By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net THE NEXT two days will be a pretty long vacation for most Filipinos who will be visiting their dead during All Saints Day and All Souls' Day. It’s going to be a four-day long weekend and for most, it will be a time to relax and catch up on some oft-put-off activities. For some giddy gamers, though, four days of doing nothing other than praying for the souls of their dead could be boring and it may be time for them to catch up on the video games they missed for the past few years. Just to stick to the season, here’s a list of video games you could play during Halloween. Basically, all of the games listed here are in the horror-thriller genre so if you’re easily frightened by the idea of ghosts and goblins, better play something else. Resident Evil 4 (GC, PS2, Wii) Of course, the big daddy of all survival-horror games would be on top of the list and its latest incarnation is perhaps the best. RE4 has been modified from the original gameplay but it has sincerely kept the goal of getting past and surviving undead and frightfully malevolent creatures. RE4 is a cross between a third-person shooter and an adventure game. You play Leon Kennedy, one of the survivors of the Raccoon City incident that created zombies. His goal is to save the daughter of the US president somewhere in Europe. The storyline, while very basic, is still engrossing as it mixes up some elements of drama and romance (between Leon and another character, Ada Wong). Resident Evil 1 (GameCube remake) It all started in a quiet mansion somewhere in the forest of Raccoon City. This was where the Umbrella Corporation experimented with the T-Virus that created the zombies that will haunt the protagonists of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (STARS) for years to come. The original RE1 was first played on the PlayStation 1 in 1996 but it was in the GameCube remake in 2002 where the real visceral horror really took place. The GC version was an entire port of the original but the pre-rendered graphics and animation were redesigned to suit the GC's processing power. Now you can see not just pixels of blood and gore but nearly the real thing. Players of the original will still find the GC version quite gut-wrenching, to say the least. Fatal Frame II (PS2, Xbox) The Japanese are perhaps the scariest storytellers in both the movies and in video games. The language and the plot is somewhat indiscernible but they use image as a method for telling the story -- and scaring the hell out of their audiences. Fatal Frame II is the scariest in the series. It plays somewhat like the original Resident Evil but the protagonists’ weapon is nothing more than an outdated camera obscura which is used to capture ghosts. The spirits appear randomly but it's the manner in which they appear that would scare the player to almost letting go of the controller. Even in daytime, the ghosts can scare the s**t out of you. Be warned, this game is not for the faint of heart. Silent Hill series (PS2, PC) If there's one game that you have to play from the first game to the last, it's Silent Hill. The first two games are continuations while the third and fourth are with different protagonists. One central theme in the game is the obscure town of Silent Hill where a mysterious cult meddles in the lives of the protagonists throughout the game. The monsters in this game are not quite like the zombies in Resident Evil, but some of them would make you come closer to the screen just to view exactly what they are. The storyline in Silent Hill is also one of the best in the survival horror genre though it is recommended that the game be played from start to finish as there are connecting plots across all four parts of the series. Just imagine a four-part horror novel, only it’s a game. Alone in the Dark (PC) Go as far back as the 1990s and you’ll find out that the horror genre actually didn’t start with Resident Evil. Alone in the Dark was the first to use three-dimensional images for the horror genre and basically set the standards for survival-horror games. The first AITD in 1992 was a good mix of horror and problem solving. The plot is set in 1923 and the player assumes the role of either a police investigator or a young woman, both of whom are looking for a mysterious piano hidden somewhere in the sprawling mansion called Derceto. Once inside the mansion the player has to survive the hordes of monsters while trying to solve traps tricks and traps set throughout the mansion. The next incarnations of AITD were created differently but they all stuck with the same survival horror gameplay that has remained successful until this day. Doom 3 (PC, Xbox) This game is not so much a horror game as it is a first-person shooter, but it does give players heart attacks with its eerie environments and lighting, not to mention killer sound effects when monsters jump out from nowhere. While the original Doom was more action-oriented than horror, Doom 3 was a surprise change and it did a very good job in becoming a true mix of FPS and horror. You play a futuristic soldier trapped in a crumbling military facility in the planet Mars, along with an army of mutant monsters and malevolent apparitions. It's dizzying to play for first-timers especially when struggling to reload an empty gun while a 20-foot mutant mutt tries to chomp on you. Clive Barker’s Undying (PC) Few would remember this game and very few would even know it existed, but Clive Barker’s Undying is perhaps one of the best games most people have never played. The story goes that World War 1 veteran Patrick Galloway has to help his friend, occultist Jeremiah Covenant, from falling into the hands of the demonic Undying King. Covenant believes that his family is cursed and that all of his siblings have become monsters and Galloway will be facing off against them. Undying is a first-person shooter game and Galloway will be equipped with human weapons, as well as demon weapons to ward off more powerful monsters. Condemned: Criminal Origins (Xbox 360) The Xbox 360 is lucky to have great exclusive titles. It's also lucky to be such a powerful machine that developer Monolith was able to fully utilize its graphics prowess to make the horror-thriller game Condemned: Criminal Origins visually stunning. It's a first-person shooter that adds a good mix of action and problem-solving. The game's plot is similar to events in the film "28 Days Later," wherein the local population is transformed into violent psychotics by an unknown force. You play an FBI forensics investigator looking for a serial killer who seems to be behind all of the violence. At your disposal are not just guns and grenades but also forensic devices that’ll help you find the killer and solve the mystery of the "crazies." Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem (GC) This is like the “haunted book” Necronomicon becoming a video game. People familiar with H.P. Lovecraft would certainly feel right at home with Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem. The plot is about the protagonist Alexandra Roivas who is investigating the murder of her grandfather. She finds a book made out of human skin and bone, reminiscent of the Necronomicon. The game is very unique in its method of using the "Sanity Meter;" just like the health meter, it is depleted overtime as the player fights against monsters or goes through various areas that are affected by malevolent spirits. When the Sanity Meter goes low, there are dozens of "effects" that will make a player go crazy. Some of the effects seem so out of place that the player, unfamiliar with the game, will think that there are technical problems with their TV or their GameCube. Eventually, the player would think their equipment is possessed or haunted, though in reality these "glitches" are part of the game. For example, the game's sound goes low so that the player has to raise the volume, then all of a sudden the sound explodes as if the volume has been turned up by an unseen spirit. This game is played best with a large-screen TV and a surround-sound speaker. Better not play this game at night, or at least alone. Do you have a favorite horror game that's not on this list? Tell us all about it.
October 2007 Archives
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net DESPITE the explosion that rocked the Glorietta 2 mall in Makati City, fantasy fans could not pass up the chance to meet their fellows to celebrate the fifth New Worlds Philippines Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention. Luckily, the Glorietta mall was open last Saturday and the members of the different science fiction and fantasy communities were there to ensure it was a success. The event was held at the Activity Center of Glorietta, well within the visual range of the now-closed Glorietta 2 section. Nevertheless, the site -- and the smell of burnt stuff -- did not bother the participants who came in with their treasured toys and costumes. Rej Layug, one of the organizers of NW5. said they were afraid the event would be postponed due to the explosion that rocked the mall on Oct. 18. “But the mall administrators promised us that the Activity Center will be open on that day.” Here's a video of Rej giving an overview of the event while in full costume as a Star Wars scout trooper. With the promise of NW5 pushing through, Layug said their next fear was over their sponsors, participants and attendees. Come Oct. 27, people came in trickles that slowly became a continuous flow of fans and curiosity-seekers. “Everyone is here,” Layug said, referring to the members of the New Worlds Alliance, an umbrella organization of science fiction and fantasy literature, movies and TV shows. NWA is composed of about two dozen other sci-fi and fantasy organizations, which include Ann Rice Philippines (fans of the vampire novelist), Cosplay.ph (site for costume play aficionados), Battlestar Galactica Philippines, Pinoy Harry Potter, Highlander Society, Cybertron.ph (fans of the Transformers series), Star Wars Philippines, and the Philippine Order of Narnians (fans of the C.S. Lewis novels), among others. Newly-formed groups from more recent fantasy flicks are also part of NWA, such as Heroes Philippines (devotees of the hit TV series "Heroes") and Lost in the Philippines (of the TV series "Lost"). With the success of NW5, the group is already preparing for their next set of activities, such as the Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards on Oct. 31 and the Philippine Speculative Fiction Anthology Volume 3 launch in December, as well as the return of famed fantasy writer Neil Gaiman in November.
