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Koller promises more first and third party games, less ports

It's undeniable that the PSP is in the middle of a serious software drought. Even John Koller, PSP's main marketing man in America, acknowledges that. Why the sudden drop of games, after the successful launches of games like God of War: Chains of Olympus and Crisis Core? It's simple -- PSP wasn't performing too well earlier in its life cycle, and developers have only recently woken up to the incredible potential of the PSP as a platform. "I think what you're seeing is the result of decisions made 18 months ago, a development cycle ago when hardware sales weren't as strong as they are now and we were shifting demographics from that older, professional consumer to the teen group. There was kind of a little bit of a lull in hardware sales 18 to 20 months ago; you're seeing the results today from those decisions back then."

Since then, Koller and the Sony team has been going on a publisher "road show," and according to Koller, their efforts to envigorate the PSP development community has been successful. "Our worldwide studio team is actively developing titles for that platform and we've been on a road show amongst every, major third-party publisher -- which we actually just finished last week -- and have been talking to them about really how to publish on the PSP, and the level of excitement is really palpable."

When can we expect new game announcements? Well, that's up to each publisher. However, Koller promises that "we're going to see a very good lineup of quality franchise titles coming over to the PSP that are really unique." In fact, "you're not going to see many ports anymore, and I think that's good." We'd agree.

Read the complete interview at IGN.

IGN imagines the best E3 conference ever

Not content with pitting PSP systems in a battle royale, IGN PSP has created some loving fanfiction for the PSP. It imagines the "greatest E3 press conference" ever. In their imaginary E3, Jack Tretton goes on stage during the E3 keynote: "Last year, we introduced the PSP Slim and sales shot through the roof," he says with a grin. "This year, we're done screwing around."

There on out, a slew of megaton announcements would come. In-game XMB (coming soon to PS3!), downloadable games direct to PSP (a promised feature), downloadable music and movies from the PLAYSTATION Store, tons of PS1 downloadables (such as Metal Gear Solid, Vagrant Story). Oh, and the announcement of games like Patapon 2, the next Syphon Filter and a brand new Vib-Ribbon.

Of course, this is but a dream -- but it's a dream we can all share. Definitely check out IGN for a so-bad-it's-good Photoshop of Phil Harrison crying.

IGN compares all the PSP bundles

There sure are a lot of PSP bundles out there. IGN PSP (having nothing better to do) compared all the Entertainment Pack bundles announced by Sony. Which one gets the win? Will Daxter's attractive combination of 1GB Memory Stick and Family Guy UMD win out, or will God of War's bloody combo of Superbad and Syphon Filter: Combat Ops win the hearts of the IGN editors?

The winning choice is the Daxter pack. According to the IGN editors, "if you're starting from scratch, the Daxter Pack gives you an engaging game, funny UMD, and enough memory to get your PSP on its feet." Of course, if you already have a Memory Stick, you can't do wrong with the God of War pack. For PSP newbies, however, we totally agree with IGN's recommendation.

SOCOM Week: Turning game journalists into SEALs

Is there any better way to explain how a SOCOM game works than throwing games journalists into a battle scenario? That's exactly what Sony did at its recent Media Day event. Various journalists were given gear, a crash course on military tactics, and thrown into a simulated gunfight against real NAVY SEALs. We talked to a few journalists that attended the event to learn about what they experienced, and how it affected their view of SOCOM: Tactical Strike.

"Attending the recent SCEA Media event was (initially) rather horrifying for me, since finding out that a pack of game journalists would be training alongside actual Navy SEALs is quite possibly the most surreal discovery imaginable. However, much to my surprise, Navy SEALs can be extremely considerate and understanding, and we had a great time. Participating in an Airsoft course under the supervision of a SEAL was an experience to remember, and I sincerely enjoyed being scolded at for loading the magazine of my weapon too early. Honestly, how many non-military personnel can say that they've been cursed out by a drill sergeant? I can. And it was rad."
Ryan Clements, IGN PSP

"The whole experience at Redlands was amazing! Sony, the Navy SEALs, and Slant Six did an excellent job of getting the journalists into the game in more ways I could have ever imagined. By participating in the scenarios where we had to suit up and act like an actual SEALs unit, we had a better understanding of the importance of team play and the direction the game was heading into. We also found out that journalists aren't soldiers and getting shot at is scary!"
Mark Julio, High-Score Online

Continue reading SOCOM Week: Turning game journalists into SEALs

What is Harvest Moon: Boy & Girl?

