at the start of this console generation, times have also changed since then. Unemployment is hovering near 10% nationwide, the cost of living has increased, and disposable income is decreasing. This partially explains why some consumers look to buy used, as it’s money saved and still allows for the ability to play newer or recent games at a lower price point. I know that I’ve gone over this argument a few times here, but it’s a prelude to a related topic that’s at the center of today’s opinion.
Inexplicably, we’re seeing the average price of downloadable titles marching higher. Both of last week’s Xbox LIVE Arcade releases– Zeno Clash: Ultimate Edition and RayStorm HD– were priced at 1200 Microsoft Points, or $15. These examples are the most recent evidence that the $15 mark is the new standard for these games, after $10 (or 800 Microsoft Points) was the standard for a majority of the Xbox 360′s life span. In fact, in the platform’s infancy, there was a decent split between $5 retro/arcade titles and $10 original releases… but titles like Braid and Shadow Complex broke the previous $10 barrier and sold for $15. We’re not only seeing the new $15 price point become more prevalent, but we’re seeing that the quality of these apparent premium releases is arguable at best.
While I’ve not yet played Braid, reviews and impressions that I’ve read seem to indicate that the game is worthy of the premium price point. Shadow Complex was a fantastic game with decent length and options that certainly earned the $15 that I spent on it. Conversely, releases like 0 Day Attack on Earth, NBA Unrivaled, Invincible Tiger, and Fret Nice don’t come anywhere close to deserving a $15 premium. Other games in the $15 range, like RayStorm HD and Scrap Metal, are questionable at best. Of the 21 XBLA titles released so far in 2010, 9 of them are $15 titles– that’s 43%. Compare that with 24% of XBLA games released in 2009 (21 out of 91) that were more than $10, and you see a significant increase. Almost double, in fact.
The price point for RayStorm HD was quite unsettling to me, as the cosmetic changes are not all that drastic and that the new modes of play really don’t break any new ground. Considering that you can buy Taito Legends 2 for the PlayStation 2 for less than $10 new and that RayStorm is but one of 39 total games included on the disc… $15 is rather steep. Yes, it’s got Achievements and Leaderboards, but are the additions made to the original arcade version of RayStorm that significant? I don’t think so. 0 Day Attack on Earth is another example of fleecing; it’s short, repetitive, and relies on expensive paid DLC to extend the experience… and you’re still expected to pay $15 for the base game. Where’s the precedent here? Is it because the game uses satellite imagery of actual cities for background visuals? I certainly hope not. There’s just no rhyme or reason to what qualifies as a $15 game anymore. It used to be the exception, based on a variety of factors. Now it seems to be more of the norm, a 33% increase over what XBLA consumers have generally been accustomed to paying for quite some time now.
Speaking of paid DLC for XBLA games, it’s getting ridiculous. Square-Enix is getting a reputatiion for gutting content from their XBLA releases in order to resell that content as DLC shortly after launch. Many of these games are Taito offerings, like Bubble Bobble, Arkanoid, and Qix. This is not to say that paid DLC has not existed previously for XBLA games, but these examples are the most egregious ones. The base games may sell for $10, but the DLC is $5 or more in order to make the game complete. Capcom’s DLC releases for Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 are clear revenue builders and arguably should have been part of the original releases as space was never an issue. For publishers, these are great ideas… but unsuspecting consumers are getting fleeced, and there’s no end in sight to this trend.
I’ve always been a proponent of downloadable games for services like Xbox LIVE Arcade or the PlayStation Store. These can be impulse purchases and some of these games can really be impressive, like Battlefield 1943 or Shadow Complex. As prices begin to creep up to the $15 range, however, the danger exists that there will be less impulse and more caution on the part of consumers. Downloadable games are not refundable and you can’t trade them in or sell them, so you’re basically stuck with what you buy. Dropping $5 or even $10 impulsively on a game and walking away less than impressed stings a bit less than dropping $15 on a stinker like 0 Day Attack on Earth or NBA Unrivaled that you inevitably either wind up deleting or just forgetting about… and consumers won’t forget after they’ve been burned. If $15 is going to become the new standard, then the level of quality needs to be higher. Something has to give.
