Console Game of the Month - Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch
As bad as the Fall release season was, the first quarter one is becoming almost as fraught with new releases each worthy of your money. January has seen the likes of Anarchy Reigns and the reboot of the Devil May Cry series from acclaimed British developer Ninja Theory but there is one title that looks to be standing above the rest: Ni No Kuni. A Japanese RPG by all accounts, Ni No Kuni is a Playstation 3 exclusive co-developed by Level 5 and Studio Ghibli.
This unlikely combination between an experienced Japanese developer and the exceptional animated film studio has birthed a rather wonderful RPG that is just as much a strong RPG as it is visually stunning. Everything from the animation to the voice work is evocative of the many wonderful Hayao Miyazaki films like Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Ponyo and if you’ve enjoyed even one of those fantastic movies I’m certain you’ll love what’s been put together for Ni No Kuni.
Other Notable January Releases
- Anarchy Reigns (PS3, X360)
- Devil May Cry (PS3, X360)
- Sniper Ghost Warrior 2 (PS3, X360)
- The Cave (PS3, X360, Wii U)
- Painkiller: Hell & Damnation (PS3, X360)
January Console News
New PS3 Super Slim Colours Strut Their Stuff in Japan
A couple of custom PlayStation 3 Super Slim colours will hit the console catwalk in Japan next month, platform holder Sony has announced. The newly unveiled 250GB Garnet Red and Azurite Blue systems will launch on 28th February in the land of the rising sun, and will set you back ¥24,980 ($279).
Interestingly, the consoles also slinked their way onto a couple of European websites over the weekend, with Amazon.de listing 500GB iterations of the chic systems for €329.95 ($439). There’s no word on either of the pretty platforms making their way to North America, but we’re sure that they’ll show up eventually. Until then, there’s always the recently announced classic white bundle to get excited about.
China lifting sales ban on PlayStation, Wii and Xbox?
The official China Daily newspaper reported on Monday that China is considering lifting a decade-long ban on game consoles, sending shares of major hardware makers such as Sony, maker of the PlayStation, and Nintendo, maker of the Wii, surging. In November, Sony's PlayStation 3 received a quality certification from a Chinese safety standards body, prompting speculation that Beijing would lift the ban.
"We are reviewing the policy and have conducted some surveys and held discussions with other ministries on the possibility of opening up the game console market," the China Daily quoted an unnamed source from the ministry of culture as saying. "However, since the ban was issued by seven ministries more than a decade ago, we will need approval from all parties to lift it."
If the ban is lifted, it would open a potentially vast market of more than a billion people to the console makers, and could give existing consoles a new lease of life. Unfortunately, this development is still very uncertain and the latest news from China make it seem that the earlier announcement was very much premature. We will remain watchful for further news.
Microsoft Possibly Replacing Xbox Chat with Skype for Next Console
There have been reports that, as part of Microsoft's continuing efforts to consolidate Skype (which it now owns) as the standard communications platform for the company's products; according to sources, it'll "become the default chat service on the next generation Xbox console".
What would this mean, exactly? Quite possibly, everyone using the next Xbox online would need to tie a Skype account to their gamertag (Windows 8, for example, already ties a Microsoft account to a Skype account). You'd also expect some form of Skype branding to exist for the console's communications, rather than the vaguer "messaging" terms used now.
Xbox 720 Will Pack an 8-Core AMD Chip, 1.2 Teraflops of Power
In other Xbox news, apparently the Xbox 720, or whatever it ends up getting called, will boast 1.2 teraflops of processing power. The next-gen gaming rumours are flowing thick and fast, which probably (hopefully) means both the PS4 and Xbox 720 are just around the corner. Even though the PS4 will apparently pawn the next-gen Microsoft machine, Redmond's pulling out all the stops according to the latest.
8GB of DDR3 RAM, along with 32MB of fast-embedded SRAM, plus a Blu-ray drive, USB3.0 ports, and even HDMI 1.4a in for a bit of media magic are rumoured. Kinect's apparently getting a boost too, which isn't exactly a shock, with some multichannel echo cancellation going on, plus its own separate accessory port.
