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GDC08: Hands-on with Bangai-O Spirits


One of the first appointments I had when I got into San Francisco for GDC was with D3 Publisher. This appointment was what I was looking forward to most out of the trip, because I was going to get to play Bangai-O Spirits. And play it I did, while gushing unprofessionally at the D3 QA person giving the demo. I did my best to learn as quickly as possible how all the new parts of Bangai-O Spirits work. It's the same as the N64 and Dreamcast games in a number of ways, but it's also very different in a few fundamental ways. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play with the sound transmission feature, one of the most different things about the game.

Head past the break for detailed impressions, and be sure to check out our gallery of brand-new screens!

Gallery: Bangai-O Spirits



Continue reading GDC08: Hands-on with Bangai-O Spirits

GDC08: ... and that's a wrap!



Well, the Game Developers Conference has finally come to a close. So, if you were otherwise occupied and missed out on the boatloads of news from the show (including our man of the hour JC's hands-on write-ups of several titles available), hit up our coverage below.

DS Fanboy gets in on the action:
Other news and items of interest

GDC08: Hands almost-on with Puzzle Quest: Galactrix


D3 Publisher's big surprise at GDC this year was the newly rebranded Puzzle Quest: Galactrix, the sci-fi spiritual sequel to the hit Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords. We weren't able to play the game -- we were forced to sit tantalizingly close as we watched the PC version of the game (also coming to DS and Xbox Live Arcade) being demonstrated. The new game explores the question "What if people didn't have souls?" in the medium of match-three puzzle games. No, we don't know what that means either.

Enjoy our gallery of spaceship concept art, screenshots, and this thing, and continue past the break for what gameplay details we could glean from the demo.

Gallery: Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

Continue reading GDC08: Hands almost-on with Puzzle Quest: Galactrix

GDC08: Professor Layton watching over GDC

Nintendo's absolutely relentless promoting of Professor Layton and the Curious Village has shown no signs of letting up at the ongoing Game Developers Conference.

Siliconera's Spencer Yip spotted this giant rotating projector advert for the game looming over the North Hall of the Moscone Center (the GDC venue), and also reports that nearby bus stops are sporting their fair share of Layton ads. It's great to see Nintendo's American arm being so supportive of the game -- here's hoping all of this hard work reflects in the sales figures!

GDC08: Hands-on with Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword


Nintendo was also offering a playable demo of Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword at their GDC booth, which I totally flipped out and killed played for a few intense minutes. It wasn't too intense, because the game started me in a tutorial stage. It took me through the basic controls (slash enemies to attack, slash up to jump, push any button to block, tap to throw shuriken) and started very slowly meting out enemies on which I could practice. I tried to download the demo, but there was already a queue.

I'm not even sure I was playing on a regular DS, or if Tecmo has created some kind of new dual-screened system that is appropriate for action games. It was just right. It certainly wasn't natural at first to play something like Ninja Gaiden with the stylus, but understanding set in very quickly. What felt at first like randomly stabbing at my screen quickly became strategic. It's actually significantly easier to target enemies directly (by drawing on them) than it is to juggle multiple enemies with a joystick.

Gallery: Ninja Gaiden Dragon Sword

Continue reading GDC08: Hands-on with Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword

GDC08: Joystiq gets their hands dirty with Inchworm


If any of you are familiar with rotoscoping (see: A Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly), the man behind the software responsible for the movie magic, Bob Sabiston, decided he wanted to animate on his DS. So, he made Inchworm. "[It was] sort of a passion project, something we really want to see on the DS," he says.

Joystiq got their hands on the application, running it through its paces. And, after reading their hands-on impressions, we're excited about this avenue for creativity on the DS. We just love stuff like this, to tell the truth, so suffice to say we're incredibly angry we didn't get to try it.

Oh well ...

GDC08: More like Cubispore

Nintendo had a playable demo of Spore Creatures at their booth, and I availed myself of the (scaled-down) miracle of (simulated) life. I don't know about the scope of the full game, having played for just a few minutes, but the initial stage of the game was easy to understand.

Starting out as a small creature with just a pair of eyes and a little worm-like body, the game paired me with an identical friend. This friend walked me over to a "nest" where I could add a part -- in this case, a mouth. You use mouths to eat things! Different parts give different attributes -- how much can be eaten, what type of food the creature prefers, and such. In addition, they add to your social ability. I chose one based on the unofficial "looking hilarious" attribute.

After this I was shown how to make friends. To engage another creature, you call out to it and then sort of pet it with the stylus (really). If you're social enough, they'll be your friend and can be asked to dance (in a Samba-esque minigame) and even follow you. After this, I was led into combat, which involves clicking on a "fight" icon and then scratching away at the creature.

Really, more than anything, Spore Creatures reminds me of an expanded Cubivore, with friends instead of just enemies, and expanded combat based on more than just eating. This is a good thing.

Gallery: Spore Creatures

GDC08: Another gong for Phantom Hourglass

It only seems like a fortnight ago that we partied long into the night over quietly celebrated The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass scooping an award from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Wait -- it was only a fortnight ago! And it already has another award to its name!

This time it's a Game Developers Choice Award for Best Handheld Game of the Year, which Zelda clinched over Puzzle Quest: Challenge of The Warlords, Phase, Contra 4, and the iPod version of Peggle. Time to expand that trophy cabinet again, Nintendo!

Gallery: Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass


[Via press release]

GDC08: Naruto: Ninja Destiny sneak-attacks with quality

Naruto: Ninja Destiny is quite a surprise. It's openly an attempt by D3 and Dream Factory to pretty up a disappointing Japanese Naruto game -- the surprising thing is that it worked. Screens and trailers don't convey the shockingly beautiful graphics, which run at a constant 30 fps. Developer Dream Factory upped the framerate and changed the graphical style to a more cel-shaded look for the American release. It worked! I don't usually have much motivation to be personally interested in a Naruto game, but I was somewhat convinced by the appearance.

