Archive for January, 2017

rayman-legends

Other than a few levels with my son in Rayman Origins, I’d never played a Rayman game. When I got Legends for Christmas (my brother did good), it seemed like the perfect game to test drive my PSVita on…considering that I also got the Vita for Christmas (my wife did good).

The Set-up:
You are Rayman, among other characters. You and your pals have been asleep for a while, but have been awoken by Murfy as the Bubble Dreamers Nightmares have grown in intensity. The magician from Rayman Origins is also back, and has split into five dark Teensies.

The Story:
Heck if I know. Frankly, I had to pull most of the synopsis above from Wikipedia.

The Gameplay:
Rayman Legends is a sidescrolling platformer, so it lives and dies by level design. Luckily, for those of us that have played it, it lives far more often than it dies.

Levels come in one of four different types:

  • Standard platforming levels are much what you’d expect from a sidescroller. You advance from point A to point B, overcoming obstacles along the way. This isn’t meant to diminish these levels. They are extremely well designed, even rivaling Nintendo in quality.
  • Levels involving touch screen control (on the WiiU and PSVita) in which you control Murfy as he manipulates enemies and obstacles allowing Globox to advance. Globox is CPU controlled, and it can be annoying sometimes when he doesn’t seem to want to do what you need him to do to pick up collectables or discover secrets.
  • Rhythm levels that are still platforming levels, but your every move can generally be timed to the music of the level, including jumps and attacks. The songs used are fairly well known. My personal favorite remains Black Betty in the level Castle Rock.
  • Invasion levels, which are levels that you have finished, but need to revisit as they’ve been invaded. These are timed levels and, the longer you take, the fewer Teensies you’ll save at the end of the level. After completing the game, some Invasion levels include a Dark/Shadow Rayman that mimics your every move on 2 or 3 second delay. Touch him, and you die. Obviously, these levels require you to sometimes double back, forcing you to avoid Dark/Shadow Rayman.

Legends also has plenty of collectables for you to find in each level. Most standard levels have at least two hidden sections with Teensies, along with eight more to find scattered throughout the level. You will also need to pick up Lums, the number of which will determine your trophy at the end of the level. Teensies can be hidden very well, and can many times be easy to miss, meaning that completionists will need to revisit levels from time to time. Legends is so well designed though, that revisiting a level is rarely a hardship and is oftentimes just a chance to have more fun.

rayman-legends-gameplay-murf

Tilting the PSVita was a nice touch to a couple of the Murfy levels.

Complementing the new stages in Legends are about 40 levels from Rayman Origins. These are unlocked by obtaining Lucky Tickets that you scratch off. This sounds like a chore, but I had all the Origin Levels opened up when I decided to start playing through them. So long as you collect a decent number of Lums per level, unlocking the Origin levels is a breeze.

Replayability in Legends is addressed as well, with the game featuring weekly challenges. These range from time trials to infinite levels that challenge you to see how far you can progress. Online leader boards let you see how you stack up against other players. It’s a minor addition, but one that spices the game up and continuously adds new tweaks. It is also a reminder of just how mediocre you really are against more dedicated players …moving on.

rayman-legends-gameplay-1

I thought I was pretty good…

Conclusions:
Rayman Legends is, honestly, one of the best platformers I’ve ever played. It easily stands among the giants such as Mario and Donkey Kong Country. There are levels that feel a little unbalanced, and a few deaths that are almost unavoidable your first time in a level, and that is annoying and detracts from the fun, but never enough so to make you quit the game or to put you off. And seriously, there are only a handful of games that don’t have an annoying portion here or there. At the end of the day, Rayman Legends is a ton of fun and leaves you wanting more. We can only hope that Ubisoft’s next Rayman title can come close to the quality that Legends delivered.

nintendo-switch

On 1/12/2017, Nintendo finally pulled back the curtain on what is coming to the Nintendo Switch.

The Switch launches on 3/3/2017 at a price point of $299.99. It appears that there is only one bundle, and no game will be included (though you can get a bundle with the red/blue Joy-Con Controllers at the same price as one without the colors).