de Manila University here hopes to soon offer a full-blown degree program in game development, school officials have said. In the past few years, the university has been offering a variety of programming courses and other subjects related to game development. But come 2009, the university hopes to "string them together" into one degree program, said Ma. Mercedes Rodrigo, associate professor and chairperson of the Department of Information Systems and Computer Science (DISCS) of the university's School of Science and Engineering. Rodrigo said Ateneo is working closely with local game development houses, who, in turn, are giving them ideas about the technical and non-technical skills required by the industry. "We would like to be actively engaged with the industry," she added. She, however, noted that the degree will not be limited to computer science students. In fact, for the past semesters, the department has engaged other disciplines to help create a variety of offerings. Last semester, Miguel Escaño, an English instructor, said he taught students how to develop better game story-lines using a module from Neverwinter Nights, a role-playing game. Apart from creating better stories, the game development students were also immersed in Filipino mythology, philosophy, ethics, and English, added Escaño. Rodrigo said that the DISCS invited humanities teachers to teach other subjects because the department believes gaming development is not limited to teaching just its technical aspects. "Actually ethics is underappreciated in the aspect of gaming. Gaming is a good way to teach ethics, too," added Escaño. Based on their experience so far, Rodrigo said students were quick to pick up the technical aspects of game development but had a harder time with non-technical subjects such as story development. Next year, DISCS plans to offer game development as a minor, said instructor Jal de Vera. "It took us years to develop this portfolio of courses," Rodrigo said. Asked what she sees as challenges for the introduction of the degree program, Rodrigo identified government regulatory issues related to the introduction of new degree programs by universities and the lack of "exposure" of its instructors to the gaming industry.THE ATENEO
By Erin Chupeco, hackenslash Contributor INQUIRER.net PICTURE this: you are a recently orphaned student who has just enrolled into Gekkoukan High -- a prestigious establishment that seems normal by all outward appearances -- that is, until the stroke of midnight, when the world literally changes. People are transformed into "coffins," to protect them from hordes of enemies called Shadows that patrol the area, seeking fresh meat to feed upon. Fortunately -- or perhaps unfortunately -- you are one of the chosen few with the ability to summon Personas; entities that are a part of your character’s psyche, that can be used to combat these Shadows. You are, however, the only one in the student body to switch and use multiple Personas in combat, granting you leadership of the Specialized Extracurricular Execution Squad, formed to defeat the Shadows once and for all. And it only gets weirder. In terms of storytelling and plot concepts, Atlus’ Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is a revolutionary breakthrough, playing and telling its story like no other franchise to date. While players do not need to be aware of previous Persona installments to understand the game, fans will find a few similarities in the game with its predecessors. Optimism, rainbows, puppy dogs, and general happiness; these are not necessarily things that you will find while playing Persona 3. The game presents different complex concepts, raising issues like the psychological implications of sanity, paradigm shifts, and even mock "suicides" -- most of the characters for instance, can only manifest their Persona during battle by pointing an Evoker (a gun-like weapon made to force Persona out of one’s soul) to their heads and pulling the trigger. Hardworking student by day, Shadow killer by night Life in Persona 3, however, isn’t all raindrops and emo music. Players get to experience the life of a regular student during the day -- the character gets to study (increasing his intelligence if successful), plays sports and extracurricular activities (increasing his strength), or even watch chick flicks to increase his charisma. More importantly, relationships with other characters can be established and further developed -- this plays an important role during the Dark Hour, which lasts from midnight until 1 in the morning. The level of friendships that you maintain with other characters can determine the type of Persona or bonuses that you can receive once the battle is done. How you choose to spend your day will adversely affect your combat abilities at night, and the limited time available forces you to prioritize the abilities that best suits your playing style. As the only character with the ability to use and switch among multiple Persona (each with their own specialty ranging from attack to support), the player also has the ability to combine multiple Persona in order to form a new and more powerful entity, and there are almost unlimited possibilities for combination. The Persona themselves can range from the insufferably cute, to forbidding warriors, to fantastic beasts, to even strange brain-like entities with appendages. After every battle, a small card game is played, where players can earn new Persona or bonus items, though these can depend on the character’s relationship with other members of the party. The downside to Persona 3’s gameplay, though, is that you are unable to control other characters in your party; instead these are relegated to AI, which allows these characters to fight depending on their current health status. Players however, can set tactics to determine the type of combat they should engage in during battle. While the AI acts intelligently for the most part, players may find it frustrating that fights can’t be finished faster by commanding other characters to place elemental or status attacks against Shadows weak in that particular element, or because another character heals yours a little too late. Abandon hope and a sense of direction, all ye who enter Another restricting feature of the game may revolve around Tartarus -- the dark, uninhabited building where most of the battles will be taking place. There are no random battles that take place here, and upon spotting any one of the Shadows lurking around the corridors, one can have the opportunity to launch a first strike -- not always an easy task, because your inability to control the other characters in your party can cause them to obstruct the path. While floor layouts change frequently with every exploration, many may find this aspect of leveling up and battling their way through repetitive mazes of virtually similar-looking doors and rooms very tedious. Some floors can only be unlocked through story sequences, so players will find themselves going through the same levels again and again as dictated by the storyline. The longer you explore Tartarus, the lower your party’s physical status becomes -- once it drops to “tired” or “sick,” their combat ability becomes limited. Leaving Tartarus and spending a good night’s sleep replenishes their health. The music heard throughout the game mixes a hefty dose of rap, rock music, and urban accompaniments -- which would have worked well for the game, had these not have been repeated over and over again. Graphics-wise, Persona 3 does not boast the best visuals of most 3D games, but they are nonetheless appealing eyecandy. Most of the character art during dialogues are well-drawn in mature anime themes, and every Persona is well-rendered and visually creative. Battle sequences are masterfully crafted, although perhaps the most visually shocking sequences in the game are when characters shoot themselves in the head with their Evokers, sending what may or may not be figurative glass-like "brain matter" shooting outwards. Multiple personas, multiple fun Controversial or not, Persona 3 does work in terms of its singular storytelling and gameplay, and its masterful take on themes where most other companies fear to tread. Once you get past the sometimes grueling leveling, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 is a decided must-have for every gamer who’s keen on trying something new and challenging -- it encourages players to plan out the skills and fighting styles they would like their characters to possess, and ultimately, plan out how they would like to play the game. Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 Genre: Role-Playing Game Developer: Atlus Publisher: Atlus ESRB Rating: M (Mature)
By Hiroko Tabuchi Associated Press TOKYO, Japan--Fresh off bumper earnings, Nintendo Co. ruled out a price cut for its smash hit Wii video game console Friday and announced the company will being selling the Wii in China next year. Profits at Nintendo have surged on the runaway success of the Wii and the portable Nintendo DS machine in North America, Europe and Japan, forcing rivals Sony Corp. and Microsoft Corp. to slash console prices in a desperate catch-up bid ahead of the holiday season. Nintendo president Satoru Iwata said the company was struggling to meet demand of the Wii and a price cut was out of the question. The Wii sells for $249.99 in North America, €249.00 in Europe and 25,000 yen in Japan -- all less than Sony's PlayStation 3 or Microsoft's Xbox 360. "We're still focusing on how to meet booming demand," Iwata said Friday. "We're absolutely not considering a price cut." Speaking at a press conference in Tokyo, Iwata said Nintendo planned to start selling Wiis in China next year, opening up a previously untapped market for the manufacturer of Pokemon and Super Mario games. "We barely have enough Wiis to meet global demand this year. But next year, I think we can bring the Wii to China," Iwata said. Nintendo still needed to work with Chinese games developers to craft games suited to the market there, Iwata said. He declined to give a sales target, but said Nintendo's "future potential there is huge." Since the Wii debuted in November, Nintendo has sold 13.17 million units worldwide and expects to sell 17.50 million this fiscal year through next March. Nintendo said Thursday that net profit more than doubled to 132.42 billion yen ($1.16 billion) in the six months to Sept. 30, and raised its profit forecast for the fiscal year to 275 billion yen ($2.40 billion) from the 245 billion yen it forecast in July.
HERE'S a video taken by hackenslash/INQUIRER.net reporter Alex Villafania of the raid conducted by the Optical Media Board in SM Megamall. The video clip shows a furious OMB Executive Director Rosendo Meneses berating an employee of 5th Avenue Telecom, one of the shops that was raided. "The employee told Meneses not to use their plastic bags after their shop was caught with thousands of illegal computer software and video games. OMB agents were so surprised with the haul that they did not carry enough bags and instead used the shop's own plastic bags," Alex reported. For more video clips, visit iVDO.
