Monday, September 24, 2007

Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation

The next robot game I want to recommend to all robot fans is Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation for the Gameboy Advanced (reviews). One of many games in the long-running Super Robot Wars series, Original Generations and its sequel, Original Generations 2, are the only Super Robot games to make their way to the United States.

The game is a strategy turn-based role-playing game. During your turn, you move your robot units around the map, then choose actions from a menu to attack your enemies or activate special powers (such as dodge the next attack, or increase the chances of hitting your next target). Unlike action games, this game doesn't require fast reflexes at all, so it can be a great game for people who prefer the more methodical pace of strategy games like chess. For example, an enemy that has highly powerful but inaccurate attacks would prefer you stand right next to him in order for him to blast you, so your counter-tactic would be to keep your distance away from him and pelt him with long range and accurate attacks.

As with most role-playing games, character dialogue and plot development are key features of Original Generation. The story begins with two warring factions on Earth, the Earth Federation and the Neo Divine Crusaders. Meanwhile, an alien menace is expected to invade Earth at any moment. It's up to your command skills to end the Earth civil war and defend Earth from the aliens!

Original Generation has over 30 characters, each with their own unique personality, motivations, and back story. Like an action-packed soap opera (or "space opera" as some call it), characters betray one another, fall in love, and get revenge over past injustices ("Archibald Grim, you killed my sister-in-law! I will have my revenge!"). It's all pretty fun stuff, although the huge cast can make it very hard to keep track of all the different story arcs.

Where the game really shines is in its art style, animation and music. Whenever you launch an attack, or are attacked by an enemy, the game presents you with a highly stylized 2D animation of the combat. You can check out an example in the Youtube video I embedded above this post. Each one of your characters also has catchy and energetic theme music whenever they battle. As you defeat enemies, you gain money and experience points, which you can then use to upgrade your pilots, robots, and weapons with.

Super Robot Taisen: Original Generation is a game that all robot fans need to try. Even though I'm not a fan of turn-based games, nor RPG games, Super Robot is such a great homage to all things robot that it was impossible for me to resist. The game has humor, drama, action, great music, and art. Plus, with around 40 missions (each taking between 30-60 minutes to complete!), the game has an incredible amount of play value in it. Check it out :)

Oh, and if you play the game and really get into it, check out these model kits for the robots of the game. That's right.. the game has its own toy line o_O

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cool robot games: Gundam SEED

Seeing how my blog's title is now ROBOT ATTACK!!, I thought I'd dedicate a post or two to robots and cool games in which they do their robotic work!

Michael Bay's Transformers film broke a box-office record this summer. Spider-man actor Tobey Maguire and Warner Brothers Studios recently announced they've begun work on a Robotech film, where transformable giant robots defend the planet from an alien menace. Robert Downey, Jr. stars in the film Iron Man, opening in 2008, where the hero flies around in a robot suit with laser cannon hands (always convenient to have). And FOX will be airing the Sarah Connor Chronicles this fall, a show set in the Terminator universe. Robots seem to be everywhere these days!

And there's been no shortage of video games featuring robots. But what are the best robot games that have come out in recent years, you ponder? Well, ponder no more!

Kidou Senshi Gundam SEED: Rengou vs ZAFT

In this arcade game port for the Playstation 2, 1-2 players can play through the battles of the hit animated show, Gundam SEED. You can choose from over 30 "Mobile Suits" (giant robots) to pilot, each that has its own unique look, special attacks, strengths and weaknesses. The presentation is great, with the graphics, sound effects, and music all top-notch stuff. The audio is almost all borrowed from the TV show, including the rock, pop, and orchestral music tracks.

The gameplay is easy to pick up, and even the most inexperienced of video game players can hop right in and have fun with the game. As each game mission begins, you and your teammate (human or AI controlled) take on 2-4 enemy Mobile Suits in a simple battle area. There's no need to manually aim your robot's guns at enemies like in some other games, as your Mobile Suit automatically locks on and tracks a single enemy for you. Just press the Fire button and your laser beam will fly out towards the enemy. Simple and fun, at least on the easier difficulty settings. Where the game's challenge comes from, especially on the harder difficulties or against human opponents, is knowing how to maneuver your Mobile Suit, and when to shoot. A quick double-tap of the directional pad will let you dodge an attack, and because your laser attacks take a few moments to reach their target, it's important to judge when your shot is most likely to hit.

Story-wise, the game is very bare bones. If you haven't seen the show, you'll have no idea who the characters are, or what each battle is about. So don't expect well-crafted cutscenes here. It's a pure action game.

The game is unavailable in the US, but can be bought from import game sites. Although nearly all of the text and menu options are in Japanese, you don't need to know any Japanese to fully enjoy the game.

With fun and simple game play, and great production values, Gundam SEED: Rengou vs ZAFT is one of the best robot games of recent years. Any fan of robots or competitive action video games should definitely check this game out.

In a later post, I'll go over the Gameboy Advanced game, Super Robot Taisen: Original Generations. Until then, you can check out this Youtube video of the the Gundam SEED game in action.

Friday, September 14, 2007

New name and banner

Changed my blog's name to Robot Attack, and added a banner. What do you think? Cool, ya? :)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Your favorite game system stinks!

If you follow video game news or discussion sites, you know there's a "console war" going on right now, with millions of fanboys flaming owners of competing systems while praising the system they personally own as some kind of machine god. This post is an attempt to show that each of these systems have horrible, horrible flaws.

I own all three of the current generation of console game systems, have played each of them extensively, and I think I'm well qualified to say the following: ALL OF THE GAME SYSTEMS STINK! Here's why.

