Dispatches from Mappy Land Feature - The Next Level

Dispatches from Mappy Land

Inside: Namco, E3, and men of the future.

Article by Long (Email)
May 23rd 2005, 05:22AM

It's about ten minutes before my scheduled Namco appointment and I can either wait in a sweaty line and watch We Love Katamari, or play something. Might not seem like much, but if you know anyone who has been sucked into the phenomenon like so much Japanese crap lying scattered on the ground, this new game is kind of a big deal.

But there'd be time for that later so I check out Namco Museum 50th Anniversary Arcade Collection, which includes Mappy and Rally X. Mappy is a lot like any other Namco maze game of the era: you collect "stuff" (in this case, it is merchandise stolen by cat banditos) and has little tricks that make the game compelling. In Pac-Man, you eat the power pellet. In Rally-X, you release smoke clouds. Mappy, easily the most practical, opens rainbow doors that release cat-mauling shockwaves. And Rally-X I recently discovered to be really awesome. If you've never emulated it or found it in a quiet arcade, it's going to treat you to some great music. Well actually, as far as I know, it's only one song, but, man, it's real catchy.

Before I check in with Namco, I find a button pin on the ground and I grab at it like Gollum. It's pink. It has Sanrio characters on it. It's a pin for Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue, and I quickly put this in my pocket.

The Soul Calibur III E3 demo had the new character, Tira, playable. She attacks with these giant, spiked hoop rings and dresses like she just escaped from a Ringling Bros. act and forgot to take her bra. At the very least, she looks like she hangs out with Poison Ivy before hitting up a Sleater-Kinney show. Aaron (aka Ammadeau of Got-Next fame) and I both choose her and we duke it out. I forget who emerges victorious, but our palpable suckiness with character does not make either of us winners.

The very nice, very eager Namco PR guy tries to give us the Hello Kitty pin and I say I already have one. Another Namco guys comes out of nowhere and hands me a HK pin. Well, I guess I might know someone who would like this.

Namco has three games that are usually doomed to not make a splash at E3: Rebelstar Tactical Command, Real Time Conflict: Shogun Empires, and the new Arc the Lad. RPGs and strategy games are notoriously inept at getting anyone's attention at an expo, except for Square Enix, who can sell anything. Even Romancing Saga, which is cursed with having 'Saga' in the title, and was completely untranslated, had people playing it. Also strange, it made more sense than Saga Frontier.

Sigma Star Saga was playable, though the problem was that none of kiosks were showing off the on-foot sections. That kind of sold it short since shooters are pretty common on the GBA while fighting on foot looked really unique. I mention that one of our contributors is really jazzed about this game and that we did a Q&A for it. Our Namco guide says that that's 'cool' but he doesn't give me a high-five and explode in gratitude like I thought he was going to. That would've been cool.

We glide over a bunch of bunch of licensed, kiddie games like Atomic Betty and those Berenstain Bears. Normally, that would've been nice because not many people play off of people's apathy, but I kind of wanted to try Hello Kitty: Roller Rescue. The problem is that there's people always swarming near it and it's right next to the Namco reception desk. Isn't there like some dark corner where I can play this? I think it's called something like Kentia Hall? Preferably this would be next to a hole where I can toss the shame center of my brain when it dies.

Playing We Love Katamari co-op is kind of like using the Ouija board: you're hoping, maybe even influencing, for the thing to spell out T-O-M-C-R-U-I-S-E but everybody else has their own ideas. Likewise, in Katamari, where player one acts as the left analog stick and player two the right, I wanted to veer left and go to town on some garbage pails, but the other attendee I was playing with had other plans. Obviously, communication is the key.

Namco was also running a thing where you could donate some junk and overnight they would glue it to a huge Katamari ball. Books and paper they wouldn't take, but is otherwise a great wall to get rid of your abundance of PSP lanyards, which were practically shoved into every pocket and shirt opening. I tried to get a few clear pictures of the ball but it obviously didn't go very well. Note to future world: when you guys start physically archiving the Internet and this article is inevitable framed and hung on a museum wall, please name the pictures "THANKS FOR GETTING IN THE WAY ASSHOLE YOU TOTALLY RUINED THE SHOT" and "Untitled." Thank you, good night.

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