UPDATE: Added video from Reuters By Agence France-Presse, Reuters SAN FRANCISCO, California--Microsoft on Tuesday began US sales of a scaled-down Xbox 360 model billed by some analysts as a doomed bid to unseat Nintendo's Wii console as ruler of the casual video game market. "It is squarely targeted at the Wii," Directions on Microsoft analyst Matt Rosoff told AFP. Xbox 360 Arcade comes with five family-oriented video games including Pac-Man and Uno, and is capable of downloading more games from the Internet. Here's a video report from Reuters. The Arcade model lacks a hard drive but provides 256 megabytes of memory for storing game play and software, according to Microsoft. Arcade consoles are priced at $280 while Nintendo's Wii consoles are priced at $250 and have been selling as fast as they arrive in US stores. Xbox 360 Arcade won't knock Wii from the casual gaming throne it has occupied since Nintendo launched the consoles in the United States in November of last year, according to Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey. "It is not even remotely close to what the Wii offers the market," Hickey told AFP. "The best they can hope for is someone naive goes to a store to buy a Wii and there isn't one there so they buy an Xbox 360 Arcade." Wii consoles with unique motion-sensing controllers are a video game sensation, appealing to families, women, seniors and other "casual gamers" that don't fit the typically young male "hardcore gamer" demographic. Hickey described Arcade as a "clumsy" repositioning of Microsoft's Xbox 360 Core model minus a hard drive. "They are trying to be opportunistic; appeal to the casual gamer as well," Hickey said of Microsoft. "If you are a casual gamer, you buy the Wii. You don't buy Xbox 360 Arcade. The thing that attracts people to the Wii is the games, the fun, and the buzz." Rosoff countered that the Arcade price and the variety of games available for the consoles should be enough for Microsoft to "reach some kind of parity" with Wii in the market.
By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net KOREAN firm Sabiclub Corp. is putting up more high-end Internet café branches in the Philippines as it targets the growing demand for online gaming in the country, an executive told hackenslash. "I want to go for gaming first in the Philippines," said Don Hun Lee, CEO and president of Sabiclub Corp., owner of the Station 168 Internet cafés and the newly established i-Hooked Internet café in Recto Avenue, a university belt in Manila. I-Hooked is the first Internet café network gaming branch of the Korean company that features desktops running on Intel's latest Core 2 Quad processors. The company has installed more than 50 desktop PCs that are running on the powerful Intel processors. Configured like Korea's famous "PC bangs," roughly translated as PC rooms, i-Hooked offers a spacious area, reclining leather seats and a high-end setup for gamers who play a lot of online or networked games, said Hun Lee. "The Philippines is a third-generation PC bang, which usually feature more PCs for gamers. In Korea, we already have fifth-generation ‘PC bangs’ that are called multiplex. It is a one-stop shop for everything, including Internet, a convenience store, video, among others," he said. Hun Lee said that he expects the Korean version of “PC bangs” to emerge in the country next year. The Sabiclub executive said the company is building more i-Hooked Internet cafés in the country, with one currently being constructed in Cainta, Rizal and one being negotiated in Makati. Sabiclub has been running a chain of Internet cafes in the Philippines for at least six years. Its first Station 168 branch opened in Makati City, one of the country's financial districts, in 2001. Sabiclub aims to put up about 100 branches in two years. Currently, the i-Hooked is its 10th branch in the country. Next year, the company plans to set up 50 branches. Hun Lee stressed that its branches follow local government regulations disallowing high school and elementary students from playing during school hours. "We follow the local government rules," he added. Over the years, Hun Lee said that the profile of their customers were mostly students playing online games. Only about 30 percent go to their branches to use the Internet and related applications, such as chat and browsing. He pointed out that throughout those years, the company has maintained standard pricing. For the first i-Hooked branch, it intends to peg prices at P40 to P50 per hour to attract more students from nearby universities. There are close to 20 known universities and colleges in Recto Avenue alone. "We really don't want to ignore the needs of the market," the executive said, when asked if prices would be adjusted due to local competition.
By Agence France-Presse LOS ANGELES, California--Imagine a video game in which characters evolve from primordial ooze, acquiring speed, claws, wings or other traits needed to survive. Picture a "Glass Cutter" murder mystery game in which a hero gleans psychic clues from graffiti etched into subway windows, barroom tumblers, taxi mirrors or other depicted glass surfaces. Envision defending their "colonies" by spreading or checking weaponized diseases. Two dozen aspiring game makers hoping for fast lanes to success pitched those ideas and more to a panel of industry experts at the E for All video game exposition in Los Angeles on Friday. "What is really fun about this stuff is you can never tell what the hell people are going to say," said US video game consulting company chief executive David Perry, who was on the judging panel. "What I've found is that there is always somebody cool in the room." Christopher Gough sees a game set in a world in which people are dying from kindness. People are so generous they give away everything they need to live and an overabundance of goodness has the sun shining 24 hours each day, searing plants to death and causing drought. The objective of Gough's game is to save with a healing balm of evil and darkness. "People think it is all about being good but sometimes you flat out have to be evil to survive," Gough told the judges, prompting knowing laughter from the audience in the auditorium. "It's all about bringing balance to the world." As players manipulate townspeople into being nasty, daylight hours grow shorter and rain returns to the world, according to Gough. Another proposed game is set play in a world ruled by China and rife with slaughter. Rebel fighters capable of taking on animal powers fight to liberate the land. A suggested game based on swapping societal power roles of blacks and whites in the United States met with a warning from judges that the original idea would be a tough sell because "it would probably offend everyone." Game ideas involving online group play won praise from judges for tapping into a hot trend in the industry. "The market for those kinds of games is booming," said GameSpy executive editor David Kosak, who was among the judges. By the end of 2007, an estimated 14 million gamers in North America will be playing online, according to technology intelligence firm IDC. "The increase in revenue from the online use of game consoles, including subscriptions, downloadable content, and advertising represents the largest growth in the console software sector," said IDC program manager Billy Pidgeon. Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii consoles each have online capabilities. IDC projects that the number of Internet-ready gaming consoles in North America will tally 37 million by next year. In North America online console revenue will triple from 133 million dollars in 2006 to 583 million dollars this year, according to IDC. While the "console wars" get considerable attention, the market for games on handheld devices is "smoking hot" with Nintendo's DS "ruling the roost," Kosak told aspiring game makers. Some game ideas were variations on clichéd themes such as puzzle solving or humans battling alien races. In one proposed game a player begins as a speck of dust in outer space and gains mass by eating everything it collides into. An ethical component to the game would be to have players decide whether to devour peaceful living things for the sake of getting bigger. The lone woman to pitch an idea pictures a Canoe Trek game letting people use the motion-sensing controllers of Nintendo's Wii to play fishing, hunting and paddling games. "Originally I was going to pitch a survival horror game but I'm doing a complete 180 and pitching a cartoon game," said Tim Hayes, whose idea included people superimposing their heads on characters.
