IGN is reporting that Japanese Xbox 360 owners can now access free downloads for the RPG Blue Dragon. The interesting thing is that instead of being downloads of the "new item" or "new quest" variety, these offer two new difficulty levels for the campaign, as well as an option to import characters from a completed run-through into a new game. I’m not sure I dig the trend that this and other similar offerings have been implying, that being to release console games lacking certain standard features, and relying on online content delivery to bring the game up to specs. On one hand, more development time on the individual aspects is encouraging; on the other hand, laissez-faire, "we’ll fix it in post" attitudes to publishing bother me; on the third hand oh god i have three hands.

I’ve mentioned Crush before, Sega’s upcoming game for the PSP that has the player alternating between a 2D and a 3D world to solve platforming puzzles. I liked the concept. I still like it, doubly now that Super Paper Mario seems to be progressing on parallel tracks. Now most of the major game media outlets have had a chance to go hands on with the game, and the reports are generally positive and intrigued. Gamespot’s preview articulates some of the more interesting features of the game, while, for the visually minded, GameVideos has portions of the first level up for viewing.

Telltale Games’ successful episodic experiment Sam and Max will get its fourth episode next week, for GameTap subscribers, and March 8 for everyone else. This is kinda what I had in mind when I first considered the term "episodic gaming": quick two-hour pieces of tight gaming delivered on a reliable schedule. Same and Max: Episode Four will be titled "Abe Lincoln Must Die!" and is sure to carry a cogent and pertinent moral regarding today’s political climate.

Long live the arcade? Joystiq has a developing story about a just-announced arcade game in the Silent Hill universe. Think that sounds strange? Click the link and check out the picture associated with the story. To replicate the feeling of, I don’t know, hiding in your closet with your game console because your hyper-religious parents won’t allow anything with the word "cult" into their house, the cabinet comes with a nice blackout drapery to surround the players. Famitsu calls the game a "gun action shooting game," according to the story, so… maybe not much in the way of tense sexual metaphor? I don’t know, but putting oblivious people behind curtains is just asking for some Pyramid Head surprise sex.

Both of the Phoenix Wright games that have made their way across the Pacific have been taken in as minor classics among the DS crowd. There is a third game in the series, currently out only in Japan on the GBA. Fans hoping to see a localization have a fun new way to pique their fever: Capcom is hosting a contest in which fans of the game can Photoshop an Ace Attorney-esque dialogue in comic-book style in an attempt to convince the publisher to give the game a proper translation and release in North America.

This article at GamaSutra is worth some consideration. I wrote yesterday about the potential fictive and gameplay difficulties in creating god-like player characters, and Ben Schneider here offers a counterpoint. What role does player failure have in selling both the story of a game and in a player’s sense of accomplishment in the gameplay? It’s a good piece that appeals to both factions of gaming philosophy, the narrative types and the interactive art types.