Ah, Konami. This one kind of stole the show for me, both for an accessible (and very impressive!) game lineup and for being generally awesome toward us. A special thank you goes out to Michelle Hoffman of Konami for setting it all up.
As I moved through Comic-Con, networking with people as I often do, I got a variety of responses from companies, ranging from a tour of their booth and demos of their games to a somewhat dismissive, “Leave us your card, and we’ll have someone email you.” (By the way, nobody did.)
Konami, on the other hand, called me personally in response to an email I’d sent them, scheduled a demo of several of their titles, offered us refreshments, and even let me sit down for an impromptu interview with Silent Hill writer Tom Waltz. I honestly couldn’t ask for more. Anyway, onto the games.
Let’s begin with Hard Corps Uprising.
As you can clearly see, this Metal Slug/Contra style game has no shortage of “HolyshitI’mgonnafreakingdie” action. The gameplay was both tight and hard as hell, although Associate Producer Kenji Yamamoto spoke of the “RISING” mode in the full game, which allows players to level-up their soldiers in a quasi-RPG fashion and purchase power-up items. This presents an interesting dilemma for me. As an RPG fan, I love leveling up and improving my characters, but I played the original Contra. I never beat it without the Konami Code, but I’m no stranger to balls-to-the-wall hard. Thus, I think I’ll be splitting my time among the two modes.
Next up was the new Silent Hill game, whose working title is Silent Hill 8. Sadly, there was no demo, but I was able to sit down with Tom Waltz and discuss the direction in which he is taking the series. A comic writer himself, Waltz announced that a Silent Hill comic entitled Silent Hill: Past Life is in the works, and it will cross over with the game. However, the game takes place in the present day, and the comic is set in 1867. Apparently, there will be a common character in both stories, so I’m definitely looking forward to seeing how that’s explained. Judging by my conversation with Waltz, the man’s got some seriously interesting ideas. Plus, the new Silent Hill game is more reminiscent of Silent Hill 2 (incidentally, Waltz’s favorite entry), with the main character having to answer for his sins.
Still, Waltz speaks of his love for the humanity of the Silent Hill protagonists regardless of which entry in the series, which is a sentiment that I share. No matter which one you play, what’s going on inside the protagonist is more important than what’s going on around him. Waltz cites an example: “In the first Silent Hill, it wasn’t the monsters and puzzles that got to me, but the terror of a father unable to find his daughter. I lost sight of my own daughter for literally about thirty seconds once in a store, and it felt like hours.”
And now onto the first of two new Castlevania titles: Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.
Sounds spooky, doesn’t it? It’s actually an XBOX Live Arcade title that’s pretty much a homage to all the sidescrolling action, most notably Symphony of the Night and the handheld entries. You can play as favorites like Alucard, Soma Cruz, and more, with Konami promising DLC add-ons. More importantly, you can play through the game in single-player mode or online cooperatively with 5 other players. The character progression isn’t as detailed as, say Symphony of the Night, but each character still provides a unique experience, even if customization options are somewhat limited. I’m definitely looking forward to this game!
The penultimate game in this article, SAW II, is arguably the most disturbing game I’ve ever seen. The gameplay is excellent and fluid, complete with clever puzzles and adrenaline-pumping events, usually resolved by the timely press of a trigger button. Then there’s cutting open your eye to get a key out. I’m not sure if that’s exactly adrenaline-pumping, but it’s certainly a clever puzzle and freaky as all hell. Below is the only image I could use of this game that wouldn’t make concerned parents write in to complain to us about warping their kids’ fragile minds.
On the plus side, there seem to be a whole host of improvements with this over the original Saw game. “Number one is the fact that [series antagonist] Tobin Bell’s likeness is in the game,” said producer Jaime Bencia. “Fans have been really pushing for that. Number two is the various quick-time events, which give it a more cinematic feel. Number three is the visuals. We’re actually very happy with the mood and the overall feel of the graphics.”
I can tell you from experience, the visuals in this game will scare the living shit out of you.
And now, to end on a happy note. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow looks (and plays!) so kick-ass, it isn’t even funny.
Did you see that? I just impaled a giant wolf-like beast (or is it an owlbear?) with a goddamned tree trunk! How could this game not be totally awesome? But anyway, the compelling story (narrated by Patrick Stewart!) seems to be complemented by epic visuals, realistic sound, and tight and responsive gameplay. Executive Producer Hideo Kojima (of Metal Gear Solid fame) is taking the series in a new direction, and so far, I like it.
I also have a few pics of a friend and I playing Dance Masters, but that’ll have to wait for another day. I still haven’t decided if you’ll have to pry those images from my cold, dead hands. Suffice it to say that the game was great, the Kinect is very responsive, and I dance pretty crappily even for a white boy.
And that’s a wrap for Konami! A special thanks to the following people at Konami for being so friendly and giving me so much material to write about: Michelle Hoffman (again!), Kenji Yamamoto, Tom Waltz, Jaime Bencia, and Robert Santini. I hope I didn’t miss anyone!
Look for more coverage later!Tags: Castlevania, Dance Masters, Hard Corps Uprising, Harmony of Despair, Konami, Lords of Judgment, Saw, Silent Hill, Tom Waltz