By Erin Chupeco, hackenslash Contributor INQUIRER.net THERE are very few 2D rendered games in the market today that would even dare to compete with the more aesthetically pleasing 3Ds and FMVs trends that most current games have adopted. Fortunately, Odin Sphere for the PlayStation 2 is one of them. Combining beautifully hand-painted artworks and compelling gameplay with well-thought out plot twists and lovable characters, Odin Sphere is a traditional masterpiece, and one of the last few games for the PS2 worth waiting for. Save the Forest Witch, save the world Odin Sphere is a story of five people, all destined to play a part in changing the world and stopping the coming Armageddon -- or furthering its progress. Odin Sphere is also a fairy tale -- tales of love and triumphs set in the midst of war. The game starts when a young girl named Alice wanders into her grandfather’s attic. Selecting a book prompts the player to read (as Alice), and play through the lives of the character featured. Completing a book unlocks more books, and therefore unlocks more characters to play through -- five in all. Once finished, a special book involving all characters is then made available for play. The talking frog should have been playable. Seriously Gwendolyn is a young Valkyrie who had just recently lost an older sister, and fights under her father, King Odin’s, banner -- not to win the war, but to win his love. Cornelius is a young prince of Titania, who wakes up one day to find that he has been transformed into a Pooka -- an anthropomorphic rabbit. Taking up the sword of a fallen ancestor, he must now fight to break the curse. Mercedes, a fairy princess who lost her mother during the Fairies' war against Odin, must now assume the mantle of queen, aided by a frog who is more than what it appears to be. Oswald is a human knight fighting for the fairies -- but when a betrayal leaves him with no master to serve, he decides to pursue the interests of his heart instead. Velvet, royal survivor of the destroyed nation of Valentine, must piece together the meaning of a prophecy handed down by her mother, to halt the Armageddon -- and to defy her destiny, which predicts her own doom... Characters don't always fight on the same side Playing as Gwendolyn, for example, the player may be forced to fight Mercedes as a boss; while playing Mercedes will pit the player against Oswald. Best of all, some enemies you'll have to fight aren't always the bad guys -- just misunderstood. Sometimes, you'll even find yourself questioning the motives of the character you yourself play. The Aenir and the Faeries are at war -- each side battling to control the Cauldron, where powerful weapons called Psyphers can be forged. Powerful wizards called the Three Wise Men plot behind the scenes, seeking to bring about the prophesied Armageddon, where they shall rule in its aftermath. Each character's stories are told from their own perspectives -- viewing these stories in their entirety can be accessed by picking up Alice's cat instead of selecting a book. Attentions to detail is what makes the game one of the best in its genre -- some lingering questions players may have while playing Gwendolyn, for example, are answered upon playing Oswald -- and transition from one tale to the next is smooth and easily understood despite the changing views. Different weapons for every gamers' preference Each character comes with different skills, and plays differently. Gwendolyn flies, but must land to use her spear. Oswald's skill turns him into a powerful shadow, and Velvet can swing from chains to avoid enemies. Mercedes, by far the most unique character, can fly without limits and shoot from her crossbow at a distance. Cornelius can perform sword spin attacks -- that, and you play him as a talking rabbit. Each area route is shaped like a sphere and are linear -- players must clear enemies from one sphere before proceeding to the next, leading to the stage's boss. Extra bonuses are given for areas cleared with little or no damage taken, or completed within a timeframe. Enemies become phozons (balls of energy) when they die, and the characters are equipped with Psyphers -- weapons that can absorb phozons and increase their Psypher levels, increasing attack strength. Characters do not get experience by defeating enemies. Instead, seeds are planted; eating the fruit from these seeds increases your HP total. Eating at Pooka cafes speeds up the process -- you only need to bring along the ingredients needed, and one of the five different coins used in Erion as payment. Alchemy also comes into play; combining different potions and items can produce different power-ups and healing aids. Where 2D art pwns 3D While Odin Sphere is a 2D game, it does not take away the beautiful watercolor effect it evokes. Backgrounds are painted in lush, vibrant colors, and while fighting many of the bosses (which include flying dragons, an underworld queen with shocking endowments, giants, and three-headed creatures that fill up the screen), you can’t help but stop and admire them in-battle. The character art is breathtaking, though sometimes impractical. (As pretty as Velvet looks, she could not have spent her life living in the swamps clad in nothing but lingerie.) Odin Sphere is also one of the few games where most of the English voices were pleasing to hear, though paraphrasing could have been better in some parts instead of opting for the literal English translations, to keep the dialogue fluid. The Japanese voice cast on the other hand, composed of many A-list voice actors in Japan’s seiyuu industry, is near flawless. No one said averting world's end was going to be easy Don't let the pretty art deceive you -- Odin Sphere is fairly difficult to play. It takes some trial and error to find a pattern in a boss' routine to beat it, and players will need to level up on their own (and eat a lot of Pooka delicacies) to beat the game. Perhaps one of the main contentions of Odin Sphere is its loading time. Hordes of enemies coming at you all at once tend to bog down the screen. The amount of items characters can carry is also severely restricted compared to the items you can get per sphere, even at the maximum. Finally, the land of Erion is composed of only six to seven main areas; this means that by the time you get to play Velvet, you’d have run through the forest swamp area five times playing as the other characters, albeit with different enemy difficulties. That said, however; the story sequences, amazing art, and persuasive storytelling are worth what few vexations Odin Sphere has. In fact, the (good) ending is more than worth all the effort. Gamers with a love for good stories and well-developed characters will be enchanted by this modern fairtytale, and fans who like their games challenging won’t be disappointed. Odin Sphere is a one-of-a-kind game destined to be a classic many years from now in the same class as Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. Odin Sphere Genre: Action RPG Developers: Atlus, Vanillaware Publisher: Atlus ESRB Rating: T
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net IF there’s one popular Marvel character in video games, it's Spider-Man, who has had several titles under his belt in the last 30 years. He started out as an 8-bit hero in 1982 in the Atari 2600, then in 1987 in the Sega Genesis and PC until he became a major franchise title in the Sony intendo and Microsoft consoles. Spider-Man has been reincarnated in just about every known console. In his latest video game adventure, the developers (Next Level, Artificial Mind and Movement, Beenox Studios) made major changes in the storyline of the web-slinger that may not be considered as canon. But most of these changes are actually coming from the last three Spider-Man movies and while the video game-movie tie-ins did not fare as well as the movies, the other Spider-Man titles that were not related to movies were quite successful. I'm reviewing the PlayStation 2 version, and Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is one such title wherein the adventure is very loosely based on the movies. As in past video game adventures, Spider-Man will swing his way through levels of enemies up until the boss battles. But one unique difference in this game is that the end-level boss becomes Spider-Man’s sidekick, in much the same vein as in the Final Fantasy video games where the bosses become summoned guardians. Simply put, Spider-Man: Friend or Foe is an action-adventure game and as such, he’ll be fighting a lot throughout the game with only a few minor puzzles to solve. The plot revolves around an unknown enemy who seems to be controlling Spider-Man’s foes using parts of the meteor that spawned Venom. Spider-Man is initially helped by S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (who remains unplayable in the PS2 version). This enemy is also using the meteor to summon ghost-like monsters called phantoms. Therefore, Spidey’s mission is to find out who the mysterious enemy is but in order to do so, he’ll have to employ the help of his legendary foes who are mind-controlled. By the way, his foes mostly look like the ones from the Spider-Man movies, particularly Doctor Octopus and Green Goblin whose costumes came directly from the films. His other enemies that can be played as sidekicks include Venom, New Goblin, Sandman, Rhino and Scorpion. One good thing about this game also is that Spider-Man is faithful to his trademark humor. The video game Spider-Man remains funny all throughout the game, though players may find it slightly disturbing that his foes almost never put up a fight (I mean after the boss battle) when Spider-Man is trying to convince them to join him in finding out who their tormentor is. The story may be simple but it’s just as good as any other action-adventure video game. However, the gameplay leaves much to be desired. Anyone who has played such games as the four-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Lego Star Wars would notice that the gameplay becomes boring and repetitive. If playing in single battle, Spider-Man can choose any of his foes who can join him in his adventures. Spidey and his sidekick can be played by toggling so you can play either as Spidey or the enemy. Also, take note that it’s not just his enemies that Spider-Man can play with. His other partners can be heroes, too, such as Silver Sable, Black Cat, Prowler and Iron Fist. But while playing any of his friends and fiends may be a treat, it’s not as good as playing the webhead himself. He has a lot more special attacks and combos that can deliver more damage to enemies. The game’s artificial intelligence also isn’t particularly, well, intelligent. The enemies would just come in and attack. Sometimes, they actually wait in line when Spidey is being attacked by another enemy though there would be open opportunities for enemies to attack from behind. Of course, by the time they get behind Spider-Man or his sidekick, the enemies in front would already be dead. In fighting enemies, Spider-Man would still get damage so there are red orbs coming out of dead enemies that can be collected to replenish life. By the way, it’s also very hard to die in the game, even in its hardest mode. The missions are divided into cities or historical places such as Nepal, Tokyo and Cairo. Spider-Man and partner have to swing their way through. Well, Spider-Man doesn’t necessarily have to swing around buildings that much. He can just run around or climb buildings but most of the time he’ll just run. The game is also particularly short and can be finished within 10 hours. The graphics in Spider-Man: Friend or Foe isn’t as great as in previous games. It’s outdated and seems to have come from past Spider-Man movie games. The developers could have gone with cel-shading like the one used for Ultimate Spider-Man (which should be considered as the best game in the series). Sad to say, the graphics is outdated. Overall, the game feels like a remake of older Spider-Man games so it’s not particularly fun. However, if fans of the franchise want to taste something different in playing a Spider-Man game, especially the opportunity to play alongside Spidey’s long-time enemies, then this is the game for you. Other players may want to play the next game. Spider-Man: Friend or Foe Genres: Action/Adventure, Beat 'Em Up Developers: Next Level Games (360, Wii, PS2), Artificial Mind and Movement (DS, PSP), Beenox Studios (PC) Publisher: Activision ESRB Rating: E 10+
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net TWENTY-FIVE years ago, an army of Americans invaded the Philippines with guns a-blazing, tanks, choppers and attack boats. But they werenât here to take over the country but to show how it is to be a real Joe. Anyone whoâs more than 20 years old now would remember G.I. Joe, a US military-themed cartoon series that first ran from 1982 to 1994 in the US. It was about the battle between the heroic G.I. Joes and the international terrorist group called Cobra. It was similar to the cartoon series and toy line Transformers, only there were about a hundred more characters and dozens of vehicles that came with it. This meant that parents of young boys back then had a bigger nightmare of having to subdue their kids from asking to buy the next character or vehicle from the TV series. The cartoon was only shown in the Philippines in 1985 but nevertheless became a major hit, much like the Transformers and Voltron cartoons. The cartoon series culminated in "G.I. Joe the Movie." Among the most popular characters in the series were Duke, Lady Jaye, Flint, Falcon, Gung Ho and Snake-Eyes. The Cobra characters most noted in the series were Destro, the Baroness, Zartan and of course, Cobra Commander who was voiced in the TV series by the late Chris Latta (who also voiced the legendary villain Starscream from "Transformers"). Last October 13, a group of nostalgic cartoon fanatics started the first ever Philippine G.I. Joe event, celebrating 25 years since the G.I. Joe franchise was relaunched. The event was held in Toys Râ Us at Robinsons Galleria in Ortigas. The group of G.I. Joe fans that held the event is actually a subset of the Transformers Philippines fan base, which collects Transformers memorabilia. It is headed by Azrael Coladilla, who thought of having the G.I. Joe celebration as a way to get old fans of the TV series to showcase their toys. âWeâve never had a real G.I. Joe group like we do with Transformers Philippines,â Coladilla said. During the event Coladilla and his colleagues showcased various G.I. Joe toys, comics and videos. They also held trivia quizzes, character drawing contests, diorama competitions and panel discussions on the beloved toy line. While it was only a one-day event, Coladilla already deems it a success. âWeâll finally get them together because our next plan is to have a major G.I. Joe convention soon.â
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net IN AN EFFORT to re-establish ties with former players and entice new ones, online game publisher Level Up! has put up a new Ragnarok Online server that will be primarily free-to-play. The new server will be called Valkyrie and started operating last October 10. Its main difference is that players through this server will not have to pay any subscription fees, though they may have to buy virtual items using their top-up prepaid cards. Its other Ragnarok servers are still subscription-based and also charge for in-game items bought from the virtual item mall. Likewise, players can also have “player kills” or unprovoked attacks against other players. This is a major change from the original concept of Ragnarok Online as players have to challenge others to fights. On the other hand, players can still form guilds to fight other players and search for boss monsters that randomly spawn in different maps on the Valkyrie server. These monsters provide rare items that may help players in their quests. LU marketing manager Ramon Macutay said that since the opening of the free-to-play server, they have registered at least 2, 000 players and they hope the numbers will increase in the coming days as new players try out playing for free. Macutay said that so far, Ragnarok Online has at least seven million registered players, with a monthly concurrent user base of about 200, 000. Ragnarok Online, introduced in 2003, was the second online game to be available in the Philippines after OZ World, a previous LU title. The company is also preparing to introduce Ragnarok 2 soon.