As prices go up, it becomes harder for me to be an impulse buyer. The same situation applies to the HD taxed disc-based games and to downloadable titles… in fact, it applies more strongly for downloadable games in my case. Unlike the price of gasoline breaking through psychological barriers like $3 and $4, $15 downloadable games aren’t necessities. I’ll simply learn to play what I have and wait for the right title to come and earn my $15. Killing off the impulse in consumers has the potential to hurt the market in the long run, but the industry will continue to be to self-centered to notice until it’s too late.
Tecmo Bowl Throwback is almost exactly what it sounds like. The game plays almost exactly like the popular Super Nintendo version of Tecmo Super Bowl and, despite the loss of the NFL and NFLPA licenses, it’s still as much fun to play today as it was back in the mid-1990s. It’s easy to pick up and play for players of any skill level, and simple controls make for less thinking and more action. There are a few issues here and there, and the game may resemble football as closely as some fans may like, but for 800 Microsoft Points (or $10), there’s a lot of fun to be had here.
If you’ve played Tecmo Bowl or Super Tecmo Bowl before, then you know exactly what you’re getting with Throwback. If not, it’s important to bear in mind that this isn’t a Madden clone. Tecmo Bowl has always been about arcade-style action first and simulation aspects second. The game uses only two buttons (and either the analog stick or the D-pad) and game quarters are only five (accelerated) minutes long. Each team has four running plays and four passing plays on offense; defensively, players try to guess what the play the offense is going to call by choosing it and defending against it. There are no hot routes, no audibles, no hit sticks, and no blocking schemes. Tecmo Bowl is football in a very simple sense. Purists may balk at some of the AI decision-making in solo play; the computer will sometimes call timeouts unnecessarily or players may run into defenders. If you pick certain teams, the game also becomes a bit of a cakewalk at times; my first Season game (playing as San Francisco) was a 51-7 decision despite my not having played Tecmo Bowl for years.
The most interesting feature of Tecmo Bowl Throwback is that it can be played two different ways. The 3D mode of play is new for the Xbox 360 and looks like a much cleaner version of the otherwise-poor Tecmo Super Bowl for the PlayStation. Players run smoothly and the framerate is consistent. There’s not a lot of detail for the players, but there wasn’t much detail in the original games, either. The 2D mode of play is the Super Nintendo version of the game exactly. The names and teams are different, but the visuals are the same. Throwback‘s play controls feel a bit different in each of these visual modes as well. The 2D game feels tighter and more responsive, while the 3D mode feels a bit slippery. Since you can switch between the two visual modes on the fly, you’re not tied down to one specific mode. The sound and music also differ between the 2D and 3D modes of play, as the 3D mode features new music tracks and slightly better sound effects. The 2D mode, as an emulation of the SNES game, keeps the same music and sound from Tecmo Super Bowl but the sound is less sharp. Some may believe that the visuals on the 2D side are lacking, and there can be some fluctuations in the framerate at times, but overall it’s the slightly better package.
Tecmo Bowl Throwback‘s single-player mode has options to play an Exhibition game, an All-Star game (similar to the Pro Bowl, with the best players in each conference playing on the same team, and a Season mode. The Season mode is the meat of the single-player experience as players pick a team and play through a full season, complete with playoffs, to try and become the Tecmo Bowl champion. Unlike the original NES Tecmo Bowl, progress is saved to the hard drive after each game, so you don’t have to write down passwords or try to play the whole season in one sitting. Season mode has some stat tracking, including team rankings and league leaders. Although the team names and players are missing, their stats and tendencies are present here– as long as you keep in the mind that the source material is pulled from 1993. San Francisco, for example, has a big-time passing attack with a quality quarterback and stellar wide receiver. We might know them as Young and Rice, but in Throwback, they’re Kirk and McGee. If you like human competition, Throwback has you covered with both local and online multiplayer options. Local multiplayer has a Season option so that you can battle it out for the championship with friends when they visit. I’ve had some trouble getting online games going so far, but both ranked and friendly games are available for play and leaderboards tout the best players for both solo seasons and online ranked play.
