Konami NYC Gamers’ Night Impressions

Konami swung into NYC with a nice selection of upcoming releases that showed off the company’s commitment to variety and pure fun with a number of family friendly console and handheld titles. Of course, scaring the crap out of a few folks with two impressive horror games was also on the agenda. I ended up playing most of what was shown and came away impressed with them all, as you’ll see below in this quick rundown. I’ll also post longer Hands-On previews of a few of these titles shortly.

Reflection (Nintendo DSi) – This download only DSiWare exclusive is one of those genius game ideas that demands to be played. You’re tasked with guiding a young girl through a fantasy world using both DS screens to navigate pretty environments that feature some classic platforming and puzzle-solving elements. The catch: the lower screen is a mirror image that’s actually with different obstacles and puzzles to solve. You’ll need to pay attention to both screens as you run, wall jump, slide, push boxes and more. The cool thing about this one: it was cooked up by a handful USC students that took their award-winning GDC 2009 entry and turned it into a charming soon to be Nintendo classic. Now that’s another excellent reason to stay in school, kids.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 (PS3/Xbox 360) – Best console footy game on the planet? Still. That’s my verdict after seeing this one in action and picking up the controller for a quick spin through a match. Stunning graphics, loads of new animations, more commentary, in-depth, customization and more features than you can shake a yellow card at all make this one guaranteed to have soccer fans worldwide never leave the house even in the off season. Madden who? Yeah, it’s all that and Konami KNOWS it, folks. Online or off, a whole lot of folks will be logging even more hours than they’d care to admit on this one once it ships.

Puzzle Chronicles (Nintendo DS/DSi) – Yes, it’s a Puzzle Quest-inspired game featuring RPG elements with hand-drawn fantasy characters, a large over world map and even a tutorial mode that’s very similar to D3’s mega-hit. However, the battle presentation and sideways sliding cubes puzzle system is very different, as you can rotate blocks and shift them as they get close to the target blocks. I finished two boards and had to put it down before I became hooked. Despite the similarities, I liked this one a lot. Hopefully, core PQ fanatics will overlook the obviousness here and be as excited about another puzzle/RPG hybrid.

SAW (PS3, Xbox 360) – Yup, I was skeptical about this one when i initially heard of it, but based on the unsettling demo on display, the Zombie (Shadow Ops: Red Mercury)-developed game makes excellent use of the license. Taking place between the first and second films, as Detective Tapp, players will need to use their eyes and ears as well as wits in order to survive Jigsaw’s trap-packed maze of deadly life lessons. The setting is a dilapidated mental hospital Tapp needs to navigate carefully (broken glass, nail bombs and shotgun doors await careless players) and to make matters worse, that exit key sewn inside of him makes him a target for Jigsaw’s other victims looking to escape. The demo was tense, gory and great-looking for an early build, capturing the look, feel and editing style of the movies perfectly. Controls were a tiny bit slippery, but we’re certain this and one or two other minor kinks will be polished up nicely for the game’s October release.

Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Wii) – As a longtime Silent Hill fan, this re-imagining of the original has been on my radar since it was announced and after playing it, I’m in love all over again and twice as freaked out. The Wii-specific controls are brilliant and yes, innovative, the all-new psychological elements make for near-infinite replay value, the visuals are outstanding and despite the lack of combat, the game is scary as hell. Using the Wiimote as everything from a camera, GPS and cellphone (you actually put your ear to the speaker to listen to calls) is brilliant, which means it’ll be copied to death in other Wii games at some point. By the way, filling out that personality profile at the beginning of a new game will really freak out a few too-honest gamers, but you have to laugh at those folks who let this part of the game get to them more than being chased by a small pack of skinless mannequin-things.

Tornado Outbreak (PS3, Xbox 360) – Got an appetite for destruction on a comical scale? Love both Katamari Damacy and old Saturday morning cartoons? Well, this surprisingly addictive, inspired mash-up should fit the bill nicely for the entire family. Simple controls combined with multiple level goals along with plenty of destructible and interactive objects make this one really fun to play. Stylized cartoon graphics reminiscent of Warner Bros. cartoons abound and overall, this looks like one of those sleepers that should have wide appeal. If anything, it’s definitely one of the more original character ideas you’ll ever see, that’s for sure.

Vandal Hearts: Flames of Judgment (PS3, Xbox 360) – Stop that whining, hardcore VH fans! Sure, this download-only prequel to the PSOne original doesn’t have Japanese character designs nor the tactically thrilling real-time approach Vandal Hearts II took. Nevertheless, the game is extremely addictive, challenging right from the early going and guess what? You’ll get used to the character art sooner than you think, thanks to some well-written story sequences. The turn-based combat is definitely going to test your strategic skills, as enemies are set on puree from the moment you enter your first battle. I only played three lengthy missions, but the addictive nature of the gameplay had me coming back to try new strategies on the different maps. I’m excited about this one and definitely looking forward to diving into the final code.

Walk it Out (Nintendo Wii) – Yet another Wii exercise game? I’d initially thought about passing this one over, but after giving in to the beat pumping from the HD setup and actually trying the game, it’s actually quite cool (and harder than it looks). Using the DDR Dance Pad, you need to keep the stepping action as precise as possible to rack up points. The beats are hot, the routes are long and the happy-voiced taskmaster chirping out motivational peppy-ness from the TV should keep those looking for a new way to step up their Wii home gym antics step on up to the cash register when this one ships.

WireWay (Nintendo DS) – Super cute, super challenging puzzle game has you using slingshot-like devices to zip an alien critter back to his home planet in oodles of stages. The game may look overly simplistic, but the easy stages quickly give way to ones with plenty of platform elements and parts where you’ll need to draw on the DS screen to create a path. Since your little alien guy is helpless on the ground, your brain will be tingling during these sections as much as your fingers are sliding and flicking away at that touch screen. The blending and bending of familiar gameplay elements from Puzzle Bobble, billiards and pinball (to name a few influences) will test the skills of the most die-hard gamers out there. Strangely addictive doesn’t even begin to describe this one…

I’ll update this post with info about YU-GI-OH! 5D’sTag Force 4, Zombie Apocalypse, Karaoke Revolution and Pop ‘n Music in a few days. Gotta run, as dinner is calling me to cook it. Don’t you love it when all that training pays off?

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