CHECK out this trailer from Electronic Arts Limited (UK), which explains the Aggro system in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 third-person shooter Army of Two. Army of Two will be launched on November 15 in North America and Europe. For more videos from INQUIRER.net and our partners, visit iVDO.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net ABS-CBN’s online gaming division Amped Games recently treated reporters to a few rounds of its first casual game GetAmped, which is primarily a combat game that feels almost the same as Nintendo's extremely popular Super Smash Brothers series. GetAmped was developed by Japanese firm Cyberstep and will be the first Japanese online game to be made available in the Philippines. It just started its closed beta testing but an open beta test is scheduled for another month, allowing more players to try out the game. For those who have played SSB for the GameCube and the much older Nintendo 64, getting into GetAmped will be easy: a player would have to first create an account to log in. Next, the player will be able to create an in-game character from six different base characters, each having a different color palette. The base characters are Fighter, Military, Superman, ESPer, Spy and Armor. They have unique character attributes such as strength, technique, speed, jump and defense and the player would have to choose wisely what type of style he or she would be employing. Weapons can also be bought from the item shop and these would vary in strength and type. There are melee weapons such as baseball bats, 4x4 sticks or golf clubs while there are long-range weapons such as guns, cannons and missile launchers. These items would have to be bought using an in-game currency called Gs. The player can also make changes in their characters in two ways, either by buying character palettes from the item shop or by creating their own. Through the latter, a player can upload any bitmap file photo that will be used as a skin for the character, thus broadening the creativity of the player to customize their in-game character. In fact, more creative players can make their in-game characters look like them or their favorite person or item. The game's customization option uses a sort of vector-mapping application that allows the player to design their characters according to specifications they want, from thickness, length and height. The actual gameplay is indeed somewhat similar to the Smash Brothers series as up to eight players can duke it out in a melee-style fight. The only keypads needed are the four-way arrow keys for movement, Z for the targeting reticule, X for the strong attack, C for the short attack and the V for the jump. There as special key combinations that will produce different types of attacks or blocks, though the methods, strength and speed of attacks may differ from one character to another. However, it may take some getting used to with the controls, which are quite difficult for newbie players. Incidentally, the developers have put in an option for attaching USB controllers, similar to those used for the PlayStation console. In addition, the button configurations can still be assigned based on player preference. Most maps are fairly small ones where players can fight until only one character remains, but there are variations in the game mode to break the monotony of simple deathmatches. There are also sports-like game modes such as basketball, football and capture-the-flag. Players can team up to four and play against an equal number of players from a different team. But unlike traditional sports games, players in GetAmped can deliver cheap shots against other players to prevent them from scoring. By the looks of it, it could get confusing especially when a player is trying to draw a ball away from the enemy while avoid getting struck at the same time. So far, the game is doing pretty well. It's targeted at younger people who may want to play a cute combat game rather than the more serious fighting games currently available from other publishers.
WHEW, talk about sizzling hot. This Maxim shoot brings the female characters of the PlayStation Portable video game Tekken: Dark Resurrection to life. Warning: this video is not safe for work. Tekken has never been as blatant in promoting its sexy babes as that other popular fighting game, DOA (Dead or Alive), has been, but I guess that's changed. For more babes, visit Babe Republic.
CHECK out the cover and first three pages of Archie Double Digest #183, courtesy of our friends over at Archie Comics. ARCHIE DOUBLE DIGEST #183 "High-Scoring Hijinks": Raj Patel takes Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica on a trip to India to visit his uncle's video game company! Will Archie's ever-prominent clumsiness lead to a premature "game over" for the tour, or could it possibly inspire the 3-D animators to come up with a brand-new game? It's a "high score" of an issue you won't want to miss! Script and Art: Fernando Ruiz Plus: Other new and classic tales! Script and Art: Various talents Bonus: Puzzles, games and pin-ups Shipping Date: October 10th, 2007 On Sale at Comic Specialty Shops: October 17th, 2007 On Sale on Newsstands: October 30th, 2007 Full color digest format $3.69
By Agence France-Presse TOKYO--Japanese researchers say they have found a way to let people stroll through the virtual world of Second Life using their own imagination, in a development that could help paralysis patients. Previous studies have shown people can move computer cursors through brain waves, but the Japanese team says it is the first to apply the technology to an Internet virtual world. The technology "would enable people suffering paralysis to communicate with others or do business through chatting and shopping in a virtual world," said Junichi Ushiba, associate professor at Keio Univesity's rehabilitation center. Second Life is an increasingly popular virtual world in which people -- and animals -- are represented by animated avatars and can do everything from social activities to shopping. Ushiba said Second Life could motivate patients with severe paralysis, who are often too depressed to undergo rehabilitation. "If they can see with their own eyes their characters moving around, it could reinvigorate their brain activity and restore some functions," he said. Under the technology, a person wearing head gear embedded with electrodes, which analyze brain waves in the cerebral motor cortex, would be able to move a Second Life character forward by thinking he or she is walking. Imagining movement with the right or left hand would make the character turn accordingly in the same direction. Researchers have previously put similar technology to work to scan brain waves to control objects such as computer cursors and electrical gears. In the Keio University laboratory, the team has designed artificial arms that operate by reading brain waves, although none is known to be commercially available yet. Ushiba said the technology could help people undergoing neuro-rehabilitation by stimulating brain activity. Traditionally, "if a stroke leaves a man's right hand paralyzed, he has been encouraged to use his left hand instead," Ushiba said. "More recently, however, it has come to light that the paralyzed hand would start moving better if you try to use it," Ushiba said, noting that attempts to use a numb hand increase brain activity. The team next plans to test the technology on actual paralysis patients to see how they respond to the virtual world.
THEY'RE two of the industry's most respected video game composers, and Cris Velasco (right) and Sascha Dikiciyan are once more collaborating, this time for the soundtrack of one of the most anticipated games of the year, Hellgate: London. You're probably already very familiar with Velasco and Dikiciyan's previous collaborations, including Splinter Cell, Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, Dark Messiah, and God of War 2. Here's more info from the press statement released by Singapore-based Infocomm Asia Holdings Pte Ltd., the regional operator of Hellgate: London and Granado Espada.
