August 09, 2006
by: Will Ruzicka
HANDS-ON: Plus other upcoming game impressions too!
San Diego Comic Con is one of the biggest comic book conventions in North America, if not THE biggest. It has actually grown so large that its broken out of being JUST a Comic Book convention and now reaches all forms of entertainment, movies, music, anime, manga, and video games. For people who canít get into shows like E3, Comic Con is the one place where some people, like myself, go to get a taste of some of the upcoming titles.
This year, I felt Capcom had one of the strongest booths at Comic Con that was dedicated to upcoming video games, and I had a chance to sample some of the titles Iím most eagerly anticipating. While some other titles such as Okami, God Hand, and Lost Planet were there, the crowds around them were so massive that I didnít have a chance to give them a try. As for the games I did play, the first one up was Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All. This game always seemed to have someone playing it, except for the last day of the convention; but I think the reason no one was playing it then was because the corner it was in smelled like vomit, and I seriously think that was the only reason I was able to play it.
The demo starts out with Phoenix having a nightmare in which he is obviously doubting himself and his abilities, perhaps because every case he hass won in the previous game has either been because of strange flukes or last minute slip-ups on the witness stand. In the dream, the judge looms over him menacingly and questions his ability. I find it strange that Phoenix would be afraid of this guy, even subconsciously, seeing as how as the last game progressed, he seemed to get more and more brain dead. Phoenix awakes from his dream in one of the courtroom lobbies just before going in to trial, and then some mystery-man comes up from behind and whacks him in the head with a fire extinguisher. When he finally come to, thereís a young police woman standing in front of him, thanking him for supporting her, and cheering him on. Phoenix however, like the player, has no idea who this woman is. In fact, Phoenix doesnít even remember his own name! It was actually kind of fun rushing in to the courtroom not knowing anything about the case or what was going on, but unfortunately, as I was getting into the trial, the smell of the vomit was really starting to bother me. But I left the game very much assured that I was going to be buying this as soon as it is available. I mean, honestly, if you loved the first game, like I did, then youíre going to love the new one. The touch screen and voice controls from the first DS game are all there, everything is familiar and easy to pick up and get in to. This game is apparently a re-release of older Gameboy Advance software that was only available in Japan, much like chapters 1-4 of the original, so it doesnít make full use of the touch screen like case 5 did in the original Phoenix Wright.
The crowds in front of some of the games kept me from getting my hands on them, and I didnít bother with things like Street Fighter or Puzzle Fighter, because I own those and could tell you anything you needed to know about them without having played them on the Convention floor. I was, however, able to grab some of the handheld games; Ultimate Ghouls and Ghosts for the PSP was on at least two or three screens, and I was able to get to the front of the lines for this one on the last day of the convention. I had heard that they intended to retain some of the difficulty of the original games and I can testify to that. This was only the demo game, and it was brutal. I died so many times; I was swearing at the machine and teaching small children new words. As horribly difficult as it is, it IS fun to play, and itís also encouraging to see some developers are still making games that kick our asses.
I also had a chance to play Megaman ZX for the DS. As a fan of the Megaman Zero games, I was very much interested in trying out this game. I didnít play from the beginning of the demo, but instead took over for someone who was having a hard time with it. I was playing as the boyÖ or the girl. Itís hard to say based on the little sprites and the fact that they look so similar, but I had access to three ďmetals,Ē Zero, Harpuia, and Fefnir. The Zero armor played just like I expected with the Z-Saber and everything. Fefnir had some strange left arm and right arm technique that I never quite got the hang of using, or really understanding what the use of it was. Harpuia seemed to have the ability to hover, but I never came across any obstacles that warranted its use. Basically, I played enough of the game to assure myself that I was going to enjoy owning this game and if you enjoyed playing the Megaman Zero games for the Gameboy Advance, then youíll probably like this new series. Unless, of course youíre one of those people that argues with all of your friends about how Capcom keeps ruining the continuity of the storyline in the games, in which case you might hate this game for reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not the game is fun to play.
The second best spot for games at Comic Con, in my opinion was Nintendoís lounge. They had some Touch Generation titles like Tetris DS and Nintendogs, and they had some other stations with gems like Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin, Final Fantasy III, Mario Basketball 3 on 3 and many others. Being that I had a very busy schedule at this convention I was only able to sit down this those three games. The basketball title was surprisingly fun. I thought I was going to hate it, but the play mechanics were incredible. You move around the court using the D-Pad, dribble the ball by tapping the stylus, pass left or right by dragging the stylus in the direction you want to pass and releasing, or shooting the ball by sliding up. When the opponent has the ball, sliding down with the stylus causes your character to attempt to steal the ball. I played the game against a very small child, probably about 5 or 6 years old, and noticed he already knew some special moves, which I assumed were done by drawing special patters on the touch screen. Even with my handicap though, I was able to totally overpower him and win the game by a mere 5 points. It was my proudest moment.
Next up was Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. Iím a huge Castlevania fan, especially the newer ďMetroid-vaniaĒ style of games. This time around you play as a witch with swords and fire magic or a woman with a whip and some sort of axe weapon. At least, I think it was a woman with a whip. Iíve since seen some artwork that makes me think the whip wielding character is actually a man. Itís strange that with the new generic anime looking art I have trouble telling which characters are male and female, but I could tell Richter and Alucard were guys while looking at the art for Symphony of the Night. Anyway, back to the game demo, there were lots of power up items scattered in easily reached areas and I assume in the final game youíll be provided a more varied selection of weapons to use. The graphics on this game are nothing short of gorgeous. Some of the best handheld 2D sprite work Iíve seen. The play is classic Castlevania. My only complaint with the demo is that it was far too short.
Finally, I sat down with the Final Fantasy III remake, which announces before the demo that this is a beta copy and some problems may arise. My play through was flawless, but some people complained about freezes. Iím not too concerned about those glitches, because it stated up front this is only a beta, and Iím sure everything will be hammered out before itís shipped. In additional to the graphical face lift, youíre also provided the option of playing the game using the touch screen, but I found that to be a little gimmicky and frustrating. Touching the right command was not nearly as easy as simply tapping down a couple times and then hitting the A button. The demo doesnít give you too much insight into the story, and Iím actually hoping there is more to the plot than what seemed to be presented in the demo. Iíve actually already reserved a copy of Final Fantasy III, and Iím looking forward to playing it. After the convention though, Iím thinking Iíve got a few more games Iím going to need to reserve, namely Castlevania, Rockman ZX, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All and probably most surprisingly for me, Mario 3 on 3 Basketball.