E3 is going to be pretty stellar if any of these leaks prove true.
Nintendo Reveals Plans for Wii U Virtual Console
Nintendo has confirmed its plans for the Wii U Virtual Console during the Wii U Direct presentation.
Following a spring system update, the Virtual Console service will launch on the Wii U. NES and SNES games will be offered first, but the service will expand to include other formats - including the Game Boy Advance.
Titles are being re-coded for the service, which means you'll be able to use save states (like on the 3DS Virtual Console). Interestingly, if you've already purchased a game on the Wii Virtual Console you won't be able to re-download it on the Wii U Virtual Console free of charge - but Nintendo will offer a discount, at least.
Here's the official line from Nintendo of America itself:
- A spring system update will add Virtual Console software to the Nintendo eShop for Wii U. The service will launch right after the spring update and will include a selection of NES and Super NES games, with Game Boy Advance games to be added in the future. The prices for NES and Super NES Virtual Console games for Wii U will be the same as they were for the Virtual Console on Wii. People who have already purchased the Wii version of a certain NES or Super NES Virtual Console game and transferred it to their Wii U console can buy the enhanced Wii U version of the same game for the reduced price of $1 for NES games and $1.50 for Super NES games.
Trailers of the month
Bioshock Infinite – Industrial Revolution Pack Trailer
Aliens: Colonial Marines - Kickass Trailer
Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII Trailer
Crysis 3 – 7 Wonders Episode 4 - The Typhoon
January Opinion - THQ
Many of us over the past month have been saddened to hear that THQ, one of the largest publishing houses in the world for our medium of entertainment, went into bankruptcy and was subsequently torn asunder at auction last week. Many studios were thankfully bought up and placed in good homes with the likes of SEGA purchasing Relic Entertainment and Ubisoft purchasing THQ Montreal and the South Park RPG publishing rights, further solidifying the French publisher’s domination of that large North American development hub. Unfortunately, there were still a few victims that may or may not be in jeopardy at the moment.
Koch Media bought up Volition and the Saint’s Row brand but left unmentioned is the Red Faction series, one that is due for a reboot that could really blow people away with next generation technology. The Metro series (developed by 4A Games) was also purchased by Koch Media but I find myself less worried about that license since the publishing will be handled by Deep Silver, they guys behind the Dead Island series. They seem to know how to market (controversial as their efforts may be every now and then) so I’m happy to see my wonderful, claustrophobia-inducing horror shooter find a safe home.
There was one quite sad victim of the sale though: Vigil Games, an Austin-based developer that’s only a few minutes’ drive from where I live. Crytek, the up and coming developer/publisher from Germany, announced today that Vigil will be making a new start as former head David Adams will oversee a team of about thirty five developers, all under Crytek’s protective bosom. Since the Darksiders brand wasn’t purchased either it’s possible we may just yet get a Darksiders III, maybe even with the four player co-op THQ’s Haydon Dalton hoped would arrive one day.
For the most part, THQ’s dissolving is over but a few more things are left to be taken care of. THQ’s back catalogue of licenses is due to be auctioned off at a later date and this could turn into a frenzy. Double Fine has their eyes set on buying up the rights to Psychonauts and I can’t blame them for doing so as it’s probably one of the few barriers between them and the development of a full-fledged sequel. The once popular Homeworld franchise is also up for grabs and indie developer teamPixel is planning on using crowd funding to buy up the rights to it with the possibility of a mobile version and perhaps even a full on Homeworld 3. It’s been nine years since Homeworld 2 graced gamers’ PCs and I’m sure there are plenty out there that would love to see the series return.
Games that we’re looking forward to in February
- Crysis 3 (PS3, X360)
- Dead Space 3 (PS2, X360)
- Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (PS3)
- Aliens: Colonial Marines (PS3, X360)
- Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance (PS3, X360)
That’s it from the Console Crew this month. We hope to see you again next month, hopefully with some good news on the games from the THQ carve-up.
By William Thompson and Chris Davis.