1. Xbox 360

One of the biggest blunders in console manufacturing history, the 360 has a massive failure rate. The estimated number of 360s that have broken or will break is between 30-50% of ALL the 360s sold. And even when it's not broken, a large number of 360s run at an incredibly loud volume due to a flawed DVD-ROM drive. I have to hide my 360 behind a cabinet in order to keep its noise from distracting me.

Recently, Microsoft announced it would fork over nearly $2 billion dollars (BILLION!) to extend the warranty on the 360 to 3 years. This was after more than a year of deceptive press statements from Microsoft execs saying that the 360's failure rate was marginal and nothing to get worked up about. Fans of the 360 praised Microsoft for extending the warranty and giving out free repairs for broken 360s, but they forget that nothing is "free." Microsoft is a profit-driven corporation, and it's not going to just throw $2 billion out the window. They're going to try and make up for this elsewhere. Microsoft consumers of all kinds will be paying for this $2 billion mistake through higher prices for Microsoft services and software.

2. Playstation 3

The PS3 runs games at lower graphical quality than the 360, and yet the PS3 costs $150 more. One of the reasons the PS3 is so expensive is because Sony decided to use the PS3 as a way to introduce its Blu-Ray disc format to the public. Blu-Ray is a disc format that can store around 50 gigs of data on a disc, which lets people play HD quality movies on their HDTVs. The problem with this is that most people who buy the PS3 would've preferred the PS3 be cheaper, and devoid of Blu-Ray functionality, instead of having the technology forced into the console and its price without any benefit to the PS3's video game playing ability.

The PS3's controller is a step back in most ways from the PS2's controller, and is far inferior to the 360's. It lacks rumble features and instead features a terrible motion sensor gimmick. Unlike the Nintendo Wii's Wiimote, the Sixaxis controller's shape is not suitable for motion sensor gameplay at all. Even on this post here on the official Sony Playstation forums, many owners of the PS3 admit that Sony screwed up when it came to the motion sensor feature of the controller.

3. Wii

The Nintendo Wii is currently the leader of the "console wars," with sales far outnumbering and outpacing its competitors. At $250, the system is far cheaper than the 360 and PS3, and its motion sensor "Wiimote" controller makes games easier to play for the huge casual gamer market. But is it really a good value?

At its core, the Wii is nothing more than a Gamecube with a $200 controller attached to it. Its hardware specs are nearly identical to the Gamecube's, a system that came out 6 years ago and can be bought for $50 on Ebay. The Wii doesn't support HDTV resolutions at all, despite the fact that PC gamers have been in HD resolutions for more than 10 years now. And HDTVs are expected to become the standard TVs of households within the next few years. This poses a problem for the Wii because SDTV quality content looks considerably worse on an HDTV. In other words, as people get HDTVs, the graphics quality of Wii games will actually appear to get worse!

The Wii feels like it was outdated at the time of its release. The motion sensor controls are fun, but paying $250 is just too much.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

3 blogs about video games

I like to visit the following 3 blogs about video games.

1. Blue's News

Blue's News is a blog that focuses on PC games. The author of the blog, Blue, updates the site twice a day with dozens of links to computer game related articles, such as game industry press releases, computer game hardware reviews, computer game reviews, and downloadable user-created game content . Much of the blog's links are links found by readers of Blue's News, who e-mail Blue with stuff they think their fellow PC gamers will find interesting, useful, or funny. At the end of each batch of links, Blue writes a small section called "Out of the Blue" where he briefly comments on his personal life or a video game he's been playing, then finishes that off with links that are not necessarily related to gaming, but are interesting and/or funny things to check out.

Blue's News is my favorite game blog and probably the site I visit the most on the Internet. I visit it at least once a day, usually every day, and have been doing so for at least 5 years. I really like the "no nonsense / no frills" approach to the site. The site has very little advertising (at the top, there are only 2 small ads), and the advertising that is there is not obtrusive or distracting like other websites' ads. And besides the 2-3 ads on the site, the blog has no images at all, which gives the site a clean look and an efficient layout.

2. Joystiq

Joystiq is a blog that covers both video and computer games, while adding in a bit of humor in their news posts and/or custom-made images. In many ways, it's the opposite of what Blue's News is. Instead of just throwing out dozens of links at you, Joystiq usually focuses on just a few news stories a day, and each story is often accompanied by a funny picture and a joke or two in the post itself.

I especially like the user comment sections of the site. You can choose from a variety of video game-related Avatars to represent yourself with. And your fellow commentators can then judge your comments with a positive or negative rating. If you comment is rated negatively too often, your avatar and your comment will lose its "health hearts" and become less visible and harder to read. Joystiq also supports and Digg it features.

3. Kotaku

Kotaku is similar to Joystiq, except with much less of the Funny. A lot of the attempts at humor kinda fall flat for me. Another difference is that one or two of the site's authors live in Japan and they sometimes comment on gaming news coming out of Japan faster than most other blogs.

One gripe I have with the site is that to subscribe to the blog's RSS, you have to look at the left-hand side of the site, past a lengthy staff list, to find the RSS buttons. It's much easier to see the RSS feed buttons of Joystiq and Blue's News. Kotaku supports only Digg it features.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Robotech movie in the works. Sweet.

TORONTO -- After slipping on a mask for Spider-Man, Tobey Maguire might be slipping into a giant robot for "Robotech."

After a lengthy negotiation, Warner Bros. Pictures has picked up the rights to bring anime classic "Robotech," which featured giant robots known as mechas, to the big screen. Maguire is producing through his Maguire Entertainment banner and is eyeing the lead role in what the studio plans on being a tentpole sci-fi franchise.

"We are very excited to bring 'Robotech' to the big screen," Maguire said. "There is a rich mythology that will be a great foundation for a sophisticated, smart and entertaining film."