I’ve been reading Console Wars, a new book by Blake J. Harris that chronicles the rise of Sega during the 90’s. It’s a delightful book, full of endlessly fascinating details, such as how Target’s lenient return policy allowed customers to return years-old NES’s in order to get credit towards a SNES. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with Nintendo and it led to Target pulling Nintendo products from the stores for a time. I lived through this era and reading the behind the scenes drama that went on has been very enjoyable. My nostalgia bones are all tingling right now. Continue reading The Eternal War: A Look at the Repeating Console Cycle
I couldn’t finish The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. In fact, I could barely start it. I played for 3 hours, entered the first dungeon and then paused the game while I consulted a walkthrough just to see what was in store for me. The thought of enduring all that I read made me recoil in horror. So I traded it in, which is a historic moment for me. The first console Zelda that I didn’t finish. A dark day for Anthony and a dark day for Nintendo.
You see, Zelda was always my second favorite video game franchise after Final Fantasy. Final Fantasy was the barometer for which console I would buy, but Zelda was the mark for WHEN I would buy my inevitable Nintendo console. I got a Nintendo 64 so I could play Ocarina of Time. I got the N64 Expansion Pak solely for the purpose of playing Majora’s Mask. I bought a GameCube one month before Wind Waker was released and I jumped for joy when Twilight Princess was released on GameCube AND the Wii because that meant I didn’t have to buy a Wii yet. Continue reading Skyward Sword Comes Crashing Down
Man, Nintendo sure does have a bullseye right on our nostalgia bone, doesn’t it? In a totally unsurprising move, Nintendo revealed this morning (via Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma) that an HD version of Wind Waker will be releasing this fall.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Reborn is meant to tide maniacal Zelda fans over while the real Wii U game is in development, but this doesn’t just look like a straight port. Based on some of the game’s gorgeous screenshots, I think it’s safe to say that Nintendo is updating this classic game in an even more beautiful way, in addition to all these new-fangled definitions.
While it’s easy to sour on HD remakes as nothing more than the often-brandished money grab, I still stand by the position that playing a timeless game in a more future proof fashion is a good thing for video games. It’s a way to preserve some of the medium’s history, and really, I can’t think of a more excellent game for Nintendo to have done it with. Wind Waker had such a lovely style to it, I can’t wait to see it on current hardware. Once I get a Wii U, that is.
So what do you guys think? Are you yay or nay on a Wind Waker HD? And seriously, check out the Wii U Facebook page for more awesome screenshots.
There will be no review of The Last Story.
No, it’s not because I am too lazy to write it. It’s because I played 10 hours and couldn’t take another minute. It wasn’t a terrible game, exactly. It just wasn’t fun. I wasn’t having a good time and one of my promises to myself going forward is not to feel obligated to play something if I am not enjoying it. The second I turned off the game and drove to GameStop, I felt better. Justified. Like a new person. That’s how I knew I made the right decision.
I’m sure you are asking what was so wrong with The Last Story? What could be so bad coming from Hironobu Sakaguchi, the creator of Final Fantasy? Well, let’s start with the story: it’s pretty bland. You play as Zael, one of a group of mercenaries who dream of becoming knights and gaining a higher station in life. Zael is a standard RPG hero: compassionate and boring. His comrades are far more interesting, even if they all fall into easy to categorize descriptions: the drunken woman who parties too much, the womanizer, the emo mage…I didn’t hate any of them and the British accents made what they said pleasant to hear. The problem is, it was all so mundane that the second the screen went black indicating a cut-scene was starting, I was checking my phone to see if anyone made a Hero Academy move. Not a good sign. Continue reading The Last Disappointment
Hardcore games on the Wii have been few and far between lately. Despite Nintendo’s proclamations that their next system will focus on hardcore games before casual, it still took a massive online campaign to get the Big N to release Monolith’s epic JRPG, Xenoblade Chronicles, in the United States. Now that they have, was it worth the wait? Continue reading Review: Xenoblade Chronicles
A dream that I’ve had for most of my life has been to get paid to either 1) write for a video game company or 2) write about video games. It combines two of the great loves of my life, which should be obvious from the career choices and their similarities. As such, I always find it fascinating to see behind the curtain a little bit for either career.
In this case, the peek happens to be the life of a video games journalist. Over at Kill Screen, writer Joseph Bernstein recently put up a piece titled Intern Affairs: Behind Closed Doors, which happens to be a series about the time he spent as an intern at GamesRadar. This particular entry covers the world of previews and handshakes between developers and journalists, and it’s actually kind of fascinating to see how the sausage is made, so to speak.
