Amplitude is Almost Here and I Can’t Wait

AmplitudeHarmonix Games’ revival of their famed Amplitude franchise is looking spectacular, thanks to a new trailer that was released today.

Put into production after a successful 18 day Kickstarter campaign, the PlayStation exclusive rhythm action game revives the cult classic series that Harmonix claimed fame for prior to their work on Guitar Hero and Rock Band. Players are challenged to create music tracks by successfully activating sections of a song. Each song segment (bass, rhythm, highs, vocals, etc.) are activated by rhythmic combinations of three button presses, similar to successfully activating a section in Guitar Hero or Rock Band. After a segment is successfully activated, it stays running for a limited time and a different segment can be jumped to (typically with the shoulder buttons) with the goal of adding more segments.

New to the series is the addition of a cooperative multiplayer mode where multiple players can stay on dedicated segments to create more complex tracks. It is a natural evolution for a company that saw incredible success in its work in cooperative rhythm games.

Newcomers to the franchise might notice many similarities between Amplitude and the colorful Rock Band Blitz. Blitz shared many of the concepts that made Amplitude and Frequency popular, with Blitz having a focus on Rock music thanks to the vast Rock Band library.

Amplitude is set to release this Summer for the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3. Harmonix will be showing the game off for the first time to the public at this weekend’s PAX East convention.

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Street Fighter V Debuts at PlayStation Experience with Gameplay Trailer

Street Fighter VI reported Friday on the leak of Capcom’s Street Fighter V. With the wonderfully directed “Rise Up” trailer and Yoshinori Ono in tow, Capcom made the announcement official and was kind enough to include a brief gameplay trailer featuring franchise stalwarts Ryu and Chun Li.

The art style is heavily influenced by and very similar to Street Fighter IV’s current 2.5 dimension feel. Complete with SFIV’s signature ink-trails on many of the stronger attacks, Street Fighter V is Capcom sticking to a formula that worked out well for them, a far cry from the dramatic shifts between Street Fighter II to Street Fighter Alpha to Street Fighter III.

Making a return to the series is destructible stages, with Chun Li sending Ryu flying through a store wall. I may be incorrect in my memory, but it has been a while since breakable barrels and statues in Street Fighter II.

Also confirmed was the game’s exclusivity to the PlayStation 4 on a home console level. Sony was a major financier of the development costs of Street Fighter V and attaining that exclusivity is a good win for them. The game is also going to be released on Windows PC, with an arcade version to follow. I expect that once Capcom pushes SFV into arcades, they will begin tuning that version to expand upon the original release. At that point, Microsoft may luck out and get an updated version of the game, but Sony is just as likely to throw more money at Capcom, just to lock up that exclusivity.

Three Games that Definied My PlayStation Experience

In addition to the limited edition console, Sony has several prominent figures in game development sharing their memories of the original Playstation over on the official Playstation Blog. From President of Sony’s World Wide Studios Shuhei Yoshida (who chose games he explicitly worked on) and Sony Computer Entertainment of America President Shawn Layden to reknowned third party developers Tim Schafer and Keiji Inafune, there are a ton of high profile memories and even better games being recalled.

So without further ado, I’d like to point out three first generation Playstation games that really defined my experience with that platform, so many years ago.

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid

There’s not a lot that can’t be said about MGS. It does everything so right. It uses every feature of the console, every little feature of the then brand new DualShock and even found ways to break the wall several times. There was smoke on Snake’s cigarette, individually marked boxes to hide in, a fly by wire rocket launcher and “Whose footsteps are these!?” To this day, I find the ability to run around in the snow in the game’s second screen, is mind blowing. Not only were your imprints left in that fresh powder, but the Genome soldiers would notice the tracks and become noticeably upset. One of the few games whose technical prowess is matched by its gameplay.

Bushido Blade 2

Bushido Blade 2

Many would choose the first Bushido Blade, but I have a particular soft spot for Bushido Blade 2. The environments are a little bigger and the weapon choices a little more varied but it still retains the strict rules from the first game. One killing blow equals match over. In my head, the pixelated polygons will always be stylized samurai clashing swords until one player leaves an opening large enough for an advantageous strike. Square Enix, if you’re listening, this franchise would still make for a fantastic modern reboot.

Final Fantasy VIII

Final Fantasy VIII

I typically get a lot of flak for this, but Final Fantasy VIII is still my favorite mainline Final Fantasy. Sure, Final Fantasy VII marked the turning point of modern 3D JRPGs, but it is Final Fantasy VIII’s fated love story between Squall and Rinoa that really captivated me back in 1999. From the spectacular characters, to the stylized ATB battle system and a more mature design aesthetic that I maintain looks better than FF7’s, to the sweeping score opened by the legendary Liberi Fatali. Final Fantasy VIII was no where near perfect, but I fell in love with that game and all of its quirks. Besides, you get to pilot a school.

The PlayStation was a legendary console that gave origin to many of today’s most long running franchises. From Gran Turismo to Parappa the Rapper, Crash Bandicoot to Resident Evil, there is a ton of history on that gray box.

PlayStation.Blog – PlayStation Turns 20: Our All-Time Favorite PSone Games

Happy 20th Playstation!

On December 3, 1994, twenty years ago, Sony took a chance on the original PlayStation and never looked back. After a broken deal between Sony and Nintendo that would have had the electronic giant making a CD-ROM based system for Super Mario, Sony angrily green-lit their legendary gray box that went on to destroy more powerful consoles and become the first video game console to sell over 100 million units. Not bad for an underpowered system coming off the heels of one of the greatest gaming rivalries of all time (SNES vs. Genesis).

