We recently had a chance to swing by the Ace Hotel up in New York City for Konami's Gamer's day, a semi annual event held by the Japanese game company, which gives east coast press a chance to take a look at some of Konami and Hudson's upcoming titles. While there, we saw a ton of games, so many in fact, that it would be ludicrous for us to try to fit all of them into just one preview. So, in the first of a two part series we present you the motion-controlled games that we got our hands-on and our impressions of them in a quick-hits format.
Concept: A dance game for the Kinect made by the same people who brought you the DDR series.
Gameplay: The menu system is kinda finicky, much of which can likely be chalked up to the Kinect's sensitiviety in general, so choosing a song was a bit of a difficult. However, after finally getting the hang of the Kinect's sensitivity (I hadn't played with one since E3), diving into Dance Masters turned out to be pretty fun.
Right from the start, the game really shows its DDR roots, a feeling which begins with the music. None of the music is licensed, so a lot of what you are dancing to will be techno with some heavy j-pop influences. The actual dance mechanics are pretty simple, you'll be completing poses, tracing lines, and hitting bubbles on screen, all in time with the music and alongside your on-screen dance partner, one of whom looks conspicuously like Lady Gaga.
On the easiest (light) setting, you'll only be tasked with completing the poses. From there though, the challenge is ratcheted up very quickly, partially out of necessity, as there are only three difficulty levels. So, although light is pretty simple, you'll likely be struggling to keep up pretty much right when you hit standard.
One slight problem is that movements feel as if they're their own entities and not really strung together (you have to hold poses, hit bubbles and trace lines). As a result, Dance Masters can, at times, become a bit disorienting, especially when you have to switch from hitting bubbles to striking poses. The best solution to this is to copy the movements of the avatar on screen, whether you are tasked with doing them for points or not. Yeah, it can be embarrassing at times, as for some reason the Japanese have chosen to make all the dancers feel effeminate, but I'm sure you've done stupider things for video games before.
As for how may songs will be available at launch, Konami is keeping mum on that point, saying that they haven't decided on a number yet. They are also "looking into" the question of DLC and whether it would be licensed or unlicensed. We'll keep you posted as this news becomes available though.
Verdict: Dance Masters is definitely a fun take on one of the more obvious uses of the Kinect. I haven't had the chance to play Dance Central yet, so I'm not sure which one will be the one to own when the Kinect is released this November, but Dance Masters is definitely a contender.
Concept: A version of the Wii sports (note the capitalization) mini-game series to the Kinect.
Gameplay: Deca Sports doesn't make any bones about its roots or what it is trying to be. The goal of the guys at Hudson is simple: take everything that made people love Wii Sports, increase the size, and bring it to the Kinect. This starts right away with the art style, as the Deca characters look straight out of the Wii, right down to the oversized heads and continues throughout the menu systems and into the games.
Freedom offers ten sports (thus the Deca), which are a mix your typical motion-controlled options (boxing, archery, and diving for example) and some fresh ones, such as paintball and kendo. As for how the games actually play, the motion controls are still a little bit hit or miss. The classic games are pretty finely tuned, with boxing and archery in particular being a breeze to control. Even some of the newer games, such as figure skating are pretty well dialed in. That being said, there are a couple of issues, as paintball looked to be still having some trouble when we saw it, and Kendo was, by the developer's own admission, still a work in progress.
On the plus side though, the guys at Hudson have made a really great choice in that they have included an unobtrusive stick figure in the bottom corner of the screen which shows you essentially what the Kinect sees. This results in a whole lot less flailing around to try to find menu buttons and calibrate yourself, as all you have to do is glance down, move a little bit, and voila! All is right in the Kinect.
Outside of that, the other parts of gameplay, such as the inclusion of teams with various pros and cons, are classic Deca, with the inclusion of teams. Freedom will also feature online and local co-op and adversarial multiplayer, meaning you can demolish your friends at tennis, even if you are 3000 miles away.
Verdict: It's Wii Sports, but for the Kinect. That is both a very good thing, in that Wii Sports was, and indeed still is, awesome to play with friends. It is also a slight detriment,as Wii Sports certainly isn't revolutionary at this point. That being said though, Deca Sports Freedom will likely compete with MotionSports to be the sports game of choice for new Kinect owners. Moreover, if the motion controls get tightened up a bit, it could very well be the winner.