Renowned video game composers Cris Velasco and Sascha Dikiciyan have created the original soundtrack for Hellgate: London, the premiere PC title from Flagship Studios. Furthermore, the complete original soundtrack will be made available within the Hellgate: London Collector's Edition. Both the Collector's Edition of Hellgate: London and the standard retail box will be hitting store shelves around the world on October 31, 2007, with the simultaneous launch for Asia held right in Singaporeâ€™s very own Funan DigitaLife Mall from 3-10 p.m. by IAHGames. To complement the post-apocalyptic setting of Hellgate: London, veteran game musicians Velasco and Dikiciyan merged several music styles encompassing orchestral, rock, and ambient, as well as musical sound design elements. No strangers to the action RPG genre, the duo worked closely with the audio team at Flagship Studios to deliver an original soundtrack that embraces the fantasy and sci-fi aspects of the game while infusing it with a modern edge. Dikiciyan is the man behind the soundtracks of titles such as Quake, Splinter Cell, and StarCraft 2â€™s trailer as well as the sound designer for Unreal Tournament and Quake. Velasco has also created soundtracks for various PlayStation titles such as Van Helsing and God of War. "The collaborative partnership of Velasco and Dikiciyan is an ideal fit for the world of Hellgate: London," said Dave Steinwedel, audio manager at Flagship Studios. "By drawing on their diverse musical influences they have created an outstanding original soundtrack that will stand the test of time."
CHECK out the October issue of GAME!, the gaming magazine of our sister company, Hinge Inquirer Publications. Here are more details courtesy of the GAME! team.
Load up for rounds of gaming tips in GAME!'s exclusive WarRock feature! Take a peek into some of the most anticipated games: GetAmped, Tabula Rasa, World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, and Dragon Ball Online. Enjoy our second helping of partying pointers for Lineage II and an introduction to Guild Wars' latest expansion, Eye of the North, along with reviews for BioShock, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Lair, and Jeanne d'Arc. Grab a copy of GAME! for only P80 from newsstands, and get a chance to win a Nintendo Wii.
By Erwin Oliva INQUIRER.net PHILIPPINE online game publisher Level Up! is close to launching a game portal where Pinoy casual games will also become available, an executive told hackenslash. Level Up! and local game developer FlipSide Games are now working on putting more original content into a game portal branded as BeThere, said Jake San Diego, marketing director of Level Up! Philippines, in an interview following the launch of Level Up! Mobile, a mobile service for subscribers of Level Up! games. "We're working with FlipSide to put more games into that game portal," San Diego added. The game portal will also be Level Up! Philippines' way of pushing advertising within casual games. In a separate interview, Jane Walker, CEO of Level Up! Philippines, said BeThere is actually a localized version of a casual and simple game platform developed by French company Boonty. "The US brand is called café.com. It's the same platform were localizing for the Philippines, which will be re-branded as BeThere. So the platform is the same," Walker said. The game portal will initially offer six casual games, Walker said. "But we can create our own games to work on the platform. So we're bringing in Pinoy games. That's part of our vision," she said. BeThere will be available to local players before the year ends, the Level Up! Philippines executives said.
By Riza T. Olchondra Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Filipinos are ready for advertisements that are linked to games or delivered inside games, said Bong Mojica, head of the wireless consumer division of Smart Communications Inc. At the launch for Level Up! Mobile, a service that allows gamers to remotely access their Level Up! account and download mobile content, Mojica said that as the gamer population in the Philippines grows so does the potential to promote Smart’s services through games. Level Up! marketing director Jake San Diego confirmed that there is a huge base for gaming-related advertising. “Level Up! has 600,000 members, but the population of gamers in the Philippines is currently three million and is fast growing,” he said. Smart and Level Up! are subsidiaries of telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. But this does not stop Smart from talking to other game publishers for in-game advertising. “Yes, we have been in touch with various publishers,” Mojica said. “The mobile service for accessing accounts is currently exclusive with Level Up!, but we will not work exclusively with Level Up! in terms of in-game advertising.” Smart has, in fact, had in-game advertising trials with Level Up! rival IP e-Games, a subsidiary of listed ICT company IPVG Corp. IPVG chief executive Enrique Gonzalez said in a separate interview that IP e-Games had piloted ad campaigns “for telecommunications and technology companies,” including Smart, in its flagship game, RAN Online. According to studies, digital advertising is expected to comprise as much as 20 percent of online gaming revenues two years from now. In a report released sometime in February this year, Piper Jaffray & Co. Internet Media and Marketing’s research team said that global online advertising revenue may reach $81.1 billion in 2011.
INTRODUCTION of the participating teams in the RAN Global Tournament held on Oct. 7 at the Esplanade mall in Bangkok, Thailand for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game RAN Online. The Philippine team, composed of team captain Benito Carlo David S. Brosas (Ben), Ronnuel R. Florida (RR), Adrian Justin N. Magtoto (AJ) and Zulius Czar C. Apostol (Dookie), placed second in the tournament. For more video clips from INQUIRER.net and our partners, visit iVDO.
I WAS in Bangkok last week to cover the RAN Global Tournament -- the Philippine team placed second in that online gaming tournament. Here's a video of one of the contestants in the RAN Gang Zaa RAN Girls competition held on Oct. 7 at the Esplanade mall dancing during the talent portion. This video clip is courtesy of fellow journalist Carlo Suerte Felipe. The contest was part of the festivities for the 1st RAN Global Tournament online gaming competition and the second anniversary of RAN Thailand. For more video clips from INQUIRER.net and our partners, visit iVDO. For more babes, visit our Babe Republic blog.
HERE are the video clips of the match between the Philippines and Indonesia in the RAN Global Tournament held on Oct. 7 at the Esplanade mall in Bangkok. The Philippines defeated Indonesia, 2-0, in their best-of-three match. Here's Game 1. And here's Game 2. The Philippine team, composed of team captain Benito Carlo David S. Brosas (Ben), Ronnuel R. Florida (RR), Adrian Justin N. Magtoto (AJ) and Zulius Czar C. Apostol (Dookie), eventually placed second in the tournament after a hard-fought 1-2 loss to Thailand in the last match. Congratulations to Team Philippines!
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net THE UNITED STATES boasted this year's top ranking players in the World Cyber Games 2007 Grand Final, taking a total of three gold, two silver and one bronze medals for the overall medal tally. The US won gold medals in the games Tony Hawk Project 8, Gears of War and Dead or Alive 4; silver medals in Age of Empires III and Project Gotham Racing 3; and a bronze in Dead or Alive 4. The US win gave them $40,000 as team-country prize, apart from the cash prizes they won in the individual games. The US was followed by the Brazilian contingent, who tied with the South Koreans with two gold and one bronze in the game. The Netherlands ranked fourth with one gold medal and two silver medals while Germany ranked fifth with one gold medal, one silver medal and three bronze medals. The Philippine team failed to enter the Round of 16 of any of the four games in which it participated. Over 700 players from 74 countries joined in this year's WCG Grand Final, which was held in Seattle, Washington last weekend. Eight PC video games and four console games became part of the competition. These were Warcraft III: Frozen Throne, StarCraft: Brood War, Counter-Strike, FIFA Soccer 2007, Need for Speed: Carbon, Command and Conquer: Tiberium Wars, Age of Empires III, Carom3D, Gears of War, Dead or Alive 4, Project Gotham Racing 3 and Tony Hawk Project 8. The Philippines sent representatives to play in Warcraft III, StarCraft III, Need for Speed: Carbon and Counter-Strike. The WCG 2008 will be held in Cologne, Germany.
By Joey Alarilla, hackenslash Editor INQUIRER.net UPDATE: The organizers changed the cash prizes for the 1st RAN Global Tournament. At the awards ceremony, the fourth place team (Indonesia) still received $500 as earlier announced, but the third placer (Malaysia) received $1, 000, the first runner-up (Philippines) received $2, 000, and the champion (Thailand) received $3, 000. BANGKOK, Thailand--The Philippines came close, tantalizingly close. In a battle of the top two teams, both of whom had swept their matches against Malaysia and Indonesia to end up with six points apiece, the Philippines and host Thailand clashed for the championship in the last match of the 1st RAN Global Tournament that was held at the Esplanade mall. The Philippine team, composed of team captain Benito Carlo David S. Brosas, Ronnuel R. Florida, Adrian Justin N. Magtoto, and Zulius Czar C. Apostol, shocked the favored Thai team by drawing first blood in their best-of-three match. Thailand, however, kept its composure and won a hard-fought second game to stay alive. Then, to the cheers of the crowd, Thailand completed its come-from-behind victory by taking the third and deciding game, to be crowned the first RAN Global Tournament championships. As the champion team, Thailand will receive $5, 000. The Philippines will bring home the second prize of $3, 000. "I'm very proud that we were able to send a very strong team to represent the Philippines," Heidi Mendita, IP e-Games MMORPG group product manager, told hackenslash. "We are the youngest team -- we have one 15-year-old [referring to Florida] and three 19-year-olds -- and yet were able to come up with a very strong showing." Asked what lessons IP e-Games, the Philippine publisher of RAN Online, has learned from its participation in the inaugural RAN Global Tournament, Mendita said they are looking at changing the process for selecting the Philippine team next year. "Next year, we will choose per team. This year, we chose through the Battle Royale, with individual champions," she said. Mendita said she hopes that the four members of the current team would stay together, as they have learned a lot from their international experience and placed a strong second in their first time playing together in a tournament. "This is the first trip abroad for most of them, and the whole experience has made them better and mor mature players." In a post-match interview with hackenslash, team captain Brosas said they were happy with the experience and the opportunity to compete internationally. "We're happy, but of course we're also sad because we really wanted to win this for our country," Brosas said. The team members said they would like to continue playing together. The first RAN Global Tournament was participated in by four countries, the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. Malaysia placed third and will receive $1, 500, while fourth placer Indonesia will bring home $500.