We were looking at PSP's releases, and noticed that a new Harvest Moon game was coming to our handheld. We enjoyed our time with Innocent Life (even though it had its flaws), and wanted to know more about Boy & Girl. The game is covertly being shipped to stores, and it appears that even IGN was caught off-guard when they played the game.

Apparently, Boy & Girl is actually a port of two different, but essentially same Harvest Moon games from PS1. From the IGN review: "Our biggest surprise at the office was that Harvest Moon Boy & Girl is actually just a compilation of two original PlayStation games, put together on one UMD. And they're (virtually) the same game, too. Nowhere on the box or within the instruction manual can this information be found. Harvest Moon "Boy" is actually just a rehashed version of Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, while Harvest Moon "Girl" is just Harvest Moon For Girls, which actually could be called Harvest Moon: Back to Nature, For Girl. They're both the same game, just with slightly different overall narratives and a different main character. Confused? It's okay, we were too."

It's unfortunate to hear that Natsume appears to be pulling a fast one on us. What a shame -- Innocent Life was a pretty beautiful game. It's upsetting to see PSP relegated to (yet another) port of a PS1 game. Publishers, take note: lazily developed games don't get much love from real PSP fanboys.

Syphon Filter: Gabe's Shadow intro movie

Sony's starting to send out preview demos of the upcoming Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow and IGN has captured video of the game in action. We've seen the impressive graphics of the game at Sony Gamers Day, and the latest build continues to impress. Check out this intro video, setting up the Greg Rucka-penned story. For more gameplay footage, check out IGN.

Separating challenge from speed in Wipeout Pulse

As acclaimed as Wipeout Pure was, many found the game unbalanced in terms of difficulty. In an interview with IGN Australia, lead designer Colin Berry noted: "Some people felt that Pure was perhaps too hard and that they didn't get to enjoy the faster speed classes as they were too fast and also the AI was too hard. We also had the hardcore Wipeout fans saying that the game was a little too easy and they wanted something more challenging to keep them coming back."

In an attempt to make the game more accessible to gamers, the team has now separated the difficulty from the speed. "We then have an easier setting which will allow players to play at the higher speed classes against less competitive AI, thus they can enjoy the speed of the game without always feeling they have no chance to compete. Then we have the hard difficulty setting which means that even on the slower speed classes, the hardcore Wipeout fans will face a challenge from the AI, and at the higher speed classes they have something to keep them coming back again and again."

Certainly, this will allow novice players to play at faster speeds ... a welcome change from the original. For more details on Pulse, make sure you read IGN's full interview.

SOCOM Tactical Strike demo to come this summer

SOCOM Tactical Strike is a radical departure for the series. In an interview with IGN, Dan McBride, director of development at Slant Six, commented on the new direction they're taking the franchise. "We set out to make a game that exists very solidly in the SOCOM universe but presents gameplay that is brand new to the franchise- it's not a shooter! So there is a risk there, but we are pretty confident that the tactical play will in fact appeal to the hardcores in particular."

In order for gamers to understand the unique play of Tactical Strike, McBride reveals that a demo will be made available this summer. "I am pretty sure there will be a playable demo this summer so people can take a test drive for themselves."

Dissidia's battle system explained

So ... is Final Fantasy Dissidia really like Smash Brothers? IGN wanted to find out. They've translated this week's issue of Famitsu and have come up with a few new details on the Dissidia battle system:
  • Character skills are displayed through a command list on the bottom-left corner. Available options will change based on a variety of factors, such as distance from an opponent.
  • The controls will be "simple enough that even players who aren't into action games will be okay."
  • Destroying the environment is not only fun, it's encouraged: a character's "Brave" meter will go up, which allows for special attacks.
  • Like a true RPG, winning can net players experience points, which can be used to level up.
It sounds more like a very fast-paced menu battle than a real Smash Brothers clone. However, with plans to include characters from as many Final Fantasy titles as possible, this cornucopia of RPG giants will undoubtedly be a blast to play. Stay tuned for more.

[Thanks, sean!]

Dead Head Fred tries to please fans with violence

Don't you love it when a developer listens to the masses? The developers of the upcoming Dead Head Fred held some focus tests on their game, and found that gamers wanted more violence. And indeed, the developers have provided, as seen in the trailer above.

