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James_Yu Blog

We have a Wii!

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We got a call from Nintendo telling us that the Wii was only a block away from the office. Previews editor Brad Shoemaker and executive producer Ryan MacDonald ran downstairs to catch the Wii delivery on tape. We thought it would arrive in an armored truck, but then we heard the familar jingle of...

an ice cream truck!

And Brad takes delivery of the Wii!

Got any more Wii boxes in there?

Rich, Jeff, Alex, and Greg in the studio getting ready for the live On the Spot Wii marathon.

Brad heading to the studio with the Wii.

Rich reading a letter from Nintendo president Reggie Fils-Aime on air.

Let's get this box open and start playing! Check out GameSpot's "We Just Got A Wii Marathon" right now.

PlayStation 3 Backward Compatibility Testing

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Sony PR man Ryan Bowling stopped by the GameSpot offices to do a PlayStation 3 demo for yesterday's On the Spot. He arrived an hour early to give us some hands-on time with a retail unit featuring the final shipping hardware. He couldn't show us the PlayStation Network features because it's still a work-in-progress, but he did walk us through most of the cross media bar options. I'm covering the backward compatibility testing first since a lot of readers have been asking about it.

Here's the PlayStation 3 sitting next to the 1080p HDTV we bought in preparation for the HD era.

Slide in a PS2 game and the PS3 will recognize it as a "PlayStation 2 Format Disc."

Before launching the game, the PS3 will prompt you to create an internal memory card on the hard drive to enable game saves.

Gran Turismo 4 loaded just fine on the PS3.

The PS3 doesn't do anything special to improve image quality for PS2 or PS1 games, but GT4 has built-in support for 1080i.

We used Battle Arena Toshinden 3 for our PS1 backward compatibility test. 

The PS3 ran Toshinden perfectly but couldn't do anything for the decade-old graphics. Finally, we tried out a Japanese version of Kingdom Hearts 2 to see how the PS3 handled region locking for PS2 games.

The new console can play PS3 games from any region, but it looks like the system will obey region restrictions for games from older PlayStation platforms.

Sony PlayStation 3 - Brief Impressions

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I've only seen the PlayStation 3 console in pictures or behind plexiglass for the past year and a half, but I've somehow managed to get up close with the system on two separate occasions in the past week.

We were fortunate enough to have a number of PlayStation 3 test systems and development kits on the show floor at this past weekend's After Hours event. Sega had eight units running Full Auto 2 and Namco had four more systems showing Gundam and Ridge Racer 7. One of the developers we spoke to told us that the test systems were "final hardware" but didn't have the finished operating system. I got another chance to examine the system at Sony's PlayStation 3 Gamers Day event today in San Francisco.

The PS3 test system's exterior is actually a smoky, translucent black instead of the solid black we've seen in the official PS3 press shots. The eject and power buttons are pretty slick--they aren't actually buttons that you can press down. Just slide your finger over either button symbol to get the disc to slide out of the slot-loader or to power the system on or off.

The console itself feels very sturdy. I'd guess that it's a couple pounds heavier than an Xbox 360. The running system exhausts a noticeable amount of heat, but I wouldn't say it runs any hotter than the 360. The noise level in the demo area prevented us from checking out the system's acoustics, but we've been told that the system is as quiet as the PS2.

Keep your eyes on the PlayStation 3 Launch Center. We'll have all of our Gamers Day event coverage up shortly.

Nintendo Revolution or Retreat?

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I grew up with Nintendo. I remember playing Super Mario Bros. on my best friend's Famicom almost a year before NES came to North America. His dad brought the system back with him after a trip to Asia. I think we spent that entire summer just playing Mario. Hey, the game can be pretty challenging when you're only six years old. I had switched over to online PC games like Quake and later Counter-Strike by the time Nintendo released the GameCube, but I still managed to play few of the top titles. I didn't buy my own system, but I still managed to play and beat The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Metroid Prime on a friend's machine.

I'll be the first to admit that my game-playing and –buying habits have changed quite a bit since I was a kid. Instead of buying a new game every month or every other week, I now stick with a single title for months or even years at a time. Games like Counter-Strike have awesome replay value since the game only needs to provide the environment and structure while the players themselves provide the interaction.

I'd still be playing the original Quake in 4-on-4 deathmatch mode right now if there were enough servers and good players around. The only reason why I switched from Quake to Quake 3 to Counter-Strike was to follow the player population. Now, like many others, I've been playing World of Warcraft and it looks like it'll be playing the game for at least several months if not years.

