Sakurai not aiming for complete balance in new Smash Bros.

Smash Bros creator Masahiro Sakurai is slugging through twelve-hour shifts and taking up residence within walking distance from Super Smash Bros. 4’s development studio. He’s playing four-player matches on his lunch and inputting damage rates and hit boxes all by his lonesome. If the latest Smash installment disappoints, it won’t be for lack of effort on its creator’s part.

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Sakurai is personally ensuring that all these hits, slashes, and headbutts register.

Polygon covered Sakurai’s most recent interview with Famitsu, in which Sakurai described everything from his daily schedule to the finer points of tweaking character motions. It’s a great read if you have time; if you don’t, consider this one nugget that stuck out:

[…] we have to work to keep things dynamic and not over-fine-tune the balance. If we aim for complete fairness, there won’t be any personality to it.

It’s an interesting take, as fighting game fans everywhere often lust over the idea of a perfectly balanced game. Back in Melee’s glory years, my friends and I itched for a Smash Bros. game where smack-dummies like Bowser could hang with Fox, Marth, and Sheik. Now it seems that not only is perfect balance unattainable, but the series creator himself wants nothing to do with it.

And you know what? I’m a-okay with it.

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How’s another five years of ass-kickings sound, Bowser?

Isn’t the whole point of fighting games to weed through the roster and find the three or four characters you’re most comfortable with? If those particular character happen to be technically better than others, so be it.

Now, Smash Bros. complicates the situation with dozens of gaming icons. And when you have icons, you have fans who get riled when their favorite character(s) end up on the low-tier. But there’s a huge difference between an unbalanced game and a broken one.

Sign of a coming trend? Square Enix porting Tomb Raider to next-gen consoles

Brace yourself… the next-gen ports are coming. Square Enix is kicking off the madness with a PS4/XBONE port of their critically acclaimed Tomb Raider reboot. The game sold over 4 million copies across PS3, Xbox 360, and PC platforms, yet Square Enix has been notoriously displeased with the game’s sales totals. Their solution? Give next-gen console owners one more opportunity to buy it.

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Tomb Raider already looks great. Why does it need to look better, Square?

Details are scarce, but Amazon Italy listed a “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition” that was recently taken down from the site. Just how definitive this upcoming is remains to be seen. If it’s all right with you, I’ll go ahead and forecast upgraded visuals, new bonus content, and possibly some free DLC. You okay with that? No? You want improved multiplayer? Don’t we all…

Much as I loved Tomb Raider, I don’t want to see barrel-loads of PS3 and Xbox 360 ports next year. I’ve beyond had it with HD remakes of games I played ten years ago. Now we’re talking next-gen makeovers of nine-month-old games? Please, somebody cut my thumbs off.

Killer Instinct hits Xbox One in unfinished form

If you like your games, well… complete, then you might want to hold off on downloading the XBONE revival of Rareware’s classic fighter. As it stands now, Killer Instinct offers only training, survival, and two-player online modes (and from what I’ve read, the online duels do not allow spectators). That’s it. No arcade mode and no story mode, although Double Helix Games has promised the latter.

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Under construction: please use left lane.

 

Oddly enough, KI offers more download options than gameplay modes:

  • A free-to-play version that limits you to playing with one single character, Jugo (essentially a demo).
  • Additional characters will run you $5 each.
  • $20 will score you all six release-day characters and two more characters to be added later.
  • $40 gets you the Ultra edition, which includes the eight aforementioned characters and–for your extra $20–two versions of the original 1994 Killer Instinct.

If you’re keeping score at home, you can enjoy an unfinished next-gen fighter and two versions of a twenty-year-old arcade game for forty bucks. And you thought you’d have to wait till Black Friday for outrageous deals…

 

Sony addresses PS4’s lack of MP3/CD support

Last Friday, I discussed the PS4’s surprising lack of MP3 and CD support and suggested that the lack of audio-play options was part of a devious plan to to boost Sony’s Music Unlimited service.

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PS4 owners won’t be limited much longer.

Earlier this week Sony President Shuhei Yoshida responded to fans’ threats to cancel their PS4 pre-orders, promising that Sony was already working on implementing MP3 playback. He even directly addressed fans’ suspicion regarding Music Unlimited:

“It’s not like we actively decided ‘let’s not do this [MP3/CD] feature so people will have to subscribe to Music Unlimited.’ The focus has been more on the game features. Some of the features we wanted but we couldn’t get in on day one.”

I can buy that to an extent. Game-related features should rank higher on the totem pole. Can’t blame Sony there. Yet at the same time, let’s not forget that the PS4 Ultimate FAQ originally said that the system would not play CDs or MP3s. Period. Not until consumers backlashed did Yoshida and company scramble for solutions.

Whether or not Sony is greedy or lazy is no longer the issue here. Instead we’re seeing a company that responds to the requests and complaints of its customers–even if took the threat of pre-order cancellations.