Until Nintendo and Tecmo work out a deal for a port of Tecmo Super Bowl on the Wii’s Virtual Console, Tecmo Bowl Throwback is a great way to relive the past and experience football in a different way. We’ve seen Madden games every year, but few football games since NFL Blitz have been geared towards more casual fans like Throwback is. $10 may be a little high for an update/re-release, but the game is feature-rich. Add online play (which really wasn’t available unless you had an XBAND modem) and Achievements to a still-addictive game and you’ve got a winner. Kudos to Tecmo for not trying to fix what wasn’t broken to begin with. Now if only they can erase bad memories of NBA Unrivaled and give us an update of Tecmo Super NBA Basketball or Bad News Baseball…
(Hey. A guy can wish, right?)
Flight combat games have been somewhat lacking during this console generation. Yes, we got Ace Combat 6 for the Xbox 360 and Tom Clancy’s H.A.W.X. for both the PlayStation 3 and the 360… but those have been the most notable in an otherwise unremarkable few titles that represent the genre.
Until now, that is.
Afterburner Climax is a conversion of a SEGA arcade game that loses almost nothing in its trip from the arcade to the home. There are no in-depth stories and no characters to identify with here; it’s you, your plane, and swarms of enemies out to shoot you down and sign those checks that your body can’t cash. The game itself is rather short and may seem limited, but unlockable medals and options and an ever-changing leaderboard add enough replay value to justify the $10 asking price. While fans of the classic SEGA arcade game (and SEGA Genesis sequel) likely won’t need any additional motivation to buy Climax, gamers that are new to the series will also have plenty to be impressed with here.
Unlike Ace Combat 6 or H.A.W.X., Afterburner Climax is purposely fast and extremely busy. Dogfighting isn’t the idea behind this game; it’s more of a rail shooter. That means that there are plenty of targets to take down including jets, choppers, SAMs, flak guns, and more. Most of the action comes at you, so you must be quick on the trigger in order to shoot the enemies down before they do the same to you. As you lock on to enemies, you can fire salvos of missiles to blast them from the skies or to incinerate ground targets. In addition, large groups of enemies can be locked onto at once by activating Climax Mode, which dramatically increases the missile lock reticle and can help to eliminate mass threats with extreme prejudice. This mode can only be used sparingly and must be recharged over time once it’s deployed. Defensively, having missiles fired directly at you means that deft maneuvering is required to avoid getting killed out there in the unfriendly skies. Virtual pilots have to ability to roll their craft (by moving either left or right and then steering hard in the opposite direction) and can speed up or slow down in brief bursts as needed. Some stages also demand precision steering to avoid collisions with the environment.
Afterburner Climax has multiple modes of play. Arcade Mode is exactly what it sounds like, as players attempt to clear all of the stages of the game just like in the arcade. This mode has limited continues, but the difficulty level can be tweaked to suit the player’s level of experience. As progress is made in the Arcade Mode, special customization options open up. These EX Options become unlocked as various milestones are established; for example, getting the Game Over screen enough times allows you to set the number of continues– or available credits– higher. Other EX Options include the ability to have your machine guns fire automatically and for your craft to travel at its fastest rate of speed at all times. Unlocking and then adjusting these options can make the Arcade Mode an entirely different experience than when you first play it, and the game’s branching pathways make for a unique experience for the first few playthroughs.
These EX Options, however, have no bearing on the other mode of play in Afterburner Climax: the Score Attack Mode. Score Attack has a preset difficulty and unlimited lives, so unless you give up, you will beat the game every time. Beating the game isn’t the goal of Score Attack, though. It’s all about getting the highest score possible and earning bragging rights via the worldwide leaderboard. Although there are infinite lives here, Score Attack is far from easy. Extra objectives, known as Emergency Orders, must be completed to earn the highest scores, and these are not easy at all to achieve. One such mission has you trying to shoot down a speedy enemy prototype plane before it escapes, while another requires you to shoot down a fleeing stealth bomber using nothing but your guns. Figuring out which of the branching pathways can lead to higher scores is also a key element in charting well, meaning that a few runs in Score Attack are necessary to achieve the best results. Depending on how you fare, different medals can be won and added to your collection. This criteria includes how well you are graded afer each stage, how many enemies are shot down, how much you use Climax Mode, and so on.