Bernstein basically shows the way previews are handled in some cases, and the gang mentality that occurs because of that as developers try to win you over. In the end, Bernstein even posts the preview he wrote as the result of this encounter, which happened to be for the game MX vs. ATV: Untamed for the Wii. I don’t think it necessarily exposes anything shady or surprising, I just find it interesting.
So what do you guys think after reading this? Does it jade you a little to what goes on behind the scenes at some video game sites? Go!
Mickey Mouse has become a mascot, so much so that many young people have no real idea that he was once a pretty great cartoon character. Enter Warren Spector and Epic Mickey, a Wii-exclusive designed to relaunch the lovable mouse, while also introducing the world to Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Walt Disney’s prior creation that he lost the rights to oh so many years ago. Sadly, Mickey and Oswald both deserve better than this.
Epic Mickey starts out as Mickey is pulled into the Wasteland through a series of events brought about by pure mischief. See, in the olden days before Donald Duck, Mickey was the one who was always getting into trouble and it appears that Disney is looking to bring that aspect of his personality back to the forefront. Messing about with Yen Sid’s magic paintbrush leads the Mouse on a great adventure, trying to undo the damage done by the Shadow Blot, which Mickey inadvertently created. Continue reading Review: Epic Mickey
If there’s anyone on the planet who knows how to handle Nintendo properties right, it’s Retro Studios, makers of the critically and commercially successful Metroid Prime series. While I originally thought it was overkill to put the team that handled Metroid’s transition to the previous generation on something as simple as Donkey Kong, I’ve been hearing things that indicate that Retro approached Nintendo with the outline to revive this classic platformer. A new trailer just went up for the game, and it looks like a gloriously fun time. Have a watch:
Sort of in the vein of New Super Mario Bros. Wii but with the addition of the big ape we all know and love. It also looks fairly ridiculous, and it has the added benefit of being co-op enabled. So, what do you guys think of the trailer for Donkey Kong Country Returns? Got room in your holiday season for the resurgence of the Kong? The game comes out November 21.
One thing you hear over and over again is that the Wii is a waggle-laden fad, and real gamers prefer the precise input of a analog controller to wild arm flailing. Nobody ever considered that we might be at fault instead of the controller, though. At least, this is what Ubisoft Creative Director Jason VandenBerghe claims, saying that the testing phase of Red Steel 2 resulted in “absolute random chaos.” Testers couldn’t figure out how to use the Wii Motion Plus properly, and often resorted to uncoordinated thrashing in order to get the job done. One thing the Ubisoft team behind Red Steel 2 realized is that motion controls were boundless in their potential, limited only by the player utilizing the controllers.
Another factor that contributed to Red Steel 2’s lackluster performance is something VandenBerghe dubbed “audience willingness”, or the motivation to actually get up and move around when playing video games. VandenBerghe claims that no more than “20 percent” of people are going to get up off the couch and move, something that he thinks hindered Red Steel 2’s marketing appeal. Once motion control supplants analog as the main source of input for video games, “audience willingness” will go up, and games like Red Steel 2 will be better received.
Right now I’m wondering what you guys think about Mr. VandenBerghe’s statements. A lot of it seems to place the impetus on gamers to pick up the subtle nuances of game mechanics, something the developers should be attempting to do through in-game tutorials. While VandenBerghe did mention that the design team solved this problem during testing, it seemed to be too little too late. Though Red Steel 2 had decent reviews, it just hasn’t sold that well, barely passing 270,000 copies worldwide. Are we as gamers at fault for the game’s poor performance, or does it lie with the developers and the publishers to ensure that a fun experience is had by all regardless of whether or not they “understand” the controls? Tell us what you think!
Nintendo and Team Ninja’s collaborative efforts on Metroid: Other M are coming to fruition at the end of August, and the game is going to be a bit different than what fans of the series are used to. Typically, Metroid games play up the feeling of loneliness and desolation on hostile alien worlds, but this time around Samus is going to be a lot more vocal and she’ll have a few characters backing her up. Because the game is focusing more on character interactions, Other M will feature almost two hours of cut scenes. Since you’ll probably spend most of your time looking for hidden items and blasting creepy bad guys, Team Ninja is doing you a service by giving you the option to watch Other M’s video segments strung together in a sort of “theater mode” once you’ve finished your playthrough.
