After Microsoft’s spectacular blunder of a press conference last month, people were already saying that the PlayStation 4 was going to blow away the Xbox One. And even after Microsoft tried to claw its way back from the hole they dug themselves into, with a decent showing of new games earlier today, Sony took full advantage of their competition’s previous stumble and blasted even further ahead, leaving Microsoft to eat their dust… Gran Turismo style.
And all with just three simple announcements.
1) PlayStation 4 will play used games with no restrictions.
2) PlayStation 4 does not have to be online. Ever.
3) PlayStation 4 will be $399.99.
It was the first two of these announcements where Microsoft epically opened their mouth and inserted their foot last month. At today’s conference, they tiptoed around these issues and (smartly) focused on games to try not to raise the ire of the blogosphere. Sony, on the other hand, while not giving a perfect conference, unveiled the PS4 and ended it with a three punch TKO sending Xbox One to the mat.
The conference started slow, with CEO Jack Tretton pushing the PSVita and PS3. While I appreciate that the PS3 is not being flatlined right away, I found it odd there was no announced price cut for the Vita. Sony’s handheld is really suffering in sales at the moment, and a price cut would be a push in the right direction. Also, for a system that has no killer app, the new games announced for it just didn’t excite me, or anyone else in the audience from what I could tell. Instead, we are told how great Skype looks on Vita. I don’t want to buy a handheld game system to use Skype. My phone, laptop, PC, and toaster oven all have Skype on it. I want killer games. I loved my PSP. I want to love Vita too. Give me a reason to love it, Sony.
After Vita, we were treated to a few fun announcements for PS3. Puppeteer looks great. Rain’s design has me intrigued. And Gran Turismo 6? It’s for PS3, not PS4? Ok. Looks pretty, I suppose.
On to the meat and potatoes of the conference, where we finally got to meet the new Sony Parallelogram… er PS4. First impressions (other than the parallelogram gag) were it looks kind of like the Xbox One. It’s a black box. Maybe the designers of both systems went to the same screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey before they went to the drawing board? Also did you know the PS4 will play movies, does networking apps, and will do other movie things and blah, blah, blah, blah… SHOW ME GAMES!
Then the clouds parted and a beam of light shined through. Someone was listening to me. First out of the gate was what appeared to be a Steampunk infused Zombie/Monster game called The Order 1886. Just the trailer was shown, not gameplay, but I definitely got a “Left 4 Dead in a Steampunk Victorian Era” vibe from it. Also, airships. Airships are cool. The Order 1886 is part of a reported 20 new Sony IPs to be released within the first year of the PS4’s lifespan. Some others include Killzone, Driveclub, Infamous, and Knack.
Moving on to the independent scene, Sony smartly announced that indie developers will be able to self-publish their games on PSN. They then proceeded to knock it out of the park showcasing a ton of these smaller titles, each with its own individual quirks and eye catching gimmicks. I will definitely be keeping my eyes on these, in particular Transistor and Mercenary Kings.
Now for third parties, where better to start off than with the current kings of disappointment, Square-Enix. Director Tetsuya Nomura appears on screen to talk about Final Fantasy Versus 13, yet again. How many years has it been since they announced this? I mean seriously, Square. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times… wow, that game looks amazing. Is that actual game play footage? Holy shit, is that Leviathan!? No, no, no, there is no way it’s going to be this good. It’s too good to be true. Wait, what?! It’s not Final Fantasy Versus 13 anymore? It’s Final Fantasy 15?!
Ahem. Sorry about that. Slight geek-out. I promise it won’t happen again– Holy shit, Kingdom Hearts 3?!
And that’s when I blacked out for a few minutes. I have been a die-hard Final Fantasy fan since I began gaming as a wee little Daniel, but it’s no secret Square’s recent endeavors have left me cold. These trailers awakened my sleeping inner Square fan and made me feel all tingly and strange, as I’m sure it did to many of my fellow disenchanted FF franchise lovers.
After this, things were kind of a euphoric blur. There was something about Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dog, and Mad Max I think. All very exciting, especially Watch Dog. Then Jack Tretton returned to the stage with his “Eat it, Microsoft” speech. PS4 will have no DRM and fully supports used and rent/lent games. The PS4 does not have to be online at all in order to work properly. There was one minor hiccup, where it was implied that you would have to subscribe to PlayStation Plus to play multi-player games online, but I think we can forgive that. Besides, Microsoft has done that from day one on the Xbox360, but still, it’s a small step backwards for Sony.