Visually, Afterburner Climax is quite impressive– especially for a downloadable title. The game’s framerate is a solid 60 frames per second, and that’s in spite of multiple planes, missiles, and various particle effects that are all on-screen at the same time. Driving rainstorms, volcanic areas, enemy bases, and nighttime skies over a bustling city are just a few of the theaters of operation that you’ll be flying in.The explosions are violently beautiful to behold, and details such as missile trails and damaged planes are easy to miss while playing but will catch the eye of even the most casual observer. In the sound department, pilot chatter and the concussive sounds of explosions and ammunition are accompanied by one of two soundtracks which includes a remix of the Afterburner II OST.
There’s a lot to like about Afterburner Climax. It is the arcade game, minus the interactive cabinet with moving parts. Playing through the game is a thrill ride, and setting new high scores in Score Attack is a notable accomplishment. The game also has a fair number of Achievements / Trophies to unlock, and range from easy (such as pulling off your first roll) to hard (ranking AAA in Arcade Mode). Don’t be deceived by the relatively short length of the game during a playthrough; it’s repeated play and improving skills that unlock some of the game’s cooler features and customizations, and that leads to even more replay value. Following hot on the heels of Capcom’s Final Fight: Double Impact offering, Afterburner Climax successfully brings the arcade home once again, with no quarters or tokens required other than the $10 cover charge.
Final Fight and Magic Sword are two classic coin-ops in Capcom’s library. Final Fight is one of the most well-known side-scrolling beat-’em-ups, while Magic Sword is a lesser-known side-scrolling action game with a fantasy tilt to it. Both games are now available to gamers with quarters not required in one package, called Final Fight: Double Impact. Double Impact will run you $10, which isn’t bad for two arcade games; in fact, $5 apiece has generally been the going rate for coin-op conversions, aside from the $3 asking cost for games within Microsoft’s Game Room application. As with most coin-op conversions, judging the value of games like these revolves around how well they hold up today, how faithful they are to the original coin-ops, and whether there are significant extras to keep generating interest.
Final Fight is the headliner here, and it’s the better of the two games in Double Impact. It remains as fun to play today as it was 20 years ago. Pounding seemingly endless streams of enemies into submission is easy to accomplish, thanks to the game’s simple two-button control scheme. Guy, Cody, and Haggar each sport their own attacks and Street Fighter Alpha fans will recognize Rolento and Sodom in this game, as both appear as bosses here. It’s easy to pick up and play Final Fight, even if you’ve somehow never had a chance to experience it. There are times when enemies can be overwhelming, or even cheap, but when you recall that arcade games were meant to keep players pumping in quarters or tokens to keep playing, it’s easier to understand why this is. Capcom and development team Proper Games have added a series of in-game achievements in order to extend Final Fight‘s replay value. Nailing down these achievements unlocks certain types of extra media, from Street Fighter fan art and game concept artwork to music tracks to videos. It’s not unlike what Capcom did with their two Classic Collection titles, although there are more achievements to shoot for here, covering criteria like time spent, lives lost, and high scores. Proper Games also added several different visual options, including HD visuals or the choice to render the original graphics from the coin-op. A new remixed soundtrack is also available to accompany players on their butt-kicking adventures, although I really wasn’t impressed with it and quickly went back to the original music.
Magic Sword isn’t as well-known as Final Fight, and the game clearly takes a back seat to Final Fight in Double Impact as well. Perhaps the game’s biggest asset is its fantasy setting as mages, dragons, and other mystical creatures are the opposition here as you attempt to scale all of the floors in Drokmar‘s tower to ultimately defeat him. Players use keys to unlock doors (which sounds a lot like Gauntlet) and unlock allies, find treasure, and ascend floors. Boss battles await on each floor, and either allies or a second player are usually keys to success. Magic Sword is not a bad game, but the decision to package it with Final Fight is a curious one; Knights of the Round was a more similar game to Final Fight and also was set in a fantasy world, plus the game had an RPG feel to it for player advancement. Interestingly enough, the number of in-game achievements for Magic Sword is less than the amount seen for Final Fight. In fact, the Xbox LIVE Achievements and PSN Trophies are skewed more towards Final Fight, as well. Magic Sword does, however, have the same kind of music and graphics customization options as Final Fight, so you can create your own experience.