A very nice gesture on the developer’s part, but I can’t help but feel that they’ve missed what makes Metroid the unique series that it is, outside of the whole being-hit-so-hard-your-items-fall-off gameplay mechanic. Metroid isn’t about long winded cut-scenes or being told hold Samus feels. Part of her mystery is that you don’t know anything about her, her motivations or what goes on inside her head. She’s a bounty hunter and a warrior. Do people want to know more about Samus? I might be alone in this, but I like Metroid when it’s dark and enigmatic, not when it’s beating you over the head with narrative. What about you guys? Are you down for some cinematic action, or are you a bit wary?
We’re all used to the buddy list, that mysterious thing full of avatars and names that populates the user interface of our gaming machine of choice. From the Wii to Steam to XBL and PSN, we’ve gone through the process of adding names to that list, connecting with other users in the vastness of cyberspace in order to play our silly video games. Many of these systems refer to these connections as friends, but is that always the case?
A recent Kotaku post titled Are Your Online Friends Really Your Friends got my brain fired up on this subject, and I think it’s a cool question for discussion. I’m not sure how many of you have developed friendships with online buddies before, but I have done this quite a few times over the years. In fact, I have friends from a forum I used to go to 10 years ago that I still actively communicate with through Facebook and IM, and I have even met a handful of them.
There are many people that I know who would not view these as actual friendships, but I don’t think being face-to-face with somebody is a requirement for getting to know them in a way that you can call them a legit friend. It goes both ways, too. I think you can just as easily really know somebody you’ve never seen just as easily as you can not know somebody you see everyday.
In an age where more of our interactions with people are happening online, I think it’s going to become more and more common for people’s online friends to increase. I just view it as people that you would be friends with it if you lived close to each other, you just do it over a distance. I know that XBL is how I kept up with many of my friends from college, so how is it any different if you’ve never officially met the person?
Anyway, what are your thoughts on this topic? Can online friends be real friends? Go!
What did Nintendo have to share at today’s press conference event for E3 2010? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Here are the highlights, after the jump!
As the video game industry moves more and more towards complete digital distribution, I thought it would be a good idea to see where things stand right now in terms of how we buy our games and DLC. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all have platforms for digital distribution and each has strengths and weaknesses, but today I plan on talking about what I personally like and dislike with each of them, specifically, the manner in which we fork over our hard-earned cash monies.
First, the best: Sony’s PSN network is just the smoothest interface, in my opinion. No silly point systems, just straight up money. You can add a few different games to your cart and buy them all together or one at a time and they will download in the background. The only problem I have with this is that you always have to add at least $5.00 to your “wallet”, which sucks when you buy something that is only $1.99 because then you have money that you have spent in real life and is now just waiting to be spent digitally. A minor quibble, but one that can be annoying.
Microsoft comes in a close second. Xbox Live Marketplace has many of the same features that makes PSN so strong and in fact, there is only one thing that really holds it back: that mystical point system. See, whenever you go to purchase something, you need points. So you have to add points, but thankfully, your credit card is saved, so you don’t have to enter it in every time.
Continue reading Pay For Play: A Look At The Big 3’s Digital Pay Systems
Ah, the Wii. No other console in the history of gaming has done more to both bring together and tear apart the masses. While it is introducing a whole new generation of people to the joys of our hobby, the reception to Nintendo’s little white juggernaut by the enthusiast gamers has been nothing short of underwhelming.
Last year’s MadWorld, a black-and-white blood bath death match by Bayonetta creators Platinum Games, is a great example of the divide between the game’s target audience and the people who actually own a Wii. No one knows this better than Mike Hayes, President and COO of SEGA Europe, who recently commented that putting MadWorld on the Wii was a bit of a “mismatch”. He went on to elaborate why he thought that, in hindsight, MadWorld should have been a 360, PC or PS3 title.
“Clearly that was a mismatch with the Wii audience — particularly in terms of the amount of cross-ownership between Wii and the other home platforms. If you’re going to play a mature-rated game, you’re going to get your 360, PC or PS3 out to do so. But you can’t knock us for having a go.”
Innovating in video games is a double-edged sword, one capable of killing your enemies, but also likely to swing back and take your own head off. When publishers try something new, sometimes it pays off (Portal, WarioWare, LittleBigPlanet) and other times it bites them on the ass and stems the flow of creativity (Mirror’s Edge, GTA: Chinatown Wars).