Let’s just hope Sony continues to prove responsive with no more pre-orders left to cancel.

Sony president blames overworked journalists for low PS4 game scores

I never thought I’d miss the days whencompanies would address weak launch lineups by promising that great games were on the way. Waiting is no fun, but it beats listening to excuses like the ones Sony president Shuhei Yoshida made in this Gamesindustry article.

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While addressing the low review scores that have dogged PS4 launch titles, Yoshida insisted that part of the reason behind the disappointing grades is an overworked gaming media:

“[W]ith this launch there are lots of games coming out, so the media must be very busy going through the games quickly, and especially since the online functionality wasn’t ready until in the last couple days. So we have to look at how much time they spend on what aspect of the games and how that may be contributing to some of the lower scores.”

Translation: We wanted to release the PS4 before the holiday season, but we didn’t prepare any killer aps for the system’s launch. Instead of admitting to another disappointing launch lineup, we’ll just blame the gaming media for having opinions.

It gets better. After throwing the gaming media under the bus, Yoshida said:

“I totally enjoyed playing through [KillzoneKnack and Resogun]. I’m now on my second run of Knack and Resogun at a higher difficulty – these games really grow on you when you play more.”

Translation: We can’t offer any standout games at this time. Please play through these launch titles repeatedly until then. Maybe you’ll enjoy these games once you’ve coped with the disappointment.

Now, obviously Yoshida is a company guy, and he’s going to make statements to support his company. That’s fine, but his claims sound thin, and not just because Japan tends to dislike shooters like Killzone. I can’t prove whether or not he enjoyed the aforementioned games as much as he claims, but at the same time I can’t buy the idea of a company president having the time to play through three games, two if them twice. Shouldn’t he be more concerned with… oh, I dunno, the business aspects surrounding the launch of his company’s new landmark product?

The bottom line here is Yoshida making excuses. There’s no need to get defensive of a weak launch lineup–people are going to buy the new next-gen systems regardless of the quality of the launch lineup. What Yoshida should be doing is addressing the issue with a forward-thinking attitude. Emphasize a exciting upcoming title or two. Remind us that we’ll want a PS4 now so we’re prepared to play Metal Gear and Infamous when they release.

But don’t go after reviewers for telling it like it is. C’mon now.

Final Fantasy spinoff Bravely Default scores US release date

If you’re craving an RPG that looks like Final Fantasy IX and plays like Final Fantasy V, then grab your 2014 calendar and circle February 7th. Bravely Default, a spiritual sequel to 2010’s Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light, seeks to revive the days of crystal hunting and turn-based battling on the 3DS.

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Save up enough Brave Points and you can spray enemies with arrows.

Though I tend to be skeptical about gorgeous Square Enix games these days, Bravely Default won a lot of critical praise at the time of its Japanese release last year. The game’s battle system echoes that of classic RPGs: attack, magic, and building characters through a job system. However, it’s 2013–we need a twist, don’t we? Well, pay attention: Every action consumes a certain amount of “Brave Points,” which can be hoarded for the sake of combo barrages. How you manage your consumption of Brave Points determines the flow and success of battles, and you can even get excessive and final your point tally in the negatives. Check the second-half of the video below for some battle footage:

Bravely Default erupted over Japan’s sales charts last year, selling 140,000 copies in its first week. Our Asian friends are getting an updated version of the game on December 5th, which offers some gameplay tweaks and a significant cut-down on game length (a dip from fifty to thirty hours). In true class-RPG tradition, us English-speaking folk will receive this “easier” edition when the game hits the West in December (Europe/Australia) and February (US).

Sony reserves right to monitor and record PSN voice/text content and more

Gotta love how controversial PS4 info keeps pouring out the seams these days.

According to the PS4’s Software Usage Terms, Sony reserves the right to monitor PSN activity, including “your UGM [user-generated media], the content of your voice and text communications, video of your gameplay, the time and location of your activities, and your name, your PSN Online ID and IP address.” And should a situation arise, Sony can send this info to the police or other authorities. Yowza. Better think twice before discussing the week’s mafia activity over a game of Madden.

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Threaten this guy’s family enough times and you may get a knock on your door from the FBI.

Sony has already admitted that they cannot monitor all PSN activity, so the announcement comes off as more of a scare tactic than anything. How “Policing PSN” will affect the trashy behavior online remains to be seen. My guess is that when someone complains to Sony of a verbally abusive user, the PSN police might slap a tag on that user, monitor him/her, catch him/her in the act, and work the legal process from there.

Good news? Bad news? It looks like online conduct could improve at the expense of consumer privacy. I’m no doe-eyed optimist though: chances are our privacy will suffer long before we see an uptick in respect among online gamers. But, hey, at least Sony won’t be delivering customer info to third parties for the sake of marketing… yet.