One feature of both games is online co-op play. Much like being in an arcade, a stranger can jump into your game at any time to help you out. There is an option to turn this off, but having a pool of potential players to help you through potentially tough game situations is never a bad thing. Co-op play makes both games a bit easier, plus there are both in-game and network achievements that can only be earned by playing co-op games. While I personally have yet to play online, the general consensus has been that it’s a lag-free experience.
If you’re a fan of both Final Fight and Magic Sword, then Final Fight: Double Impact is a winner. Both games are faithful emulations, both games sport achievements and online play to boost replay value, and both games have various customization options that can either recreate the arcade experience or can make them more acceptable by current-day standards. The potential difficulty in recommending Double Impact comes if there are mixed feelings about Magic Sword. It’s certainly not my favorite game, and fewer achievements and unlockables doesn’t help to generate interest… but it’s still worth some playing time at least. Both games do suffer from being currently available elsewhere as copies of both volumes of the Capcom Classics Collection for the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox are still relatively easy to find and offer more games to play for a slightly higher price tag. As these are both arcade games, there may not really be a lot of impetus to double-dip aside from the new achievements and online co-op play.
For a mere $10, though, you’re getting one of the best beat-’em-ups of all time and a fun fantasy-base action side-scroller… and Double Impact gets my recommendation. Save Jessica from the Mad Gear Gang, defeat Drokmar, and get a double dose of what we used to play in arcades twenty years ago.
Once again, I am seriously considering a decision as to whether I should part ways with my PlayStation 3 console.
Earlier in the year, I’d considered doing so in order to help make the purchase on an Xbox 360 more affordable… but my tax return was more than I expected and I’d decided that I wanted to keep the PS3 for music games, like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, since I’d spent so much money in DLC for those IPs. I’d also taken into consideration the fact that the PS3 is an excellent Blu-Ray player– so, even if I didn’t use the PS3 for games, it would be a great movie player.
Now that I’ve had time with my 360, however, the PS3 has seen little playing time. The 360′s Gamerscore/Achievement system extends to every game on the console, whereas the PS3′s Trophy system is a me-too addition and doesn’t come into play on many of the PS3′s games. There’s also a noticeable lack of required game installations on the 360, although some games do run better after being installed. The PS3 has an increasing amount of software that requires some installation to the hard drive, which also requires an extended wait time before being able to play a game for the first time and also eventually takes a toll on the free space on the hard drive… in fact, it tends to resemble the storage space situation on the Wii where you have to “clean your fridge” and determine what games you want to be playing.
Multiplatform game purchases now are automatic 360 purchases, despite my relative dislike of the 360 controller’s D-pad. I just recently picked up Street Fighter IV and Soul Calibur IV for the 360, so we’ll see how those games handle. All of these games add to Gamerscore and I have a larger pool of potential online opponents to play against, should I decide to do so. Games like Grand Theft Auto IV and Fallout 3 have 360-exclusive DLC, which adds replayability and depth to these experiences… while the PS3 versions of these games don’t really offer any advantages.
I’m really down to PS3 exclusives now. So far, this has had no bearing on my PS3 time. I have MLB 09: The Show, but am more content playing MLB 2K7. Metal Gear Solid 4 is awaiting a possible replay, but it’s a shame that Konami isn’t entertaining a patch for Trophy support to give me some impetus. Uncharted 2 is on the horizon, but the addition of multiplayer and co-op has tempered my enthusiasm somewhat. inFamous isn’t really on my radar, nor is MAG.
There are more questions.
Do I want or need another console other than the 360? I don’t know. My free time is more limited during the warmer months, and I seem to be getting my fill of console gaming goodness from Microsoft’s box at the moment. In addition to the 360, I still have plenty of last-gen options with the PlayStation 2 and Xbox… should I decide to change things up. (I just recently picked up both Katamari games for the PS2.) The other end of this question would be that I might have a more difficult time getting back into writing should I drop down to one console. More sites seem to need PS3-based writers than 360 writers.