As for the gameplay, it's an openly mash-friendly 3D fighter, controlled with the d-pad and buttons. There are two attack buttons, a jump, and a special "jutsu" attack that uses energy from the chakra meter. The jutsu attacks are these huge flashy sequences of attacks. The touch screen holds a random assortment of recovery and booster items that restore health, chakra, and also have other in-game effects.

The game comes out next week, so we don't have long to wait until we find out if longterm play is as fast-paced and fun as it is in brief gameplay sessions.

GDC08: Surprise Metal Slug 7 appearance!


Expecting a room full of Neo Geo collections, I walked into SNK's demo room and found ... a room full of Neo Geo collections. But! In the back of the room, sitting unassumingly on a table, was Metal Slug 7! It was such a surprise that not even the SNK PR people there knew it would be there until this morning. It's fresh.

First off, I'll say that the jaggy, messy-looking screenshots released before do not reflect the (not even) final game. In fact, the game looks great, with all of Metal Slug's signature animations intact. The game is controlled with d-pad and buttons (I didn't even think to mess with the stylus) with a progress map on the lower screen. There are six selectable characters: Marco, Eri, Ralf, Clark, Fio, and Tarma. Each comes with a different default weapon; Marco's, for example, was a lightning gun. The levels are rife with bearded hostages, as is the custom for this series, and lots of enemies to be shot and knifed.

Unfortunately, I can't provide detailed impressions of multiple levels, because despite my best efforts I died early on in each level. I kept trying, though. There seems to be a mission mode that divides the game into shorter missions; however, since all the interface was in Japanese, I can't be sure. Again, not dying frequently would have helped here.

GDC08: Now for some Monkey Business


As you already know, we're in love with wacky 2D platformers, the crazier the better. You need only look to our romantic exchanges with Barnyard Blast, Sanuk Software's low-budget Castlevania spoof, for evidence of our forbidden flirtations.

At an IGS session yesterday, EA Tiburon's Kyle Gray demonstrated a new DS game, tentatively titled Monkey Business, currently in development and after our own heart. The colorful game's hero, a British explorer named Hatsby, could be seen battling an opera-singing boss and a robotic construct of Big Ben.

The combo system seems reminiscent of The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night, and there's some unclarified puzzle mechanic played out on the touchscreen -- what's there not to love? We were surprised to hear that EA greenlit the project, even if only for its EA Casual Games division, but Kyle explained, "It's this weird new face of EA ... They're actually looking to do new things, now."

Swing past the post break for more videos from the Flash prototype of this very interesting platformer.

Continue reading GDC08: Now for some Monkey Business

GDC08: DS Fanboy interviews Jeremiah Slaczka (5th Cell)


5th Cell's Creative Director, Jeremiah Slaczka, likes the DS. He has good reason to, since his company's debut game Drawn to Life is a success (to an unspecified degree) in the U.S., Australia, and Korea (it "did decent, not as well as Australia" in Europe). For the Korean release, a contest was even held to name the game. "They had, like, 20,000 submissions or something."

After a successful stint making mobile games -- in both original IPs and licenses -- for THQ Wireless, the company got a chance to move to the DS. "We're done with mobile," Slaczka told me. For that matter, they're done with licenses. "We only do original IPs, no licenses. Except for Star Wars -- I'd do Star Wars."

There's the upcoming Wii version of Drawn to Life...

Can't talk about that.

Are there more projects coming up?

Yes, we are working on the DS. We are working on an unannounced title -- I'm not sure when it's supposed to be announced. We're basically doing two unannounced projects right now ...

Gallery: Drawn to Life

Continue reading GDC08: DS Fanboy interviews Jeremiah Slaczka (5th Cell)

GDC08: Inchworm: Mario Paint meets Photoshop

It has been almost a year since we heard anything new about Fatbits Pocket Painter, and we were beginning to worry that the project had been abandoned. While homebrewers already have Colors! to satisfy their DS-digital-painting needs, we really wanted to see what Bob Sabiston, the programmer behind Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly's Rotoshop software, had come up with.

Dismissing concerns of its halted development, the painting and animation application has appeared at GDC, this time under the name Inchworm. Along with its reintroduction comes a new site packed with tutorial videos and user-uploaded samples/flipbooks. Artists can easily create and share their work online, all with a robust selection of drawing and editing tools.

One unique feature we spotted in Inchworm is the ability to draw under a painting without having to create and move around new layers. Very useful for animation, we hear!

We're not sure if Inchworm has found a publisher yet, but we hope someone helps this program hit the mainstream market. Bob Sabiston definitely sees potential in the software: "If people can make money selling math and brain teasers to kids, imagine how popular a program that lets you draw and make cartoons [would be]!"

More awards, more snubs for the DS

It's something we've talked about a few times but still don't understand -- what does it take for the best-selling game system in the world to get a little attention? Alright, alright, we're over it. And at least the Game Developers Choice awards have a special handheld category, and we're extraordinarily pleased to see Contra 4 glowing brightly on the list. It's probably not going to win, but we're happy to see we're not the only ones who love beefy dudes with weapons.

Maybe this time next year, we'll see some DS games breaking out of handheld-only categories, since there is so much complete awesome slated for the system in the coming months. We can't be the only ones who think DS titles can go toe-to-toe with their console brethren. In the meantime, check out the nominees for best handheld game after the break.

Continue reading More awards, more snubs for the DS

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