UPDATE: Malaysia defeated Indonesia. BANGKOK, Thailand--The Philippine team once again scored a sweep, this time downing Malaysia, 2-0, in its second match in the 1st RAN Global Tournament. The Philippines and host Thailand now have six points apiece, having swept both their matches. They will face each other in the last match of the round robin, after the Malaysia-Indonesia match which is about to start.
BANGKOK, Thailand--Thailand swept Indonesia, 2-0. Thailand now has six points in the 1st RAN Global Tournament. Each 2-0 victory is worth three points, while a 2-1 win is worth two points. The next match will be the Philippines versus Malaysia.
BANGKOK, Thailand--Host Thailand swept its opening match against Malaysia, 2-0, in the elimination round robin of the 1st RAN Global Tournament. The next match, Thailand versus Indonesia, is about to begin.
BANGKOK, Thailand--The Philippines began its campaign for the championship in the 1st RAN Global Tournament, sweeping Indonesia, 2-0, in the opening match. The Philippines will next meet Malaysia in the round robin. I'll post the video clips of the opening match as soon as they're uploaded.
By Joey Alarilla, hackenslash Editor INQUIRER.net BANGKOK, Thailand--We're now here at the Esplanade mall for the 1st RAN Global Tournament, which is scheduled to start at 12 noon here (Bangkok is one hour behind the Philippines). Here's a photo of the RAN Philippine team taken at the hotel right before we left for Esplanade. This will be a round robin among the four teams -- the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, with the opening match being our team versus Indonesia. Winners who sweep their match will receive three points, while those who win by a 2-1 margin will receive two points. Losers, of course, will receive no points. The first place team will receive $5, 000; the second placer, $3, 000; third placer, $1, 500; and fourth placer, $500.
By Joey Alarilla, hackenslash Editor INQUIRER.net BANGKOK, Thailand--I've just arrived here in our hotel room. I'm here to cover the 1st RAN Global Tournament, where the best RAN Online teams from the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and host country Thailand will battle it out tomorrow, Oct. 7, at the Esplanade Convention Center. The Philippine team is composed of the top three players in the Philippine Battle Royale Grand Finals held in April as part of the first anniversary celebration of IP e-Games. These are first placer Ronnuel R. Florida, second placer Benito Carlo David S. Brosas, and third placer Adrian Justin N. Magtoto. The fourth member of the Philippine team is the winner of the Search for the Fourth contest that IP e-Games held on Sept. 16, Zulius Czar C. Apostol. Globe Broadband is sponsoring cash prizes for the winning players, who will also receive scholarships from Asia Pacific College. We have high hopes for the RAN Online Philippine team, and hackenslash will give you the latest developments as they happen. Wouldn't Sunday be an exceptionally great day if Manny Pacquiao beats Marco Antonio Barrera and the Philippine team brings home the gold? :)
By Associated Press TOKYO--A Japanese bureaucrat has been reprimanded for shirking his duties to make hundreds of Wikipedia contributions about the popular Gundam toy robot line and animated series, officials said Friday. The agriculture ministry said the bureaucrat, whose name was not released, contributed 260 times to the Japanese-language Wikipedia entry on "Gundam," a popular, long-running animated series about giant robots that has spun off intricate toys popular among children and adults who belong to the so-called "otaku culture" of fascination with comic books, animation and robots. "The agriculture ministry is not in charge of 'Gundam,'" ministry official Tsutomu Shimomura said. The agriculture ministry verbally reprimanded five other bureaucrats who contributed to entries on movies, typographical mistakes in billboard signs and local politics. The six employees together made 408 entries on the popular Internet encyclopedia from ministry computers since 2003. The ministry did not object to employees making limited contributions on World Trade Organization and free trade agreements. The reprimands emerged from an internal probe following recent media allegations that a growing number of Japanese public servants were contributing to the Web encyclopedia, which anyone can edit, often to reflect their views. An unspecified number of other bureaucrats apparently had contributed to Wikipedia on "Gundam," but could not be identified, Shimomura said. Shimomura said the ministry reprimands were not related to WikiScanner, a recently introduced free program that reveals the identities of the computers used to make Wikipedia changes. The agriculture ministry issued an order prohibiting employees from accessing Wikipedia at work, while disabling access to the site from the ministry, Shimomura said. An Imperial Household Agency official was reprimanded last month for deleting references criticizing imperial tombs on Wikipedia through the agency computer.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net ONLINE game publisher Level Up! recently partnered with telecommunications firm Smart Communications to start a wireless management service that allows online game players of Level Up! to manage their gaming accounts through their mobile phones. Simply called Level Up! Mobile, it is similar to current consumer services being offered by Smart but is geared toward Level Up!'s 600,000 active players. It provides mobile downloads of wallpapers, operator logos and picture messages all related to Level Up!'s published online games. Level Up! Mobile also has GuildText, a multi-recipient text service wherein a player can send multiple messages to their online gaming friends, preferably called "guild." Level Up! will also use the mobile platform to send news regarding updates to their games, invitations to tournaments and other activities, as well as regular maintenance updates of their servers. The highlighted feature of Level Up! Mobile is its account management service wherein players can load credits or "top up" their accounts through their mobile phones. Generally, players of Level Up! games have to buy prepaid cards and load them up as they play their respective games online. Among the games Level Up! distributes in the Philippines are Ragnarok Online, Khan, PangYa, Fly for Fun, RF Online and Perfect World. The service is not SMS-based but rather uses a graphical user interface to allow ease of use without having to memorize keywords. Level Up! marketing director Jake San Diego said the company is hoping that around 60 percent of their current players would activate the service, which would still be at P2.50 per SMS transaction. The mobile service will for now be an exclusive partnership between Level Up! and Smart. Both Level Up! and Smart are subsidiaries of telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net TAIWANESE computer maker Acer isn’t exactly known among gamers as a good option for the kind of activity they do, largely because of its low graphics capabilities even in its high-end models. Even the company’s high-end Ferrari series was not as well received by gamers because of its exorbitant pricing. Only the more discriminating business and budget-conscious segments of the market were more familiar with Acer’s laptop models. In the last few years, however, Acer has been slowly enticing the gamer market with a few models. One of its latest iterations is the Gemstone series, a totally redesigned scheme that makes Acer notebooks look more like toys than notebooks. The design does work well for Acer as it gives a fresh look to an otherwise gray-and-black laptop. As such, the Gemstone 5920G (the G might mean gamer) is one of the most powerful models from Acer and is targeted at the gamer market. This model features Core 2 Duo T7300 2.0 Ghz processor, a 2Gb memory, a DVD writer capable of HD-DVD, a 160 Gb hard drive and an Nvidia Geforce 8600M GT 256MB graphics card. The last specification is probably the more enticing feature of the 5920G since it is in GDDR2 (for the non-techie, it means it functions two times better than current generation PC graphics cards) and is already capable of high-definition gaming and video. In fact, the 5920G already has HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface), a video output that will allow a user to connect the 5920G to an HDMI-capable LCD monitor. Again, this last feature would be particularly useful when using the 5920G for either DVD/HD-DVD movie playing and playing video games. Luckily, most video games can be pushed for 720p or 1080i viewing. Nevertheless, the 5920G’s 15-inch LCD monitor is more than enough to view games. It is also one of the best looking LCDs among laptops. It uses Acer’s CrystalBrite anti-glare screen, which reduces both the glare from the LCD as well as ambient light that bounces off the screen. One noticeable aspect of the 5920G’s LCD is the high contrast ratio when viewing images with both dark colors (black/gray) and bright colors (red/yellow). However, Acer’s LCDs still couldn’t refresh fast enough; at 8 milliseconds, it’s still as slow as LCD monitors two years ago. Most computer LCDs now can refresh between 4 and 5 milliseconds. Again, to some non-techies, the difference may not be obvious but videophiles will notice more “jaggies” when the camera pans from one side to another. Still, it’s only a small thing to notice. In addition to the LCD Monitor is the integrated webcam, which surprisingly renders more than the usual 640x480 pixels. In most laptops the screen is usually about the size of a business card but the 5920G’s LCD can render a screen three times as large and is a welcome treat especially when doing video conferencing. Performance-wise, the 5920G excels in both the gaming and DVD aspect. Supreme Commander, a resource-intensive game, actually runs fairly smoothly in the 5920G, even better than a desktop computer using a Pentium-powered PC with 2Gb memory and 256MB video card. When running at full resource, the 5920G’s battery can last up to one hour before a battery low warning pops up. For most laptop users, one hour is not enough, especially when watching videos through the DVD drive. But Acer included a widget application called Acer Empowering Technology, which controls all notebook the resources (it’s actually present in new Acer notebooks). It can manage the battery consumption of the 5920G by switching on and off some internal devices that consume power, such as the connections (802.11 a/b/g, Bluetooth, wired local area network and PCMCIA), as well as manage the brightness of the LCD, hard disk hibernation and even the CPU speed. While all of these can be managed through either Windows XP or Windows Vista, having it all in a clutter-free widget is much better and idiot-proof. The 5920G’s speaker system is one of the best among laptops in its class. While it is neither 4.1 or 5.1, it has Altec Lansing stereo speakers and a down-firing subwoofer that produces descent bass. It’s even more intense when watching action movies and playing video games that have high bass sound effects. Too bad the manufactuers should have allowed the Gemstone to have front-firing speakers so that a user can just close down the LCD and play music. But, having it open and watching the visualizations either in Windows Media Player or WinAmp is still a treat. Overall, the Acer Gemstone 5920G is a great gamer’s PC, especially for the addict who plays in LAN parties to show off his skills in Counter-Strike, Warcraft DOTA or Unreal. It does come with a cost though: at P89, 000, it is still in the “expensive” gamer’s category. Nonetheless, a full gaming PC would cost between P40,000 to P50,000, so an additional P40,000 for a mobile gamer’s laptop may be a good option, especially if there is enough money to burn.