What about the money spent on PSN downloads? This question is still a big one. Like XBLA, I have over 50 PSN games that I’ve purchased since I bought the machine a little over a year ago. There is a notable expansion to PAIN– one of my self-admitted guilty pleasures– coming in couple of weeks. There have been recent expansions to Magic Ball and Mahjong Tales. Then there are the music downloads, which I would have to rebuy for the 360.
It’s a tough decision once again. I’m really torn this time.
I’ll be sure to let you know what happens.
It would seem that I have a problem, and the first step to recovery is admitting to the possibility of a problem. So… here goes:
I am addicted to Xbox Live Arcade.
There. I said it. It feels pretty good to get it out in the open.
I’ve known that things have been a bit off since I’ve noticed my disc-based games just sitting on my shelf, collecting a thin layer of dust. I still do play one every now and again, but I always seem to go back to my collection of XBLA games. I try to rationalize this by telling myself that playing XBLA games means less wear and tear on my 360, therefore hopefully getting it to last awhile before the inevitable hardware failure that plagues most 360 consoles. Sometimes I tell myself that I’m just going to sit for a quick gaming session before or after work and don’t really have time for a full-on disc-based game.
The real reason is coming to the forefront, though: I’m simply having a blast playing these games. My collection consists of a ton of coin-op conversions for XBLA, ranging from Track & Field to Gyruss to Smash TV. Since I did a majority of my growing up in arcades, XBLA has given me a convenient chance to relive my younger days, without the need for tokens or the worry of when the arcade will close. I no longer have to spend $3 in tokens to beat Smash TV– I can do it in one sitting, for no money after initially paying $5 for the download. I can play a full game of Cyberball 2072 and perhaps unlock an Achievement here or there. The list goes on and on. Even some of Stainless Games’ “evolved” versions of Atari coin-ops, like Missile Command, Centipede, and Battlezone, are fun to play.
It’s not just coin-ops, though, that make XBLA great.
For the retro fan in me, being able to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and unlock Achievements has been fun. I’ve been able to play Ikaruga for the first time (since I missed out on it for the Gamecube) and I have been able to rediscover Rez and Doom. Trigger Heart Exelica is a new experience for me. On the more casual side of the fence, I’ve enjoyed games like Zuma, Peggle, TiQal, and others. XBLA-exclusive offerings like the Assault Heroes games, Arkadian Warriors (laugh if you want… I like this game), and Boom Boom Rocket have been pleasant surprises.
Achievements have also been a big reason why XBLA– and my general Xbox 360 experience– has been so rewarding. Granted, Gamerscore doesn’t really count for anything outside of bragging rights… but Achievements give you certain goals to shoot for and can be mile markers that signify your progress in certain games. Scoring a hat trick (3 goals in one game) in NHL 2K9 unlocks an Achievement, and that just adds to the satisfaction of accomplishing such a feat. Achievements and Gamerscore have also been around since the Xbox 360 launched; the same thing cannot be said of the PlayStation 3, and that’s been one of my personal gripes regarding that platform… but I won’t get into that here.
I have nearly 30 disc-based games sitting and waiting for their time in my 360. I have RPGs that I want to play (Lost Odyssey and Blue Dragon are at the forefront), I have FPS games like Call of Duty: World at War and Halo 3 that I can play with friends, I have several racing games to put through their paces, and more– but I’m simply having too much fun playing Family Game Night, Peggle, or Paperboy. Ignoring games that I paid more money for just to play quick rounds on XBLA seems almost like a skewed sense of priorities, but it’s also the fact that XBLA is really close to the perfect storm of content, variety, and quick accessibility that is just too tempting to put aside… and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Having just celebrated my 37th birthday this past week, I feel invigorated.
My personal priorities have been a lot different lately, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve been playing games a lot more and writing a lot less. I haven’t been as reactive to news or posting as many impressions as I have in the past, but with limited free time, I’ve made the decision in recent weeks to enjoy the extended honeymoon period that I’ve been enjoying with the Xbox 360. I certainly have a lot of things that I could say, but I’m certainly not going to be able to make up for the time that I’ve been away from this blog in one mere entry.