Most of the console systems have come around to embrace the multiplayer point of view. Xbox live has been phenomenal, and I love the fact that a million people have played Halo 2 online since it'll encourage more game developers to create games with better online multiplayer support. I just wish Nintendo could be included in that group. I was talking with Jeff about the GameCube online adapter a while ago and he commented that it "pretty much started and ended with Phantasy Star Online." That isn't right.

Nintendo has all of these great properties. Why not make a massively multiplayer Zelda title? I'm sure Hyrule would be a fun place to adventure once you get over the problem of having a million Kokiri players with floppy, green hats running around. Metroid is an obvious choice for online FPS play, and I'm glad to see that the Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and the Metroid Prime: Hunters DS demo have at least some kind of multiplayer mode no matter how mediocre.

However, the more I hear and read about the Nintendo Revolution, the more I feel like there's a chance this next system will be where Nintendo finally leaves me behind once and for all. Granted, Nintendo has released hardly any information about the system, but the hints have been far from heartening.

While confirming that Nintendo will release details about the new machine this May, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata stated that the Revolution will cause a "paradigm shift" in video gaming . According to Iwata, "The concept behind our new console, tentatively named 'Revolution,' is the same as the DS. We want it to broaden the [video gaming] audience range, and we don't want it to be something that people will see as too irrelevant to them, too difficult to use, or as something that wastes space."

To me, it sounds like Nintendo is retreating from the core gaming market in favor of a more general audience. I imagine Nintendo will still try to make the next generation console appealing to its current audience, but I don't like it when companies change products to appeal to a wider demographic. You end up with New Coke and Dennis Miller on Monday Night Football.

It doesn't help that Nintendo is moving away from the simple formula of improving graphics and pushing more content. While commenting on the Sony PSP, Iwata said, "In the past, the video game industry grew on high-quality graphics and data volume." However, "We decided to move into a different direction, since we believe that those days have ended."

Of course, that statement might just be pure spin since I'd say something like that if I showed up to a fight completely overmatched: "You know, in the past, fighters relied on using weapons with longer reach and devastating damage potential, such as that sledgehammer you're holding, but I think we're on the cusp of new era in weapons design. The fighters of the future will win with imaginative equipment such as this plastic slinky. Just give me a staircase and I'm trouble."

As far as I can tell, graphics processors are still improving year after year, and storage media capacity is also increasing. I can understand the argument that cutting-edge technology isn't necessary for great games, but I'd argue that great visuals and a massive amount of quality data are necessary for the games I want to play.

From Nintendo DS to World of Warcraft

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I spent much of Sunday afternoon trying to track down a Nintendo DS. I didn't actually want to buy a system--I just wanted to see if I could find one. I don't know what it is about hard-to-find new releases, but once someone tells me that a new product will be impossible to find, I can't help but go on the hunt. When Greg mentioned that he and Ricardo were trying to track down the redesigned PlayStation 2, I just had to jump on the phones and try to find one. Fortunately we were able to find one at a Fry's Electronics in the South Bay and put together a nice hands-on preview of the system. In my youth, I managed to find a Super Nintendo System three days before release at the San Jose Flea Market of all places, and finding a Nintendo 64 on launch day was surprisingly easy.

I was working at FiringSquad when Sony launched the PlayStation 2. The PlayStation 2 hunt was a little different from the rest since FiringSquad's sister site, Gamers.com, ran a crazy promotion that year where we gave away 60 PlayStation 2 Systems right after the console had launched. Unfortunately, since supplies were short, we could only get a handful of systems from Sony. The entire company was tasked to locate the systems we were giving away for the promotion. We sent people to camp out at the Sony Metreon for the official launch, and one of our programmers even wrote a web program that monitored all the major online retailer sites for PlayStation 2 in-stock message changes. Systems were selling for over $700 on eBay during that period, but we still managed to obtain all 60 console systems from various retail sources.

Finding the Nintendo DS looked like it would be a nice challenge. Judging by the DS preorder stories, I was already pretty sure that the specialized game stores like EB Games and GameStop would be sold out, but I had high hopes for the major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, or Best Buy. Unfortunately, I waited until Sunday afternoon to start calling and visiting retailers. Most of the stores had plenty on units in the morning, but all had sold out by the afternoon. Right when I got back home after my failed DS hunt, my friend calls me with the news that Best Buy didn't have any Nintendo DS units left, but he did find World of Warcraft sitting on the shelves two days before it's supposed to released.

Hopefully, I'll have my consolation prize installed and ready to go when the World of Warcraft signup page opens up tonight.