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Game Over Online ~ Konami Gamers Day 2005

Konami Gamers Day 2005

Published: Monday, January 31st, 2005 at 08:25 PM
Written By: Joe McNeilly

While the industry holds its breath waiting for the next round of console wars, Konami is focused on the portable market in 2005. At their annual Gamers Day, Konami announced a stellar slate of titles for this year and had some of their renowned producers on hand to show off their wares.

Castlevania (PS2 & DS)

Koji Igarashi, Castlevania’s famed producer, was in the house to announce that the Castlevania franchise will get two new titles in 2005, for the PS2 and DS systems. “Castlevania for DS” (the working title) is officially a sequel to the smash hit Aria of Sorrow (GBA), and takes place one year after the events portrayed in Aria. The touch screen is used for actions like breaking blocks and activating the Magic Seal that banishes defeated bosses. The secondary screen contains a map, and also displays player and enemy stats. A playable version of the game showcased ’s trademark 2D action game play and excellent art design. The map/info screen offers relief from the inevitable menu surfing, and the touch screen elements enhanced, rather than impeded, the action. The new Castlevania: Curse of Darkness for PS2 was still under construction, but should be playable by E3. Its main innovation is a new Devil Forging system, in which players will be able to forge “innocent devils” to help them overcome obstacles or enemies. Both titles are slated for a Fall release.

(Fanboy alert: Ayami Kojima, character illustrator for the Castlevania series, was also at the event and signed a few autographs for the devoted among the press corps.)

Metal Gear Acid (PSP)

Believe it or not, Metal Gear Acid is a turn-based card game that still manages to capture the stealth and combat of its predecessors. Wonky camera angles aside, Metal Gear Acid looks and plays beautifully on the PSP. The game has already been released in Japan, but Konami announced at Gamers Day that the US version will contain a 2-player wireless link battle mode. The game will be released this spring, when the hardware launches in the US. As of this writing, Sony has not released a US launch date for the PSP.

Coded Arms (PSP)

Even portable game consoles need first-person shooters, and Konami is stepping up with Coded Arms for the PSP. Coded Arms is the first FPS that Konami has ever developed. The all-important multiplayer mode allows up to four players to connect to each other over PSP’s built-in wi-fi. Joining a multiplayer game is easily accomplished through an in-game menu, and players can choose to play on pre-built or randomly generated maps. To create synergy between single and multiplayer modes, a betting system will be implemented which will allow you to collect items in the single player campaign and then wager the booty on the outcome of multiplayer death matches. Also, the controls will be fully customizable to help make up for the PSP’s lack of a second analog stick. An aim-assist feature further helps minimize controller frustration. Multiplayer death match was playable at Gamers Day, and presented a fast, fun FPS experience that should be awesome after it receives its final polish. The producers are planning 30 different weapons for maximum carnage, and hope that Coded Arms will be a launch title (more quizzical looks in Sony’s direction.)

Enthusia (PS2)

Enthusia is Konami’s entry into the hardcore driving-sim genre with over 200 vehicles and 50 racecourses, in addition to an endless number of randomly generated desert tracks. Motor sports enthusiasts will love Enthusia’s new VGS, or Visual Gravity System, which presents a real-time graphical readout of the physics acting on your car. It also fills you in on the amount of traction you’re getting as you squeal around on various surfaces. In Enthusia Life (that’s Career Mode to you and me), you must be careful to maintain your Enthu points, which are a sort of health meter for your driver. Every time you bump an opponent or hit a wall, your Enthu points decrease. Lose them all and you have to take a week off of the season to recover. Another innovation is Enthusia’s Driving Revolution Mode, which takes a rhythm-based approach to driving: think DDR with cars. It seems a bit out of place with Enthusia’s otherwise stalwart insistence on realism, but still presents a nice break for jaded career drivers. Two players can play head to head, but no online play will be available due to the release schedule. After three years in development, Enthusia hits store shelves this Spring.

Winning Eleven 8 (PS2, Xbox, PC)

This realistic soccer franchise is a worldwide bestseller on the PS2. Featuring more than 136 club teams, 57 national teams and over 4,500 actual players, Winning Eleven 8 will offer a rich experience for soccer fans everywhere. Online play will be available in the PC edition, but PS2 and Xbox owners will have to content themselves with offline 2-player action. New moves, tricks, and stats may even begin to interest the tepid US audience. Winning Eleven 8 comes out February 1.

Frogger Helmet Havoc (DS, PSP, PS2, GC)

The cute little frog keeps coming back for more. This time, he’s hopping around a 3D platformer with his pals Lumper and Barry. Frogger’s adventure will be filled with lots of mini-games, and the original arcade game will be included on all versions. The DS version was playable at the event, and maintained an authentic arcade feel even in Frogger’s new environs. In an interesting twist, only one game cartridge will be required for up to four-person multiplayer on the DS. Frogger hops into stores this fall.

Death, Jr. (PSP)

What if Death had a son who was in middle school, and he was a misunderstood freak with misunderstood-freak-friends who had to save the world? Such is the wacky premise behind Death, Jr., a 3rd person action/platformer starring the skeletal fruit of the Grim Reaper’s loins. As Death, Jr., your main weapon will be a scythe just like dad’s, but a number of other items, such as “C-4 Hamsters,” will help you achieve your goals. The scythe also functions as a platforming tool, helping you slide the bony protagonist along ropes and cables. A comic book is being developed in parallel with the game, to be published by Image Comics. Look for Death, Jr. this spring for the PSP.

Rengoku: The Tower of Purgatory (PSP)

Rengoku is a 3rd person sci-fi action game that still looks a long way from finished. As a souped up battle android, you must fight your way into the titular tower to face an unnamed opponent. The preview build on display at Gamers Day had awkward controls, uninspired level design, and mediocre enemies. With the proper amount of time and care, it could blossom into something great, but for now Rengoku isn’t ready for prime-time. Konami’s plans call for a four-player death match mode. No release date has been set.

Other titles announced at Gamers Day include Dragon Booster (a new franchise based on the ABC/Family Channel show), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Melee (a TMNT party game that looks like X-Men Legends meets Mario Party), and Lost in Blue (a Robinson Caruso-style survival game for the DS).

All in all, it looks like Konami’s got a great year laid out, particularly in the portable arena. Konami has also promised that there will be more big licenses announced later in the year, so stay tuned for more.
-Joe McNeilly

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