But even in these…wait for it…dire economic times, the Big 3 are still trying to innovate and find new ways to entertain and get some of that cash money everybody’s always clamoring about. Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony have all brought great ideas to the forefront this generation and with Move, Natal, 3-D gaming and whatever the hell that Wii Vitality Sensor is, they continue to forge new ground.
Continue reading How the Big 3 are Still Pushing Games Forward
If there’s one thing that Nintendo knows how to do well, it’s stringing along the hardcore over and over again. Just when you feel like trading your Wii in, Nintey hits you with a one-two combination of their top tier franchises. This time it’s Mario Galaxy 2 and Metroid: Other M which have release dates of May 23 and June 27, respectivley. Below is a trailer for Mario Galaxy 2, so check it out why don’t you.
I remember hearing that Galaxy 2 is going to be significantly harder than the original, and judging by this trailer I can definitely believe it. Is anyone else excited about this?
New Super Mario Bros Wii is Nintendo’s attempt to make Mario a party game without calling it Mario Party or making it suck. They succeed. But NSMBW is also a fun single-player experience, akin to Super Mario World, which if you believe THIS joker, is the best Mario game ever.
The plot is not exactly anything worth mentioning, but I will anyway. The Princess is kidnapped by Bowser Jr. and the Koopalings, which means that now all of Bower’s children have teamed up to make Mario’s life hell. Mario, Luigi and two unnamed Toads set out to rescue her, through 8 worlds filled with obstacles and enemies new and old. Stop me if you think if you have heard that one before. The story is inconsequential, which is how it should be. Remember that they tried to throw story into the Sonic games and we all know how that turned out.
Mario is all about gameplay and it delivers. The game is set up with the overworld map seen in Super Mario Bros 3 and Super Mario World. Some levels have secret exits that, when discovered, open up new areas of the maps that lead to cannons which warp you to a later world. The control is tight, as Mario’s jump has been perfected over the years and it doesn’t change here. He can still do triple jumps, like in Mario 64, and they added a wall jump, which has saved my ass more times than I can count. The only motion controls found here are a quick shake to do a spin jump or launch yourself high into the air using the new Propeller Hat and occasionally you control a platform by tilting the Wii Remote accordingly. Both are done well and sparingly.
The levels are varied and colorful. The graphics aren’t going to blow your mind, but the game looks like the natural progression from Super Mario World. In fact, this game feels like the direct sequel to that one. Each world has a theme that every level exploits, such as an ice world, a tropical island world and wait for it…a lava world! Some things never change. And that is a good thing, if you ask me.
One thing that is different is, thanks to the power of the Wii, is the dynamic nature of the environments. Ever heard the term, “rolling hills”? Well, this game takes it literally, as the green hills roll and try to dislodge your timing. Pipes move up and down, platforms spin around and enemies are ever present. All of this makes for a challenging Mario game. Now that you will ever see the GAME OVER screen, as NSMBW is highly liberal with the extra lives, but you will die quite a bit.
Which leads me to that controversial feature, the Super Guide. All that uproar was for naught because I never even saw it. The only way you can lose it is if you die 8 times on a single level. While I admit, I came close a few times, I never died enough to unlock it. But if someone is having that much trouble, I see no issue with it and the hardcore fans should just deal with the fact that Nintendo wants as many people as possible to play and experience their games in full. So I have nothing bad to say about the Super Guide. If anything, it added an incentive for me to play better as I did not want to see the option pop up, thus maintaining my elite Mario skills status.
The other big deal is the multiplayer, which I did not mess with until I had completed the game. I took my Wii over to my fiancee’s house and played it with her cousins on Thanksgiving. And it was a blast, with one caveat: do not expect to breeze through the game with 4 people. This game, as already mentioned, is difficult enough when playing solo, but add in the chaos of 3 other people and you just have to smile and deal with it. The game pauses for a brief second when someone dies or gets a power-up, which has resulted in deaths many times over. Thankfully, as long as one person is still alive in the level, the others can be revived, which means you find yourself rooting for your teammates to clear that jump and bring you back into it. It’s a great addition to the Mario series and a fun way to hang out with friends or family.