Hardware/System Info

  • Online System
    • Free initially, but will be a subscription service sometime in the Fall
  • Screenshot/Video Capture
    • Shareable over Social Media
  • Battery Life is 2.5 – 6.5 Hours, depending upon the game
    • The system can charge while being played
  • Features touchscreen
  • Local 8 person multiplayer
  • Console and games will be Region Free

Controller Info

  • Blue/Red color variations (on Joy-Con Controllers)
  • Detect distance and differentiate between shapes
  • L/R buttons
  • HD Rumble
  • Strap attachment

Featured Developers

  • Sega, Bethesda, Grasshopper (Suda51), and EA appeared to praise the system and promise future support
    • Travis Touchdown will be featured in a game on the Switch
    • FIFA is coming to the Switch

The Games

  • 1 2 Switch
    • Very similar to a Warioware title
    • Play 1 on 1
    • Play is apparently based on looking at your opponent (not the screen)
    • Launches 3/3/2017
  • Arms
    • Spring-armed boxing/fighting game
    • Will feature online matches as well as local splitscreen
    • Launches Spring, 2017
  • Splatoon 2
    • New weapons (dual wielding) and special attacks
    • Gyro aiming (optional)
    • My son is the Splatoon player in the house, so I’m sure I missed more that is new about this sequel
    • Launches Summer, 2017
  • Super Mario Odyssey
    • Takes place outside the Mushroom Kingdom (featuring real world locations)
    • Mario’s hat may be sentient, and is used to attack as well as platform
    • Sandbox game (noted as the first since Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine)
    • One portion of the preview showed Mario carrying a vegetable similar to SMB2 while another showed him riding an animal (or a statue of an animal)
    • Many new enemies were shown, with Bowser still being the Big Bad
    • Launches Holiday, 2017
  • Xenoblade (Chronicles) 2
    • World appeared to be massive, including beasts that eclipse those featured in the previous two Xenoblade titles
    • A quick shot showed a character riding an animal
    • Air ships made an appearance
    • This game alone is worth purchasing a Switch for
  • Fire Emblem Warriors
  • Misc.
    • Dragon Quest 10 & 11
    • Dragon Quest Heroes I & II
    • Shin Megami Tensei
    • Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
    • Project Octopath Traveler (Square Enix)
    • Quick video at the end showed clips of: Rayman, Minecraft, Lego City Undercover, Mario Kart 8, Street Fighter, and Bomberman (among a few I didn’t catch)
      • Some of these may have been meant to show that a Virtual Console/e-Shop would be present
    • A racing game resembling F-Zero was shown, but this could be a port of Fast Racing Neo
  • Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
    • Launches 3/3/2017
    • New trailer was shown

Thoughts

  • Both the price and lack of a bundled game (or a premium bundle with a game) surprises me. I was expecting $249.99, with a $299.99 bundle including Zelda.
  • Nintendo is clearly working to get third party support, boasting that 80 games were currently in development. How many of those reach completion remains to be seen.
  • Nintendo is clearly still working to pull in non-traditional gamers with titles such as 1 2 Switch and Arms.
  • The holiday launch for Mario is surprising, but makes some sense, as it will definitely be a system seller.
  • My biggest surprise is actually what we didn’t see: Beyond Good & Evil 2, Smash Brothers, Pokemon Stars, WiiU Ports, more info on the Mario Kart title, Internal Storage

At the end of the day, I’m not sure how this system is going to be received. Nintendo is clearly working hard to put out a steady stream of games, but with Zelda being the only confirmed big name launch title, it will be interesting to see how it sells out of the gate. I want one, but I’m a confirmed Nintendo fanboy, and need that Zelda title in my life. What matters is how the more casual gamer responds, and I’m not sure about that yet. I hope the Switch succeeds because a competitive Nintendo is better for the market as a whole. In two months, we’ll begin to see if that’s going to happen.

 

booklets

I came across something on Twitter a couple of days ago that made me stop and think. Someone had posted a picture of some Wii games they had picked up and stated that they enjoyed collecting Wii games because those still came with Instruction Booklets. This was the second time that the lack of Instruction Booklets in recent console generations had come to my attention over the past few weeks.

The first time was in regards to a few Christmas gifts I got. My wife got me a PSVita along with Ys: Memories of Celceta. To go along with it, my son got me Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate and my brother, Rayman Legends. As I opened each one, I was surprised each time to find no booklet at all inside the case. There was a game cartridge, and nothing else.