Playstation 20th Anniversary PS4To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation brand, Sony has unveiled a special throwback colored PlayStation 4 console that will be an extremely limited supply of 12,300 units worldwide. pre-orders for the special edition console will open on Saturday, December 6, coinciding with their PlayStation Experience keynote presentation.

I never thought I’d refer to the original color scheme of the first generation PlayStation as gorgeous, but there’s something about this throwback console that hits all the right notes. From the gray backdrop and individually numbered 20th anniversary plaque to the PS4 blue bar peeking through with the old rainbow accents, this is a fantastic looking console.

In addition to the console, Sony also released 20th anniversary themes for all three active PlayStation consoles (PS4, PS3, PS Vita). Featuring the same gray throwback tones and rainbow colored icons, the theme is a tasteful way to show some love for the original PlayStation. Those who choose to use the theme on PS4 are in for a nice little audible surprise as well.

So thank you Sony, for taking a chance on the PlayStation. It was a system that truly was a turning point for video games.

PlayStation Blog – PlayStation Turns 20, PS4 20th Anniversary Edition Revealed

It’s a Boy! inFamous: Second Son Due March 21, 2014

inFamous: Second Son

Launches are a tricky thing, Sony might be learning that first hand after the slew of poor reviews for their supposed system sellers Killzone: Shadowfall and Knack. Lucky for them, help is around the corner. The Sucker Punch developed inFamous: Second Son will be launching for the PlayStation 4 on March 21, 2014.

The third game in the inFamous series has had fans chomping at the bit to know when the new entry (and first to not feature original protagonist Cole McGrath) would be due, since it wasn’t ready for launch day. Early rumors of a February release date have since been squashed but a nifty bundle of a new PS4 system and a copy of inFamous: Second Son has surfaced on varying online storefronts.

I’m still playing through the original inFamous, but I believe it might be Sony’s most underrated and a critical franchise to develop for their PS4. It’s slick combination of stylized mechanics and comic inspired storytelling are like no other franchise and Sony would be wise to push it with Microsoft’s Titanfall breathing down their neck.

Polygon – inFamous: Second Son to launch on March 21, 2014

PlayStation 4 Exclusives Off to a Rocky Start Critically

With Sony’s PlayStation 4 set to launch in North America in less than 12 hours, the first slew of reviews have been trickling out in anticipation for the launch fervor. While there was enough to be said about cross-platform performance of third party titles that are certain to sell well like Call of Duty: Ghosts and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Sony’s media embargoes have limited the pre-launch coverage for their in-house titles.

Killzone: Shadowfall

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the titles slated to get the most attention for launch will be the FPS Killzone: Shadowfall, action platformer Knack and retro shooter Resogun (especially with DriveClub off the table). But it seems that at least two of these exclusives are not leaping out of the gates.

Killzone: Shadowfall is the most recognizable product that Sony is offering at launch and the title currently holds a middling Metacritic score of 74. Veteran review sites have delivered a varying range of scores to the new entry to the Human vs Helghast shooter, from Destructoid’s solid 90 to Polygon’s scathing 5/10. I have played all the core titles in the series, starting from the original outing on the PlayStation 2, and have maintained that Killzone will never be the Halo killer that Sony wants it to be. The original Killzone had good ideas but was on an underpowered machine and was clunky in its execution. Killzone 2 cleaned up much of these flaws and was a very good game, but Killzone 3 brought the series to a very mediocre point. It seems that Shadowfall, with its new story, is struggling to distinguish itself from its predecessors.

Knack

Knack is getting plastered in reviews, with an Metacritic aggregate of 59. While Knack is certainly visually appealing, it feels like a title that Sony pushed forward to hit all the corresponding metrics. They clearly felt the need for a family friendly platformer, and Knack was held to that standard. A standard that appears to be lacking. Visuals alone don’t make the next Super Mario 64 or even the next Rachet & Clank. Just remember, Kameo was considered by and large the prettiest launch game of the Xbox 360.

Lastly, I expected Resogun to be well received, but I didn’t expect it to be the headliner. A twin-stick shooter by the creators of Super Stardust HD, Resogun has the flashy visuals of classic efforts of Super Stardust and Geometry Wars, with the side scrolling mechanics that hearken back to Defender. The particle effect lightshow is dazzling reviews with a solid aggregate of 82.

Resogun

I have maintained that despite the PlayStation 4’s lower price point and the guise of doing everything right pre-launch, Sony had yet to amaze me with their offerings from a software perspective. I still believe that Microsoft has the advantage especially with Forza Motorsport 5 at launch and Titanfall next spring. Sony had better hope InFamous: Second Son is a system seller or Microsoft might just catch up.

It’s PS4 Launch Week. Let’s Open a Box

Sony PlayStation 4

I’ll never understand the appeal of unboxing videos. Sure, they can be a bit celebratory as YouTube users pour through the corrugated cardboard packaging to unearth a sea of plastic for children and small animals to suffocate on. Besides, if the jealous public is still on the fence about early purchasing, I sincerely doubt there is enough drama behind revealing your power cable or free month of PlayStation Plus voucher will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Unboxing videos feed into the exhibitionist nature that is prevalent throughout this digital society dominated by social media. Taking pictures of unopened boxes leads to taking videos of opened boxes which leads to taking pictures of food to never eating ever again. Probably not, but like most social media trends, unboxing videos are entirely self serving.

But that’s okay, because we really want to see what’s inside those boxes. Recognizing our insatiable desire to see things come out of boxes, Sony revealed their cables and vouchers in a stunning and nostalgic nod to commercials of the late 80s, complete with hazy fog. All Shuhei Yoshida needed was to have his hair blown back by the amazing power of his new system.