Even using our new grading system, it is tough to judge this game. It doesn’t do a whole lot new, despite it’s title, but it gives us what we have clamored for: an old-school Mario game with updated visuals and gameplay. There are a few things that are annoying, such as the fact that you can only save after beating a fortress or castle, unless you do the Quick Save option. After beating the game you gain the ability to save anywhere, which is so pointless and so Nintendo-like that you just have to shake your head in amazement. Despite this, New Super Marios Bro Wii is a stellar entry in what is one of the most revered and popular series in all of games and if you have ever loved a Mario game, you should seek this one out. I doubt you will be disappointed.
How does our grading system work? Check out our grade chart!
Not to be lewd, but I imagine the current relationship between enthusiast gamers and Nintendo to be comparable to a young man and some sort of harlot. She keeps giving you tantalizing glimpses of her ankle while all the while promising that more is coming.
To continue with this tortured analogy, the “ankle” here is the concept art that Miyamoto was parading around at E3 ’09 depicting Link and some sort of ethereal being that looked vaguely like the Master Sword. In a recent interview with UK’s Official Nintendo Magazine, Zelda series producer Eiji Aonuma says he hopes to show something “surprising” at E3 ’10, thus completing the promise of “more”.
Nintendo proved recently with Super Mario Bros. Wii that it still knows how to make titles for its old-school fans, and with Metroid: Other M on the horizon I think we can take this as a sign that Ninty is finally starting to show appreciation for the “hardcore”. Though the company is often criticized for its constant rehash of the same tired franchises, there’s no doubt that gamers everywhere still clamor for these titles. The question is, how much longer will we get strung along before we see some actual gameplay? What’s your opinion, though? Are you pumped for a new Zelda, and what do you expect from it?
This game just came out, and there’s already a pretty sweet video showing three players carting Luigi across the level while the lazy ingrate does nothing. Check out the video and prepare to be astounded, bedazzled and other-wise stupefied.
Apparently there’s all sorts of fun to be had with this title, so I’m going to have to dust my Wii off and give it a go. Anyone else pick this up, or is thinking of picking it up?
Learn from my mistakes. I am 28 years old and I have played games all my life. I have learned some lessons about games and thought it might be beneficial to pass those on to you whippersnappers, to prevent you from making some of the mistakes I made.
1. Don’t buy a game you aren’t going to play right away. If you are buying it the day it comes out with the intention of playing it down the road, don’t. If the drive to play it isn’t there now because you have something else to play, then what makes you think it will suddenly appear later on? Answer: it won’t. And you will end up with a giant backlog of games that most likely you will never play because something new is always coming out. If you wait a week or two, I promise that insatiable need you feel to possess that game will dissipate, leaving a profound and new understanding about yourself. Also, it leaves $60 bucks or so in your wallet. Win/win?
2. Don’t be blindly loyal to a console. I was a Nintendo kid, like millions of others. But when Final Fantasy left Nintendo for Sony, I bought a Playstation and I have been with Sony ever since. Now, I still buy whatever Nintendo console is out there, but later, for a cheaper price and I use it as a second system and nothing more. If the 360 is your thing, but the games on the Wii or PS3 look good, don’t punish yourself out of some misguided loyalty to Microsoft. Trust me: they, nor Sony or Nintendo, give a crap. Play the games you want. Whatever system it may be for.
3. Games matter. Consoles don’t. Graphics? Sound? Online? These things matter not. If you want to know what console is right for you, then look at the games. Games determine what wins in the console wars, nothing else. Not fervent message board chatter, not how many people play online and not who has the better E3. It’s the games, stupid.
4. Reviews do matter. But they also don’t. See, don’t worry about the score a game gets. Read the review, in fact, read several reviews of a game you are looking at buying. You know what type of game you like, right? Scan the reviews to decipher if it is the kind of game you will like. If so, then the score doesn’t matter quite as much to you. If you love hack & slash RPGs and the reviewer gives one a 5, but for you it sounds like a 10, then get it! On the other hand, reviews don’t matter. No one really cares what game gets a 10. No one will remember that. So if a game you love gets a low score, who cares? Are you so insecure that someone else’s opinion might alter yours?
5. It’s a game. Enjoy it. We all forgot this sometimes, but don’t let the extraneous crap let you forget the fact that you are playing this game for fun. For enjoyment. To escape from the horrors of the real world for a bit. Don’t become obsessed with tiny details that ruin the fun for you. If you like single-player games and despise online games, that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with that. If you only like playing in groups, then do so. Don’t let someone else try to tell you what you should like or dislike. Have fun.
6. Don’t cosplay. Seriously. Never do this. Unless you are a really hot girl, don’t ever do this on any day that is not Halloween and even then, it might be pushing it.