In an interview with IGN, Vicious Cycle president Eric Peterson, revealed some of the violent additions to this head-swapping brawler. "So we gave the people what they wanted and amped up Fred's combo list. We created more kill moves, more decapitations, more melee attacks, more counters and more abilities in general ... You can string combos together to pound on an enemy until they are weak and vulnerable for a kill move or decapitation. You can use head powers in combination with environmental items to create new attacks. For example, you can fill the corpse head with gasoline and then find an ignition point in the environment to create a flame thrower attack."

Sounds good to us. We can't wait to get our hands on the game, and try out some moves ourselves. The team shows a lot of enthusiasm for PSP, and making the game solely for PSP -- let's hope they succeed with their ambitions.

Hot Brain videos galore

PSP owners haven't had much of a chance to try the Brain Age fad. But no worries, Hot Brain should do just the trick. This brain training game, starring Fred Willard, is going to try and make you smarter by throwing tons of word and math puzzles at you. IGN has a video blowout of the title, showcasing tons of gameplay options from this mind-expanding collection of minigames.

Check it out.

First footage of Driver 76

Driver 76 is heading to PSP soon, and IGN seems to have an early build in their hands. They take the game for a spin, and it looks a lot like Grand Theft Auto. What it doesn't look like, though, is New York. Having lived in NYC all my life, I can't say the low-level buildings and the general lack of life in the game create an authentic facsimile of the city I love. Maybe you can judge for yourself by reading IGN's preview and checking out all of their videos.

IGN interviews the Silent Hill team

Ever since Silent Hills: Origins came back from its months-long silence, people have been talking about the game's incredible production values. IGN spoke with the game's producer, William Oertel, who spoke a little bit about creating the title: "When first conceiving the idea of Silent Hill on the PSP, the recurrent thought was to do a remake of the original Silent Hill. While some fans would have loved to have seen this, we decided it was better to take the opportunity to build on the rich story encompassed by the series. Doing a prequel (of sorts) allowed us to also touch on some of the moments in the original Silent Hill and present them in a new and different way. The story behind the town is really a story of the characters we've seen in past games. So, the game reveals part of their history, such as Alessa, Dr. Kaufmann and Dahlia, as well as adding a new character, Travis."

It's great to see Konami offer yet another high profile, original game for the platform. With Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops and an upcoming Castlevania game, it seems like Konami is quickly becoming one of PSP's elite publishers.

Read more at IGN. Insiders will be able to see the game's entire intro sequence.

SWAT takes down terrorists in NYC

IGN has interviewed Paul Pawlicki, producer at Sierra Entertainment, about their newly unveiled SWAT: Target Liberty. The PSP tactical game will feature a story much deeper than what the series has typically provided: "The SWAT PC games weren't heavy on story and we decided to change that with the PSP version. All we can reveal so far is that we recruited Scott Rosenbaum, writer and producer of The Shield, to help create our all-new narrative."

The story takes place throughout New York City, spanning twelve single-player missions. Players will visit a variety of landmarks, such as Grand Central Station and Ellis Island. Throughout, players will be forced to handle hostage situations, bomb diffusions, and other nerve-wracking situations.

Check out the complete IGN interview to find out more about this exciting addition to the PSP library.

Metareview: Valhalla Knights

Valhalla Knights looked so promising when it was first previewed so many months ago. Looks like it'll join the ever-growing collection of RPG failures on our system. The critics, for the most part, have bashed XSEED's latest, telling you to stay far, far away from it:
  • 1UP (35/100) likens the experience to torture: "I can't remember the last time I felt so constricted as a gamer. Sure, running around the dungeons and slashing through enemies is enjoyable enough -- and, dare I say it, even fun at times. But as soon as you attempt to play through Valhalla Knights like its an actual game, it completely falls apart. The viselike grip Valhalla Knights holds."
  • G4 (40/100) thinks the game is too old-school for its own good: "This is not a game for the impatient, especially since there's no in-game help system. When it comes to combat tactics or building a party, you have to learn by doing (and probably dying)."
  • IGN (53/100) wanted to like the game, but couldn't: "Valhalla Knights succeeded at impressing me with fun, real-time combat, completely pissing me off with drawn-out quests and eventually driving me away due to the complete lack of anything resembling story progression."
Ouch! Those are some of the harshest reviews we've read in quite some time. Valhalla Knights is now available in stores ... if you dare pick it up!

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