Instead, I’m going to touch on a few key topics. It’s going to read a lot like prior Randominity entries that I’ve posted in the past, but I’m going to try not to overwhelm you with too much.
Okay… here goes:
- The PS3 is dead to me. This is perhaps an expected by-product of spending so much time with the Xbox 360 for the last couple of months, by I’m really running out of reasons to turn my PlayStation 3 on. The biggest blow came when GameStop’s Game Days sale got me two wired Xplorer guitars (and, unfortunately, two copies of Guitar Hero: Aerosmith) for $20. Since then, I’ve sold off my PS3 Guitar Hero games and have bought them for the 360 instead. Music games had really been one major reason why I’d been holding onto the PS3, since I’d spent so much money on instruments and DLC; however, the DLC is Rock Band-based, so the Guitar Hero games became expendable. Quite literally, I am now down to three disc-based PS3 games: Metal Gear Solid 4, Rock Band 2, and MLB 09: The Show. The upcoming Uncharted sequel may be an addition if I can succumb to the urges to sell off the PS3 hardware, but fighting those urges is becoming harder all the time.
- Xbox Live Arcade owns my soul. It’s apparently a good thing that I ponied up the cash to buy a 360 Elite, because I’ve sunk a ton of cash– errrr… Microsoft Points– into Xbox Live Arcade games. It’s a pretty impressive list of XBLA games that I’ve managed to collect since mid-February. I’ve bought most of the coin-op conversions that XBLA offers (which, apparently, nobody else plays online), as well as a few choice non-arcade games. I bought what amounts to my third copy of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. I waited up until early morning on several occasions to be one of the first to buy Peggle, Puzzle Quest Galactrix, and Outrun Online Arcade. I bought Rez HD and Ikaruga. All told, my collection numbers over 50 XBLA games alone… in fact, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to play my collection of disc-based games because XBLA games are addictive and time-consuming. (Such as Zuma, to which Little Miss Gamer can attest.)
- 2K Sports is embarrassing baseball. I dunno… call it impulse, call it cruel curiosity, or call it blatent stupidity… but I bought MLB 2K9 as a birthday present to myself this week for the Xbox 360. Now, I’ve seen the footage (summarized in this hilarious YouTube clip– watch for language at 0:32) before, but I really wanted to have a current baseball game for the 360 and was interested in the new presentation with Gary Thorne and Steve Phillips in the play-by-play and color commentary slots. I knew that MLB 2K9 wasn’t going to be anywhere near MLB 09: The Show in terms of quality, but how hard can it be to put together a playable game of baseball? Apparently, 2K Sports and its myriad of developers consider it an impossibility because we haven’t seen a decent baseball game come from 2K in years. 2K9 is awful. Fielders aren’t responsive, the new pitching engine feels inaccurate and random, baserunning isn’t intuitive, and the pace of the game is incredibly slow. This one’s trade bait already, less than four days after purchase. I learned my lesson… until 2K’s exclusivity with MLB is up, the Sony’s MLB: The Show series is the only way to play a decent baseball game– and it’s only on the PS3.
- Music games are the new Madden. I’ll admit that I’m having a good time with Guitar Hero: Metallica. I’m not a fan of a lot of the non-Metallica tracks, but the game is solid fan service for Metallifreaks and I’d easily rather play this game instead of the disappointment that is Guitar Hero: World Tour any day. That being said, if you look at what’s on the horizon, it’s easy to see that the Guitar Hero franchise is getting milked like a cow by Activision. Case in point: Guitar Hero: Van Halen. If this arrives in July– mere weeks after Guitar Hero: Smash Hits arrives– you’re looking at 5 games in the franchise within a year. FIVE. It’s the same thing every time, too. Sure, the music tracks are different, but it’s essentially the same game that we’ve been playing for years now. I’m OK with maybe one new game per year, but why charge $60 for a bunch of new tracks when you could allow users to pick and choose via PSN or XBL a la carte? Slow down, Activision. Please.