For the kids that grew up with the PlayStation, N64, and subsequent consoles, this is not a big deal. Most games come with built in tutorials, and those that don’t often give you tips on the fly that teach you the game while you’re playing it. Heck, the first three chapters of the masterpiece that is Xenoblade Chronicles X are essentially training missions. This is the natural evolution of the digital age. Instruction Booklets aren’t needed anymore and, if we’re being honest, most people that missed the NES/SNES/Genesis generation probably never read the booklets that came with PS/N64/PS2 games anyway. For those of us that came of age in the 80’s and early 90’s though, those booklets were essential reading. They were almost as important as having the game itself.

First of all, our games weren’t digital (definitely not knocking digital copies of games, I downloaded three over Christmas myself). You had to pick them up in the store and take them home. Maybe I’m isolated here, but I would have the game open in the car to study the Instruction Booklet. What was the story? What items were in the game? What did the characters look like, did they have names, etc… Part of the excitement of getting a new game was to read about the game before you played it. It set up what you were doing, why, and how you were going to do it. But why did the Booklet have to set this all up? That’s my second point.

booklet-contra

How would I have possibly known if I was Lance or Bill???

NES games (as well as Super NES & Genesis games to some extent) could not waste space on telling an elaborate story in-game. All available space in that cartridge needed to be applied to the game itself. Of course, there are exceptions, but even in those games that had the story included (Zelda 2, for example), the booklet gave you far more details than the game was able to. In the same vein, many times the booklet also gave you artwork for the characters in the game, both friends and foes. Again, the NES was limited. You had to use your imagination sometimes. Hyrule looks deserted in The Legend of Zelda, but the picture of Link kneeling on a rise overlooking the countryside inside the booklet showed you that it was so much more. That was important to me then. It actually enhanced the game in my mind, if not on the screen.

booklet-zelda

Finally, NES games did not have tutorials. Sure, there are only two buttons, but developers did a whole lot with those two buttons, and there are times that you would be missing out on how to accomplish certain things in-game if you hadn’t read about the controls beforehand. When I was 9 or 10, I used my allowance to pick up Milon’s Secret Castle at a local rental store (it was in their for sale box of used games, I picked it over Q-bert, I still think it was the right decision). I really liked the game, but I was stuck on the first level of the castle and felt like I was missing something, and there was no booklet included for me to read. The next time we were in different rental store that we frequented (honestly, I miss those) that had it for rent, I asked the person at the register if I could just read the manual. They were cool with it, and it helped that I was a kid. After reading through it, I found out that there were some actions I was unaware of. I immediately put my newfound knowledge to use when we got home and got further than I’d been able to before. That Instruction Booklet was make or break for me on that game, and I’m sure that would have been true on other games I played (most of mine came with the booklet). On a sidenote, I’ve gotten quite far in Milon’s Secret Castle, but have yet to beat that game. It is freaking hard. Another great example of this is Startropics. Included with that game is a letter that you have to use to get a code that is needed in the game itself. Startropics was breaking the fourth wall long before Psycho Mantis was on the scene. Seriously, how cool is it to have to do some real world action to progress in your NES game? That’s genius.

I admit to having a yearning for my childhood. I have a ton of nostalgia towards older games, partially because they are a lot of fun and I still enjoy them, but also because they represent a simpler time for me, before the realities of adulthood and responsibilities set in and the innocence I had (and all kids have) was gone. Flipping through Instruction Booklets is a part of that as well. I’m sure this seems like I’m making a huge deal over a few pages in a video game box, but it’s not that. It’s just something that I always loved that has changed over time. Rest assured, I’m not shedding any tears over this, no matter how this sounds. Still though, even now, on the occasions that a new game does come with an older style Instruction Booklet, I do still pull it out and flip through it. Even after all these years, there’s still some magic there for me.

booklet-zelda-2booklet-zelda-2-2booklet-zelda-2-3booklet-zelda-2-4booklet-zelda-2-5booklet-smbbooklet-smb3booklet-metroidbooklet-mega-manbooklet-kirbybooklet-kid-icarusbooklet-blaster-master

top-8-2017I’d considered doing a post about the best games of 2016, but honestly, not much grabbed my attention in 2016. As a matter of fact, I have played exactly zero of the games on Metacritic’s Top 100 of 2016. That said, 2017 already has a handful of games I’m pumped for. This is my personal Top 8 so far, with the only caveat being that there has to be firm information available about a game for it to have made this list.