The speech was followed by a long-ish demo detour through Bungie’s new game, Destiny, and then they announced the PS4 price. $399.99. And internet exploded. It was the final KO punch of E3, with Sony knocking Microsoft (who had earlier announced an Xbox One price of $499.99) down for the count.
And that was it. The execs dropped the mic and left the stage. Sony was declared the winner of E3 by… pretty much everyone.
But wait… hey guys come back. You didn’t say when the system was coming out? Later this year, but when exactly? Guys? Hey guys?
Oh well, I’m sure we will find that out soon enough.
So, fellow otaku and gamers, what do you think? Decisive win for Sony? Or is it still up in the air? Let us know. Anime Diet wants to hear your impressions so far.
Daniel is also very excited about the announced sequel to Mirror’s Edge, but since it wasn’t part of the Sony Press conference there was nowhere to mention it.
Happy Holidays… and Yay! This is a game for a classical music fan, and for people who love Taiko no Tatsujin, Dance Dance Revolution, Project Diva, or any other rhythm type game, should definitely try out this Square Enix product on the iOS market.
Before you purchase the full game of Spymphonica though, people can try the Prologue and 1st two chapters for free.
You play as upcoming conductor, Takt who leads the struggling Fayhormonica orchestra to overtake the musical town of Einsatz. You get to practice or move to advance your score. So as with other touch games, pretty much getting a good score is how accurate you are with completing the motions.
The story is pretty short with only three side stores, and 13 chapters, which I played in a short amount of time. As you score higher, meaning being more beloved by audience, the levels get quicker and harder.
As a player you get to see an SD form of the orchestra, or images of the game in these type of photos that would happen as you play through an episode. Chroma.cc is attributed to being the artist company that illustrates Symphonica. There has been a recent update and the ability to add more music to the game play, but sadly no story with those updates. But for the chance to listen to famous classical pieces, and have fun.. is there any other option?
I’m pleased to announce the official opening of Anime Diet Games, a dedicated branch of the site dedicated to video games of all kinds! While we’ll always have a special focus on Japanese pop culture, we’ll be expanding into the rest of the gaming universe too with this new section. Of course, if you go to the section now, you’ll see that we’ve always talked about games every once in a while. But now we’ve decided to pick up our controllers and mash some buttons, so we can cover gaming with the same professionalism and brio that we’ve done with conventions, anime, and manga.
As for me—I wrote years ago that it was JRPGs that actually brought me into anime fandom, not the other way around. Perhaps some of you have had the same experience. We’ve already written about games like Final Fantasy XIII, Eternal Sonata, Alteil, and Skullgirls, and even have footage of Final Fantasy composer Nobuo Uematsu. The gaming culture is tightly linked to the rest of things we’ve always covered, and it’ll give us a chance to talk in depth about things that matter to fans and otaku outside of just the shows and the cons we watch and attend. (And those cons: the gaming cons, from E3 to PAX, are now on our radars!)
So visit our gaming section at the following links:
Stay tuned folks. We’re about to get busier. As an ill-localized anime title put it: asobi ni iku yo (let’s play)! *
Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and the nice people over at Autumn Games and Reverge Labs have sent over a special treat for all you Anime Dieters eagerly anticipating the release of their fighting opus, Skullgirls …
Here comes a new challenger!
Valentine is the newest character revealed for Skullgirls. She’s a deadly ninja nurse, and the lone survivor of a group of Anti-Skullgirl lab operatives. However, don’t let her benevolent nurse appearance fool you. Valentine has switched sides and now serves the Skullgirl willingly, carrying out her master’s duties and striking at her foes from the shadows. Not much is known about this secretive fighter, only that she is as deadly as she is beautiful.
A long rumored character that has now officially been added to the roster for this highly anticipated game, Valentine is sure to become a fan favorite in this epic 2D fighter. How many more characters will we see before the official release later this year?
Skullgirls releases early 2012 for PS3 and XBOX360.