Concept: A boarding game which takes advantage of the Kinect tech to deliver an immersive riding experience.
Gameplay: Gameplay out of Adrenalin Misfits is about what you would expect from a Kinect title based around riding boards down a mountain. You stand sideways, crouch down to speed up, jump up as you get to the edge of cliffs, lean from side-to-side, and do all sorts of other realistic boarding actions. The controls definitely take a bit of getting used to, as when you start off there will be more than a couple unintended stops and turns which aren't quite tight or wide enough, much like when you actually learn to snowboard.
Konami is well aware of the fact that their boarding game could quickly degenerate into a one trick pony, and, as a result, has included a decent amount of variety in terms of options for modes and challenges. Of course, there is the standard race-down-the-mountain-as-fast-as-you-can mode, complete with gates that you have to guide your way through slalom style. However, there are also other challenges, such as getting down the course and maximizing the amount of air you get, or taking on a half pipe in order to pull tricks for the most points possible. This variety is nice, as in spite of the fact that you're always boarding down a mountain of some sort, Konami has at the very least taken steps to make sure it doesn't get repetitive.
The game definitely has a unique look to it, which is likely a result of the slightly younger demographic Konami is shooting for with Adrenalin Misfits. The characters look like they are straight out of a cartoon, and the worlds certainly follow suit. Players will also be able to create their own avatar to take on other riders and unlock a variety of different boards with special abilities.
Verdict: The controls need to be smoothed over a bit, but the unique visual style definitely makes it a worthwhile title if you're going to have younger gamers playing with the Kinect. Adrenalin Misfits has multiplayer, but it seemed to lack a little bit of the party atmosphere that the other Kinect games had. This might make it not ideal for older gamers and people who are looking to use their Kinect as more of a party game device. Either way, if you do decide to pick up Adrenalin Misfits be warned: your quads will hurt at the end of it.
Concept: A DDR game which includes Move support
Gameplay: Pretty much exactly as promised, here is a DDR game that features move support. DDR on the PS3 is a game which sets out to do something relatively simple and executes it exquisitely well. Before I go any further, I have to admit that this was my first ever DDR experience, so I can't comment much on how this game relates to the rest of the series otherthan some of the basic mechanics or how innovative some of the features are. I can say however, that I had a lot of fun playing the latest DDR.
Unlike Dance Masters, DDR on the PS3 features a sizable amount of licensed music from artists ranging from Train to Ke$ha. I didn't get a full count of how many were playable, however, Konami has announced that there will be 45 tracks at launch (20 licensed, 25 original) as well as a robust DLC portfolio in the works.
Gameplay is spread over five modes, although only the quickplay mode was available at the event. I booted up Ke$ha's "Animal" and was instantly hooked. The addition of the Move is done seamlessly; there are two large circles in the four corners of the screen which you calibrate beforehand and essentially act as your arrows for the Move. Movements with the Move scroll up the outside of the tracks, into one of two circles flanking the arrows. In practice it feels smooth and natural, although I couldn't shake the feeling that I was doing my best John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever impression as I moved the wad from the bottom left to the top right. Non-move gameplay is also possible, although for some reason removing the use of your arms definitely decreases the fun level substantially.
Verdict: It would be a shame to sell this game short by simply saying it is DDR with Move support. The addition of Sony's motion-controller definitely makes the game more than the sum of its parts. Heck, I had just as much, if not more, fun playing the tried-and-true formula of DDR than I did with Dance Masters.
Overall, the Kinect and Move games that Konami/Hudson showed off were pretty fun. There are still some kinks to be worked out in terms of the controls for the Kinect games, however, that is to be expected when developing for a new peripheral. The star of the show for me was probably DDR just for the sheer fun factor, although Deca Sports Freedom was a close second. However, the motion-controlled games were not all that was offered at gamer's day, as there were a ton of other titles, including the latest build of Lords of Shadow at the event. We'll be bringing you our impressions on those within the next day or two, so stay tuned.
Note: Also present (but remaining unplayed because of time) were Deca Sports 3 for the Wii, Karakoe Revolution for the Wii, Oops Prank Party for the Wii, and Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's Duel Transer for the Wii.