Mobile Suit Gundam: Target in Sight
Or Mobile Suit Gundam: Crossfire to you and I, this focuses on the war between the Federation and Zeon armies of big stompy robots, and naturally it's into the cockpits of these that you're thrust, where you're able to take advantage of things like locational damage modelling and a broad range of objectives to, you know, stomp around having fun. Shown off in playable form at both E3 and the Tokyo Game Show, Target in Sight actually lets you pick sides in the war rather than going for the old good guys versus bad guys approach, although we still suspect it'll be one of those that appeals more to fans than it does to the average gamer. Rob, our most ardent Japan-watcher, says that it's all about getting the Gundam fans. You - you can just give up now.
e-Distribution Initiative/PS3 Store
Like Xbox Live, PlayStation 3 will boast its own store with downloadable demos and Live Arcade-style independent games. The launch offering in Japan won't be many, but Sony has promised that Blast Factor - billed by some commentators as Sony's answer to Geometry Wars - will be flexing its shoot-'em-up muscles, at a cost of 840 yen (GBP 3.70 / EUR 5.50) and a 95MB hard disk heft. Also on the PS3 store there'll be a daily information service starring Sony mascot Toro the cat, along with demos of fellow EDI titles flOw, Lemmings and Kazuo, and a demo version of big-proper-game Ridge Racer 7 to download too.
Then, soon after launch, PSone titles will start to materialise on the PS3 Store, available to download and then play on the PlayStation Portable - with Resident Evil, Bishi Bashi Special, Arc the Lad, Tekken 2 and Hot Shots Golf 2 (Everybody's Golf 2) said to be among the initial releases. (It's worth pointing out, of course, that if you own these games already, along with any other PSone or PlayStation 2 titles, that they will work out of the box on PS3 thanks to its backwards-compatibility with those formats. You just won't be able to use the PSP to play them in the way you will these emulated downloadable titles.)
Looking Beyond The Launch
"But wait there's more," as they say - although in this case you'd be well within your rights to retort that there's not much more. Unless you're after a choice of Mahjong games and a railway simulator, in which case step right up! There are a few things left for the Japanese to look forward to in 2006 though, like Armored Core 4 (14th December) and Sonic the Hedgehog (21st December), but probably the two biggest are both of the vehicular variety.
MotorStorm (7th December)
Lampooned, originally, after Sony's preview footage at E3 2005 turned out to be a load of old cut-scene (something that put the early, otherwise reasonable screenshots into sharp and unfair contrast), MotorStorm actually emerges as one of the most entertaining of the batch of games handed over along with our debug PlayStation 3. A traditional circuit racer, it introduces elements of ATV games, and titles like Twisted Metal and Destruction Derby, and also boasts canny track design and a certain visual opulence that - while nowhere near the quality of the original footage - still manages to keep pace with the peaks of next-gen development elsewhere.
Evolution has impressed hard upon those who've seen early technology demos that the persistent track deformation ensures that no two laps are the same. Our demo versions don't make such a strong argument in that area, but the quality of the mountainous tracks' respective designs left their own strong impressions. The better of the two, where you race a circuit that takes you on a loop around a cliff-top, ever perilously close to the long drop below, is relentlessly bumpy, and forces you to make shrewd use of your brakes and the boost button in order to maintain the line and avoid slipping away. The smarter elements of design make this even tougher, with a natural-seeming break in the continuity of the outcropping track happy to ensnare anybody who's forced in its direction by misjudgement or speed or jump angle.
Meanwhile, the importance of the boost function can't be overlooked - it's used relentlessly with the X button to complement your general R2 acceleration, but also something of a poisoned chalice on narrow mountainside tracks, not to mention because overuse leads to overheating and eventual explosion - while motion-sensor controls are available. Whether anyone will care about this reinvention of the (steering) wheel is hard to say, but we do hope they include an option to tweak sensitivity, because it's very twitchy at the moment. Look forward to a full first impression in the very near future, as well as a review.
Gran Turismo HD (December)
And if you think EA's taking the mickey with its premium stuff-you-already-bought downloads on Xbox Live Marketplace, the argument goes, just take a look at what Polyphony Digital's up to! Gran Turismo HD is aiming to launch this year, and includes two modes: a spruced up offline game with next-generation visuals (effectively a sample version of Gran Turismo 5) and an online version of GT4 where players buy whichever cars and tracks they actually want rather than relying on their inclusion in the box. The GT HD "Premium" element will consist of two new tracks and 30 cars, with 30 extra cars and one more track available to buy online at launch, while the "Classic" online element will offer a choice of some 770 cars and 51 tracks in the long run. Although bear in mind that those are "targets" rather than the specific numbers they look like.
A prelude to Gran Turismo 5, which will be released in 2008, GT HD will be an interesting experiment if nothing else, and is probably better thought of as GT5's "Prologue" edition. And with that in mind, it's also worth considering that the basic boxed version will cost very little at first. We've got it on pre-order, so expect to hear from us about it as soon as - but don't be too surprised if this turns into something of a movable feast, given that Polyphony's still saying "December" rather than specifying a date. But hey, it wouldn't be the first thing to face a delay in PS3-land, would it readers?
For more on the PlayStation 3's launches in Japan and the US, stay tuned for our launch title reviews in the coming weeks.