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➟ Graphic Adventures, the Book

Straight from the pages of Wikipedia, compiled and edited by one Philipp Lenssen, this book tells the story of an era most people my age lived through and think back upon with great affection: the early period of computer adventure gaming. Companies like Sierra On-Line, Lucasarts, Microprose, and Adventure Soft defined the boundaries of what we now know of interactive storytelling, plot-driven game design, and narrative/item-based puzzles. It’s on sale at Amazon for $29, and is also available as a free, downloadable HTML file with “loads of screenshots”. YJSoon has a useful tip: run it through Calibre to make an EPUB file, and it’ll sit nicely on your iPad’s iBookshelf.

Link (via @YJSoon)

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➟ Studio Ghibli’s Ni no Kuni gameplay video

Following up on the screenshots I posted a few days ago, this gameplay video of Studio Ghibli & Level 5’s upcoming PS3 game, Ni no Kuni (The Another World), is just gorgeous in its 3D engine-powered approximation of the company’s signature animation style.

Link (via @davechua, who notes that the battle sequences are rather Pokemon-ish)

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➟ Studio Ghibli’s Ni no Kuni for PS3

Studio Ghibli and Level-5 are making a videogame for the DS, and it’s just been announced that a version for the PS3 will also be released; most likely a different story in the same world rather than a straight port. The screenshot above is purportedly the actual game being rendered by a 2D/3D animation engine. Compare it to a still from an actual animated cutscene here. They are almost indistinguishable in terms of art quality. That a console game controlled in real-time by a player can look (at least when paused) just like a real Studio Ghibli movie is utterly amazing.

Link [Joystiq.com]

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A short aside on handheld game prices

When I bought my first Nintendo DS in the spring of 2005, touchscreen gaming was new to the mainstream and the idea of downloadable handheld content was still a few clouds short of a perfect storm. I believe you might have been able to download a game directly to a Windows Mobile PDA, but syncing them over from a desktop was the standard practice.

At that time, I was happy to plonk down £20+ (nearly SGD$60) for a simple casual game like Zoo Keeper, which many will recognize as a clone of Popcap’s Bejeweled. Yeah, that game you can play for free online. I remember ordering it online from the American Amazon.com because it wasn’t yet due in England for some time, and the ensuing wait for something to play on my new DS was torture.

Even though it launched alongside meatier fare like Super Mario 64 DS, this Match-3 game was an incredible new experience. The ability to directly manipulate blocks onscreen was hailed in the gaming press as something that could “only be done on Nintendo’s new machine”. You could even wirelessly engage other DS-owning friends in a competitive mode without them having to own a copy. I have fond memories of Zoo Keeper because its mechanics were finely tuned to allow ever-flowing speed combos, and till today still consider it a better Bejeweled than Bejeweled itself.

Present day: one can download a similar game onto an iPhone in under a minute, for free or about a dollar. You compete against hundreds of friends online through Facebook. If Zoo Keeper were to be ported to iOS tomorrow (please please please), USD$4.99 (about SGD$7) would seem too high an asking price. Even Popcap’s own sequel to Bejeweled goes for $2.99 on the iPhone while desktop PC/Mac versions continue to retail at $19.95. How did we get to this point? I love a low price on games, and while $60 for Zoo Keeper was certainly too high a price – accepted at that point in time as a form of “early adopter tax” whereby new technology for which no benchmark price has been established often goes for as high as producers dare hope the market will bear – I worry that this might not be sustainable for our ecosystem of independent and major developers. Which is why I welcome Apple’s iAds program onto my device, and everyone whining about having ads in their games can go buy themselves a PSP Go or whatever.

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➟ Wired hands-on with the 3DS

Wired’s Chris Kohler gets a little time with the newly-announced Nintendo 3DS. It’s only the most promising handheld gaming device since the original DS! Does everything an iPhone can do and more, now that it has 1) a more powerful graphics processor, 2) an accelerometer and gyroscope built into each one for six-axis motion sensing, 3) a touchscreen + analog joystick + D-pad, 4) a download store. Of course, there’s also the 3D screen that gives the illusion of depth without the need for special glasses.
The games announced for it so far include a really epic-looking Kid Icarus title, a remake of Ocarina of Time (widely considered the best game of all time), Paper Mario, Pilotwings Resort, Super Street Fighter IV, and all-new entries in the Saints Row, DJ Hero, Resident Evil and Metal Gear Solid franchises. No pricing info or release date yet, which leads me to believe they’re trying to bring costs down, but we should expect a higher than usual number. Say around USD$200-220.
The graphics, which are much more advanced than you’d expect from Nintendo, left me pretty much in disbelief. They’re on a level with Sony’s PSP, probably even a little better than that. But the eye-popping 3-D effect makes everything that much richer.
You can only see the 3-D effect if you’re looking at the 3DS screen straight on, although there’s a good amount of fudge factor there — you can move the unit around quite a bit and still get the effect.

Link

Here are some DS games I’ve been playing lately:

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➟ Virtual Shackles explains science

Virtual Shackles is a webcomic about games by two guys that’s fast surpassing the original two-gamers webcomic, Penny Arcade. In today’s strip, they combine two games I’ve been playing a lot lately: Bit.Trip Runner (Nintendo WiiWare) and Robot Unicorn Attack (Flash, free & iPhone, $2.99).
Both games are variations of the winning formula that Canabalt (Flash, free) defined – a character constantly runs forward, and the player is in charge of making sure it jumps at the right time. Bit.Trip Runner throws dodging, leaping, and kicking into the mix, making for an insanely hard but hugely satisfying reflex tester. It also happens to be rendered as an homage to blocky-pixeled retro games. Robot Unicorn Attack is pure madness from Adult Swim: a metal unicorn (double)jumps amongst the clouds to Erasure’s “Always”. Do well, and sky dolphins leap with you. It’s the epic bombast of Peggle’s Ode to Joy sequence meets the wacky, more forgiving Japanese run-jumper, Tomena Sanner (WiiWare & iPhone, $1.99).

Link