Publisher: Autumn Games
Studio: Reverge Labs
Genre: 2D Fighting
Ever wanted to see Nobuo Uematsu, the legendary soundtrack composer for the Final Fantasy games? Our friends and partners at Dragonfish Films caught him at a Q&A session at Otakon 2011. He was only at the convention for a single day, and this is one of his rare public appearances in America. And now you can watch it. Check it out!
A few years ago, when I was employed with a video game magazine, one of my more enjoyable duties was meeting and making contacts with new upcoming artists. I would wander the artist alley at different conventions, in search of hot new talent and talk to them about artwork and possibly doing some commissions for the publications I worked for. Yeah, it was a fun gig, and I made a lot of great friends with some of awesome artists.
One year, Anime Expo 2008, I came across an artist who, in addition to some amazing artwork, had a laptop on his table. Running on the laptop looked to be a 2D hand drawn fighting game and a cute girl with some sort of monstrous parasite on her head instead of hair. The game was Skull Girls and the creator/artist was Alex Ahad. Intrigued, I began asking questions about the game, the characters, the art style, all of which Alex was more than willing to answer. I liked the game and art so much I bought his sketchbooks to show to my publisher. This led to Skull Girls being featured in Girls of Gaming Volume 6, two years before it would be officially picked up to be published and scheduled for release on PSN and Xbox Live.
In Skull Girls, the action takes place in the fictional Canopy Kingdom where players, as one of the stunningly gorgeous yet lethal female characters, vie (I.E. kick each other’s butts. It is a fighting game after all) for a mysterious artifact known as the Skull Heart. The Skull Heart has the power to grant wishes, but at a terrible cost. If the person who obtains the artifact isn’t a pure soul, along with their wish they will be transformed into a frightening monster.
At this years Anime Expo, I caught up with Alex, no longer in artist alley but on the actual Anime Expo convention floor proper, along with an official Skull Girls booth. We discussed the soon to be completion of his masterwork opus, the journey it took to get to this point, and what may lie ahead.
Daniel C.: Ok, to start off, what was the inspiration behind Skull Girls.
Alex Ahad: Well, if you are talking about the character direction itself, I think I’ve always been a fan of these types of characters. The cast of Skull Girls was initially just a bunch of character designs I had piled up over time as it’s just something I enjoy doing during my free time anyway. Particularly, creating monster girl type characters. They’re kind of badass and cute, but also have a dark vicious side to them. So I had enough characters with this kind of motif to them, that I compiled them into a hypothetical cast. I met Mike (Zaimont) later on and he had a game engine but no characters, so we were able to meet up and make this thing happen.
DC: That’s really great. For years now, I’ve spoke with you at conventions, usually in artist alley where you would be set up with a single laptop running an earlier version of the game, and now you are in the Anime Expo exhibit hall proper with a great set-up, PS3s, and multiple screens. When you found out after all these years that Skull Girls was actually gonna happen and be done, what was your feeling?
AA: Even to this day, it still feels kind of surreal when I think about it. In the office I hear people saying character names like Parasoul or Cerabella, talking about them in the context of trying to figure something out as a crazy team effort, and it’s mind-blowing. It was a long process of pitching the game to different people, so I’ve been getting use to the notion of dedicating an increasing amount of time to the game, but it’s still surreal knowing that we have an office and that I’m doing this full time. It’s pretty exciting, but also sometimes it’s also beyond my comprehension.
AA: This is my day job! And it’s still like my night job too! (laughs) It’s pretty much my everything right now. It consumes my time all day.
DC: Fantastic! So you said you have piles of character designs. How many characters will be in the final release of the game?
AA: There is gonna be an initial release of a roster. I think I’m officially allowed to say about 8 characters, but the general plan is to have DLC to add on later because there are plenty of characters designed. Ideally we will get to them.
DC: Or secret characters that will unlock after you do certain things?
AA: I don’t know if I can go into that, but there are things like that in mind.
DC: I’ve seen you talk a bit about some of the inside jokes in the game such as Kuribo’s Shoe from Super Mario Brother 3. Any hints for other Easter eggs we may see in the game?
AA: Well, a lot of the color palettes for the characters are references also. Like for Filia’s alternate color, it was intentionally a play on Hatsune Miku’s colors. Other characters like Peacock and Cerebella have a few of these as well. As you go to other characters you will see random references in the color palettes or in the lines that they say. I guess the most references you will see will probably be with Peacock, because she is kind of a joke character and has a sense of humor. It kind of fits with her personality. So probably the most with her, but you’ll see references with other characters too.
