Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hands-off impressions of the games shown today

Two posts in one day? This is insanity! So, um, yeah. Taking tomorrow off unless something wicked happens.

I watched the conference. I downloaded all the relevant press packages. I checked out every last screenshot and video so far released. I've done everything but play the games Nintendo discussed today. After looking everything over, I've come up with some hands-off impression of every major title and accessory shown today.

First, lets start with the one everybody saw coming: Animal Crossing: City Folk. From what we've seen, it seems to be the same basic idea as the other installments, with a couple little twists. First, there's the city that gives the game its new title. While hardly a "city" by size standards (About one eighth the size of a town in Wild World, if even that much), it still manages to cram in a whole lot of different things to do. Based on what we know so far, the plaza plays host to an auction house (Presumably online), Gracie the fashionista's shop, Harriet's hair salon, a theatre, and a few more things yet to be fully revealed. Overall, the city looks like a nice new addition, but nothing truly game-changing.


As for the rest of City Folk, it seems to be fairly the same. You still buy a house, Nook still haunts you for your mortgage payments, fishing is still a major pastime, and filling up the museum remains a goal attainable by only the most determined players. Nothing's really changed. Some may be disappointed by this, but I'm pretty happy. I didn't want Animal Crossing Wii to be a huge departure from what I'm familiar with, and Nintendo delivered. Really, no new entry in the series has ever added anything insanely new or notably different, and I never expected the Wii version to go against this pattern. And dang, am I ever happy to see the real holidays come back! Halloween and Toy Day, hooray!

If there's one thing that disappoints me, though, it's that online play is still limited to four players at a time. Come on, Nintendo! You took Mario Kart DS' four and turned it into twelve in Mario Kart Wii! Why can't you do the same with Animal Crossing: City Folk? Not necessarily twelve players, but is six really that much of a stretch? I really hope this is changed by launch, but I don't suppose I should really expect it to happen. Besides this little problem, the game looks solid to me.

Unveiled alongside Animal Crossing: City Folk was Wii Speak. Unlike most traditional game console microphones, Wii Speak is not a headset. Instead, it's a box that sits somewhere near your play area. The sound from the entire room is broadcast across the internet, allowing entire families to have conversations among each other.

The brand-new Wii Speak, coming to a living room near you this November.

On the plus side, I see this as a great way for far-separated family members to get in touch with their brethren and play some games at the same time. Sure, it's not exactly private, but do you really expect to be having intimate conversations in your living room? And the way I see it, Wii Speak looks to be far less "scary" for the non-gamers than a full-blown headset. Just imagine if you weren't a gamer. Would you rather put a box on top of your TV, or wear some weird headset? I feel the choice is obvious in this case. Also, with one central microphone, people won't need to buy a new headset for each player in the house in order to play simultaneously. One central microphone, with the sound played through your TV speakers.

I suppose the downside is it doesn't seem to be shipping in a bundle with any known game. I thought that it would be a perfect fit to have two Animal Crossing: City Folk packages, one with the Wii Speak, and one without. Instead, though, we'll have to shell out an additional $30 for this thing. Doesn't that sound like a tad too much for you? I remember getting my DS headset for $12, not $30. A little bit pricey, don't you think? I was thinking $20 at most.

Well, no matter. This should still shut up all those people obsessing over voice chat. You got it now, okay? Not good enough? Too bad for you, I guess. I'm sure some third party will make a headset soon enough. When that day comes, it's all yours.

Although we really didn't hear all that much about Guitar Hero On Tour: Decades, I still feel like mentioning it for one key point: Song sharing. Really, this is a great idea. If you have a copy of the original On Tour, and a pal has Decades, you can swap songs among each other and still play together. That's some cool stuff right there. Activision really does seem to be trying, and I applaud them for that.

Next up we have Wii Sports: Resort. From the three sports shown (Frisbee toss, water skiing and sword fighting), Resort seems to be shaping up as a completely new entry in the Sports series. And honestly, that's got me pretty excited.

Wii Sports finally gets a sequel in Wii Sports: Resort

Of course, Wii Sports: Resort just wouldn't be possible without the new Wii MotionPlus. Available in a bundle with Resort next year, MotionPlus adds so much more to the Wiimote's motion sensing abilities. Finally, we can get the true 1-to-1 experience in our own living rooms. If the amazing sensitivity shown in Wii Sports: Resort is any indication of future titles, we're in for one hell of a treat.

Wii Music finally made its return to the limelight today. With practically an entire orchestra at your disposal, there's sure to be at least one instrument right for you. Saxaphone? Piano? Drums? Tamborine? You got it. The variety of instruments is astounding to say the least.

The controls are something that many people seem to have misunderstood, sadly. Everyone reading this please take note: Wii Music is much more than pointless waving around of the controller. Buttons are pressed to the beat to keep the song going, and the motion controls are there to allow the player to give their performance a little pizazz. With the option of saving a recording of your concert, you're going to want it to be exciting!

The long-lost "Wii" game returns at last

I was somewhat confused at one part of the presentation. Six people took the stage, but the Wii can only support four players. Not quite sure what was going on there. They said that two of the musicians were computer-controlled, but then... Why call those extra two people on stage? Bah, I'm probably making too much of a minor misunderstanding.

I like that Wii Music seems to allow the player to make the song their own. There's no high scores or strict button press timing. Just play the way you want to play. It's a great approach to music-based gaming. Rock Band: Mii Edition this ain't, but it's still going to be one hell of a concert.

Overall, I was fairly impressed with the games showcased today. Sure, they weren't a new Zelda or Mario, but for what they were, it was a good showing. I just hope everything remains as awesome between now and their too-far-away release dates.

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