As promised a little under a month ago, Tecmo has thrust a demo of Ninja Gaiden Sigma onto the US and Japanese PlayStation 3 Stores.
The delayed European launch has left the PlayStation 3 with something of a problem - a sizeable proportion of its debut games are already available on the Xbox 360. Indeed, the likes of Fight Night Round 3 have been maturing on the shelves for over a year, while many of the others debuted on the 360 over four months ago. Internet gossip and many online reviews also point to several of these PS3 conversions suffering in comparison to the 360 'originals', an astonishing state of affairs considering that Sony's hardware is newer technology with a price tag that dwarfs that of Microsoft's console.
Of course, it's early days for the PlayStation 3 and any new piece of gaming technology takes time for game developers to get to grips with. That said, many studios (off the record of course) are not entirely happy with the SDK that Sony provides for PlayStation 3 development. The word is that Microsoft's programming environment gives better results more quickly. There's also the question of memory - Xbox 360 gives developers a full 512MB to do with as they will. PlayStation 3 on the other hand divides its internal RAM into two 256MB portions, with one section dedicated entirely to the NVIDIA-derived graphics technology. Up until recently, 64MB of the PS3's system memory was also sectioned off for OS use only, meaning that memory becomes far more of a precious commodity when developing on the Sony platform.
Clearly the PS3 is far from technically deficient up against the 360. While the 360's triple-core PowerPC CPU is an extreme piece of technology, Cell is no slouch in itself. It may only have a single core, but its satellite SPU processors are astonishingly powerful - just one of them can decode 300 MP3s simultaneously in real-time, and there are six of them available to be used in concert while the main CPU runs the core game logic.
The sign of a really good sports game is one that you find hugely enjoyable even when you're not a massive fan of the sport itself. Take the Virtua Tennis games. Despite only having a passing interest in the rising fortunes of teenage wunderkind Andy Murray, and despite watching a sum total of, ooh, two matches a year, as a videogame it's probably in my all-time top five. Few sports games have ever been so easy to pick up and play, yet had so much hidden depth. It sounds like the sort of tired hyperbole that you'd read in an excitable press release, but it's true.
The secret of AM3's success has always been to combine a simple, precise control system with spectacularly fluid animation. Everything after that falls into place and just works the way it should. Virtua Tennis 2, in particular, is one of the most beautifully instinctive videogames ever created for the simple reason that the game reads your shot input so precisely. Once you give that degree of control and flexibility to the player, you quickly zone out of even thinking about what you're doing any more. Played with someone of a similar level, it's almost a mind game where you're constantly having to second guess where the opponent is going to play their shot so you can run into the space and dictate the play.
It's one of the fastest, most competitive and challenging sporting titles out there, but one where you rarely ever curse the game when things don't go right for you. You'll lose because your position left you exposed, or you didn't time your shot properly, or maybe you just chose the wrong shot. It's one of those games where one more go is never enough, and one that even when you've mastered it will be kept alive in multiplayer forever.
Virtua Tennis 3 is due out on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 next Friday, 23rd March, but those of you diving around with Microsoft's next-gen console needn't wait that long to see how good it is, as there's a demo of it up on Xbox Live Marketplace this morning.
I am not, as a rule, a fan of sports games. The reason for this is simple; unlike racing games, which are for the most part accessible even to people who don't drive, or FPS games, which remain hugely enjoyable even for people who aren't gun-crazy lunatics who bathe in green alien blood, sports games are aimed squarely at fans of the sport in question. There are few non-football fans who can glean much enjoyment from PES (although I'm sure all three of them will now post in the comments thread, just to prove me wrong); American sports titles like Madden remain largely impenetrable for European audiences who don't follow the peculiar pastimes of the Colonials. As an Irishman, the majority of sports games send me to sleep - wake me up when there's a decent hurling game (the ball game, not the drunken vomiting - although I'll be the first to confess that the latter is also a popular pastime of my homeland) or a rugby game that doesn't suck.
You'll be able to play Virtua Tennis online 3 for the first time in franchise history on Xbox Live, SEGA has announced, when the game launches for the console in March.
How do you improve a game as good as Virtua Tennis 2? Even though it's been four or five years since its release, it's still the best tennis game on any platform, anywhere. The sheer simplicity of the series masks an astonishing achievement: by pinning down the physics of a tennis ball and tying it together with simple, effective controls the game boils down to position and timing. Which means it's basically as open-ended as the real thing, and each game - heck, each point - is capable of unfolding into infinite possibilities. So exactly how do you build on 'one of the most enduringly playable games of all time' (as it's been referred to in some very highly respected quarters)?
SEGA has revealed that the PlayStation 3 version of Virtua Tennis 3 will support the Sixaxis' tilt function to move around the court and play shots.
SEGA Europe has confirmed that the PlayStation 3 version of its popular sports title Virtua Tennis 3 does not have any online features.
Virtua Tennis 3 will run at 1080p on PlayStation 3, according to reports from Japan.
With the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of Virtua Tennis 3 on display at the Games Convention this week, SEGA's announced that the game will also be appearing on PC and PSP next spring when the game debuts
For all right-minded folk, it's understandably difficult to think about anything other than The Beautiful Game right now - but another great sporting event is also just around the corner, with Wimbledon fortnight serving up as the World Cup enters its knock-out stages.
One of the most thrilling prospects on the videogames horizon is Sega's next-gen instalment of the masterful Virtua Tennis series. And while its spring 2007 release on Xbox 360 and PS3 is far too late to cash in on the Pimms-fuelled frolics at the All England Club this summer, EGTV has an exclusive showing of the first trailer of Virtua Tennis 3 right now.
In development at talented UK studio Sumo Digital, the outfit responsible for the top-notch PSP instalment in addition to recent OutRun console titles, VT3 promises all the enhancements you'd expect from a next-gen product, with the tantalising prospect of full online play.
The demise of the Dreamcast some five years ago seemed to throw a spanner in the works of some of Sega's most treasured new franchises of that era. Case in point Virtua Tennis, which enjoyed chart-topping success back in the summer of 2000 and a quick-fire (but fantastic) sequel a little over a year later in the dying days of the company's first party releases for its much admired console.. Fans clung onto the belief that the Japanese company would one day re-ignite the brand, but all we got were a couple of handheld fillers to tide us over.
SEGA's begun its E3-teasing with a very welcome announcement - Virtua Tennis 3 is on its way to PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.