DC: I was actually going to ask if Filia’s teal color palette was supposed to look like Hatsune Miku…
AA: Oh yeah, it totally is. That’s on purpose.
DC: So this is getting pretty big. And you’ve been nominated for some awards already.
AA: Yeah, we got nominated for a lot of “Best Fighting Game” awards after E3 and I think we got “Best in Show” from Shonen Jump which is pretty amazing. So I guess we are award-winning now. It’s kinda cool. (laughs)
DC: The game itself, will it be a disc release or fully downloadable?
AA: It is a downloadable game. The initial game is downloadable and then the DLC is obviously also downloadable. So it’s all online. No disc at this point.
DC: Before the interview started I saw that there was a cosplayer here actually dressed like Filia. How does it feel to see your creation that you have been drawing for years walking around on the Anime Expo floor?
AA: Oh man, it’s just mind-blowing to see people cosplaying as my characters! I always wondered if… I mean I wasn’t sure if this character could be physically possible, but then the cosplayers find a way to make it actually happen. Like with the teeth or the hair… it really is just mind-blowing. I don’t know if I’ll ever get use to seeing that. In a good way obviously. It’s just like wow. It’s so cool.
DC: How freaked out would you be if you saw someone walking around as Peacock or Cerebella, with all the intricacies of those costumes.
AA: Oh yeah, that’s another one that I wouldn’t think would be possible. I would like to see someone take on that challenge. I like to see things that I wouldn’t think would be possible as cosplay being done, so secretly I’m hoping to see these. Almost just from an engineering standpoint to see how they would do Peacock’s arms or even just her face and getting that across.
DC: The art for Skull Girls is all your designs. How long does it take to go from the first sketches of a character to the final animation we see on screen?
AA: Well the idea itself is relatively fast because it’s just like a key frame, however when it comes to executing the full process, that takes a huge team effort to fully animate something. I would try to animate as many of them as I can, but to be realistic I have to be sure to spread my time evenly managing the general art direction of the game. Especially these days. But particularly with Filia I ended up doing a bunch of them because that was when I was doing this during my free time before the game was picked up. So a lot of Filia’s stuff I was involved with, but even then I was contacting people to help me. So it’s a real team effort when it comes to the animation. But your question was how long does it take. It’s weird to estimate, because we work on different characters simultaneously, but I would say it takes two to three months generously to make a single character. While other characters would be finishing up, I would be working on the preparation of the next character, those key frames I was talking about. So ideally it’s staggered in a way that keeps it flowing. But from start to finish, two to three months per character.
AA: Yeah, so it’s kind of a tight schedule that we are on and we have to get that worked out in an efficient manner.
DC: Is there a firm release date for the game?
AA: It’s more of a tentative date. It’s slated for later this year, but it’s still kind of loose. We can’t pin a definitive date on it yet, because there are still a lot of things we are figuring out and a lot of stuff to build on.
DC: When the game comes out and sells like gangbusters, obviously there will probably be a sequel, but my question is do you have any ambitions to try something other than a fighting game, like say a RPG or a platformer?
AA: I would definitely love to explore other genres of games. Like for example Metroidvania (an adventure platforming game in the vein of Metroid or Castlevania) is one of my favorite genres, so I’d like to try a game like that or maybe give shot to a Beat’em Up. There are tons of ideas we toss around in the office all the time of the different game genres we would like to explore, because we are all pretty experienced and passionate gamers. We definitely have a preference when it comes to what type of genres we would like to try. I’ve heard stuff like Tactically RPG or Metroidvania, which is one I vouch for, or Beat’em Ups and many more. Reverge collectively has a couple other projects that they have under development, but for me personally I would love to try a few different genres in the future too.
DC: Ok, well that’s it! Thank you so much for speaking with us today.
AA: Cool! Thank you!
Alex was also nice enough to contribute a couple original sketches of Filia for our article. Thanks Alex!!
Skull Girls releases later this year for PS3 and XBOX360. For more details visit the official website at http://www.skullgirls.com/
Publisher: Autumn Games
Studio: Reverge Labs
Genre: 2D Fighting