By Yuri Kageyama Associated Press TOKYO--Nintendo's "Wiimote" is getting a cushion cover. The Japanese gamemaker's Wii machine has become a global hit among players young and old alike who use its wandlike remote control for fishing, golfing, tennis and other video games. To help prevent accidents and soften possible blows, Nintendo Co. is shipping for free rubbery silicone covers for the handheld devices -- just in case overly excited players see the Wiimote flying out of their hands. The notice about the free Wii "jackets" has been sent as a message to owners who have their Wii machines connected to the Internet, and a notice is also posted on the company webpage, company spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa said Wednesday. Wii remotes going on sale after about Oct. 15 will come with the covers, Nintendo said. The company has already strengthened the straps for the remotes that go around the wrist to help keep them fixed in players' hands. It recalled the remotes to exchange the straps in December after people complained they were coming loose, even crashing into TV sets. Minagawa said the company has not received any reports of bodily injuries from the Wiimote. The Wii console from the Kyoto-based manufacturer of Super Mario and Pokemon games has drawn relative newcomers to gaming, including the elderly and women, with easier-to-play games such as brain teasers, cooking recipes and virtual pet dogs. "This is a totally new game experience. There's a chance some people may still be a little worried," Minagawa said of the covers. "This is not because there were any problems. It's strictly a precaution." Since the Wii went on sale late last year, Nintendo has shipped 9.3 million of the consoles around the world, with supplies barely keeping up with demand, especially in the US and Europe. By the end of this fiscal year in March 2008, Wii global shipments are expected to have reached a cumulative 22.3 million.
By Alex Villafania, hackeslash Reporter INQUIRER.net THE WORLD Cyber Games Asian online gaming tournament site WCG Zone recently partnered with Intel to start an online tournament called Rampage Asia that aims to pit Asia's best players in a variety of video games. The three-month competition, which started September 15 and ends on December 15, is open to 15 Asian countries. These are Australia, Bangladesh, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The games that will be part of the online tournaments are the first person shooter Counter-Strike 1.6 and real-time strategy game WarCraft III: Frozen Throne. According to the rules of the competition, players will receive points from the matches they win and lose. The scores will be immediately posted after each match and a leader board would be available to show the best players for both games. A total of $70, 000 will be given away as prizes to the winners of the competitions. First placers for Warcraft III and Counter-Strike will win $20, 000, second placers will win $10, 000 and third placers will win $5, 000. Players who have logged in more than 50 matches or three hours of game time will be eligible for special prizes. The event runs parallel to the WCG Grand Final to be held in Seattle, Washington from October 4 to 7.
By Alex Villafania, hackenslash Reporter INQUIRER.net PHILIPPINE online video game rental shop Gamehopper has started offering its service to credit card users, in an effort to boost its membership to other areas around the country. The new payment scheme, which was started in September, allows members to pay for the monthly rental fee through credit cards, instead of the traditional cash-on-delivery scheme. The new scheme also entices other video game players to register with Gamehopper while waiving the P3, 500 one-time membership fee. Gamehopper has also waived the delivery charge to credit card users, as long as the delivery is done on a scheduled date per area. The company delivers to mostly Metro Manila members but has delivered titles to users as far away as Cebu and Davao. Gamehopper co-founder John Paul Ramos said they have also created a new rental system for credit card users, allowing members to rent more than one title simultaneously for one month. “We were getting requests from users who said they want to borrow games and return them at the same time,” he said. Credit card-paying members can borrow up to four titles at a time for an unlimited number of times per month. The new rental scheme can now allow users to borrow up to three titles simultaneously. Users will be charged P599 for borrowing only one title, P799 for two titles and P999 for four titles. With the new system, Gamehopper aims to entice existing members to use their credit cards to pay for rentals. However, the company will still retain the existing payment scheme for both old and new members who do not have credit cards. Gamehopper already has dozens of titles for the Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, as well as for the Sony PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS handheld gaming devices. The company is promoting the rental of original games instead of buying pirated software for console owners in the Philippines.
By Ed Geronia, hackenslash Contributor INQUIRER.net THREE years ago, a lone soldier made a promise to finish the fight once and for all. Spartan 117, also known as the Master Chief, is back to kick Covenant ass. The trilogy is now complete with Halo 3, the final saga of the Xbox 360's banner game. For the game's global launch last September 25th, major gaming markets such as North America and Europe played host to several Halo 3 events. The central HQ for the Asian Halo 3 launch was located at Suntec Plaza in the heart of Singapore. A theater-size screen outside the mall gave onlookers their first taste of seeing Halo 3 in action. Staged last September 25, the mall atrium was transformed into a venue for the ultimate Halo 3 gaming party. Because of differences in time zones, the Singapore Halo 3 launch could be considered as the first in the world. The launch kicked off at 12 noon, with people already lined up since early morning to get the first copies of the game. On sale on that day was the two-disc Limited Edition set. Encased in a heavy black tin box emblazoned with the Halo 3 logo, the 80 Singapore dollar (around P2, 600) set was only made available to stores the following day. People who purchased the game at the venue were also given an exclusive loot bag which contained a Halo-themed notebook, shirt, poster, cell phone accessory, and a S$30 gift voucher for a Halo Tagger messenger bag. A raffle stub was also included with every purchase. The main prizes were several Legendary Edition box sets. Two boys who were in line since 7 a.m. were rewarded for their efforts. Not only did they make it to the local TV news, but they were also given a Halo 3 Legendary Edition box set. The Legendary Edition is considered as a holy grail among Halo fans since it contains a nearly lifesize detailed replica of Master Chief’s MJOLNIR helmet along with a special two-disc edition Halo 3. In the center of the venue was an Xbox 360- and Halo 3-themed stage. Behind it was the main tournament area which had several high-definition widescreen Samsung LCD displays. There was also a MJOLNIR Mark VI Spartan armor on display. Standalone 360 demo kiosks were situated throughout the area. All the game stations were busy during the entire event as people lined up to play the campaign and multiplayer modes. Singapore's first official Halo 3 multiplayer tournament went underway at the event. It culminated in an award ceremony attended by two of Halo 3’s main characters. Sergeant Avery J. Johnson of the UNSC first trooped to the stage in his standard issue military fatigues. He barked at the contest winners, congratulating them for a job well done. Next to arrive amid a cheering and whooping crowd was Master Chief himself in his MJOLNIR battle armor while holding an MA5C Assault Rifle. He personally handed out the prizes to the tournament and raffle winners. Here's a photo of me with Master Chief. The seven-hour event ended at around 8 p.m. Now finish the fight! Editor's note: Photos courtesy of Ed Geronia