I could go on, but the sun’s coming up, so I need rest. I will try to update a bit more frequently as I’m searching for a balance between gaming and writing. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other in the last 6 months, so I’m hoping to work my way back towards the middle so that I can do both of the things that I enjoy so much.
After some debate and some input from online friends and colleagues, I am now the proud owner of a new Xbox 360 Elite. I’m registered with Xbox Live and have a Gold account, and managed to get some games and Xbox Live Arcade games yesterday to start my new library with. It’s a truly exciting time– as it is whenever I add a console to my collection– but the road to get here was an uncertain one.
When I decided that I was going to go with the 360, it became a challenge finding Elite models in stores around here. Anywhere. Store after store informed me that they were out, but expecting more. At that point, I was having second thoughts; after all, dropping $400+ at one time is a scary proposition– especially in these tough times. Was I making the right move? Isn’t the PlayStation 3 enough? I then hit a Target store, and they had one Elite unit left– and I quickly snagged it… along with a 3-year Service Plan.
I raced home to set it up. It didn’t take long, and I registered on Xbox Live. Unfortunately, my traditional tag, GameGuyPete was taken… so I selected GameGuyPeter. I didn’t have time to set up my New Xbox Experience avatar since I had some other pressing errands to complete (like wrapping up some last moving-related tasks)… but that would come later. I attempted to rush through the moving bits (and kinda wrenched my back in the process as I’m feeling it today), then took a trip down to GameStop to get some Xbox 360 games.
When I made the decision to get the 360, I knew that most of my multiplatform game selections would be for the 360… with some exceptions. Street Fighter IV will probably handle better for me with the less-troublesome Dual Shock D-Pad. I decided to pick up Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for PS3 because of the same reason. I’m also keeping my music games on the PS3 since I’ve already invested so much money on instruments and DLC on the PS3. So… the PS3 will now basically be used for PS3 exclusives (MGS4, Uncharted 2), certain multiplatform releases (Street Fighter IV), music games, and downloadable games from the PlayStation Store (such as Flower, which was surprisingly awesome).
That being said, I armed myself many of my multiplatform PS3 games in my library for trade-ins, since my available cash was dropped on the Xbox 360 console, Xbox Live, and a decent Micrsoft Points package. Here’s a list of what the GameStop trip netted:
- Blue Dragon (I have to at least try this.)
- The Club (I liked this game on the PS3, but the idea of replaying for achivements sold me again.)
- Dead Rising (I played this for a bit upon it’s release, but not since.)
- F.E.A.R. 2 (I haven’t opened this yet… I’m having a bit of buyer’s remorse at the moment)
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance / Forza 2 set ($10 for 2 games? OK.)
- Mass Effect (Now I get to see what the big deal was. Late, but whatever.)
- Namco Museum Virtual Arcade (I’m a sucker for retro complilations.)
- Perfect Dark Zero ($8 for this used. I know opinions are mixed, but it’s worth a shot.)
- Scene It! (The first game, not the add-on. Yet.)
- Sega Superstars Tennis / XBLA Compliation (Another cheap buy, more for the XBLA, but the tennis isn’t terrible.)
Now, here are the XBLA games that I either spent points on or can play via compilation discs:
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- Poker Smash
- Track & Field
- TMNT Arcade
- Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2
- Streets of Rage 2
- Pac-Man Championship Edition
- Galaga Legions
- Mr. Driller Online
- Ms. Pac-Man
- New Rally-X
- Boom Boom Rocket
- Feeding Frenzy
- Luxor 2
- Hexic HD
So… that’s where I stand. I have already begun to feel a bit uneasy about the hardware, though… the console is LOUD when playing disc-based games, to the point that I have to adjust my TV volume to hear better. I’m hoping that it’s a normal thing, although the PS3 doesn’t run anywhere near as noisy. Aside from that, things are fine. I’ve already unlocked several achievements and have been having an absolute blast with the system. My thanks go to everyone who assisted my with this decision, from an advice standpoint.
I hope to see many of you online… and I’ll certainly take suggestions for new games to be added; I may not be able to get them right away, but I’ll let you know when I do. Again, the XBL Gamertag is GameGuyPeter.
Have a great Valentine’s weekend, everyone!