injustice-28. Capcom versus Marvel Infinite / Injustice 2
I’m not a fan of fighting games, but both of these titles have caught my eye. Admittedly, it’s almost solely due to the rosters that are likely to be included in these games, but both are sequels to games that have been generally well received and, should I pick up a fighting game this year, it will be one of these two titles. I’ve also long wished I could really get into a fighting game, so maybe the time is right with one of these two.

prey7. Prey
Of the games on my list, this is the one that we know the least about. Still, what little we do know has me very excited. I’m quite the fan of games that give you an open world, limited only by the abilities you’ve acquired, which is exactly how the developers have described this title. I also like the promise of a strong narrative with some horror elements. I’ll admit to never having played the original Prey, but it doesn’t seem like this is a direct sequel. This game could work its way off my list as more info is made available but, for the moment, I choose to remain positive.

nioh6. Nioh
Nioh has a few aspects that appeal to me. I’m always a sucker for a good hack’n slash game, and that’s exactly how Nioh has been described. I’m also drawn to the idea of a dark fantasy version of 1600 Japan. The fact that this title includes some RPG elements doesn’t hurt it either. Much like Prey, I could still waffle on this title, but for the time being, if I have some extra funds in the early part of the year, I may very well be picking this game up.

re-vii5. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard
RE4, in my opinion, is the high bar for the RE series to date. RE5 kept the play style of RE4, but wanted to be more of an action game. It was so mediocre that I’ve avoided RE6 to date. RE7 has my hopes high though. What has been shown of the game looks creepy. RE creepy. The first person perspective, a perspective I’m normally critical of, looks to work extremely well with the environment/setting of RE7, a dilapidated plantation in LA (I live in the south and still find that disturbing). I’m really, really hopeful that RE7, with a new cast and storyline, will bring back what made the Resident Evil franchise so well known and popular for so long.

yooka-laylee4. Yooka-Laylee
A game inspired by and considered a spiritual sequel to games such as Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Kazooie/Banjo-Tooie that has even been developed by former employees of Rare that worked on these past games. Really, I shouldn’t even have to write anything else here. So-called collectathons have fallen out of style, but were very common (and much loved) during the N64/PS1 era. They appeal to my personality type, so I could never get enough of them. Also, to this day, DK64 and B-K are a couple of my favorite games. Picking up a game that plays like those, but updated for this era is a no-brainer.

horizon-zero-dawn3. Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn simply looks beautiful. I want to play it just to wander around the game world. The fact that there’s a story, large mechanical dinosaurs, and side-quests are gravy. HZD is an Action RPG, which is my absolute favorite genre of video games (JRPGs are a close second), set in a post-apocalyptic world that finds you essentially on your own against monstrous machines, with multiple ways in which to defeat them. I don’t often take risks on new games, but this is one title I’ll be pre-ordering very soon. It looks that good.

zelda-botw2. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Zelda games seldom disappoint, but after Skyward Sword, there were growing cries for the Zelda formula to be shaken up. Enter Breath of the Wild. This looks like a Zelda game that would have been designed by Monolith Soft or Bethesda. It is an open world title that lets you tackle it in any way you see fit. Hyrule is in ruins. Link has been asleep for quite some time. Calamity Ganon has decimated the land, and is now sealed in Hyrule castle as he could not be defeated, yet his power continues to grow. That’s your story, and how you progress is entirely up to you. How you complete the game is so arbitrary that Eiji Aonuma (producer) has stated that you can complete the game without actually playing through the story. Nintendo has made some missteps with their console development, but their ability to develop excellent games has never been called into question. Breath of the Wild looks to be yet another jewel in Nintendo’s game development crown.

nier-automata1. NieR: Automata
Yes, that’s right. If given a choice right now between Breath of the Wild and Automata, I would take NieR. Understand, I adored the first Nier. I completed it four times to see all of the narrative the title had to offer. I never expected to see a sequel, even a non-direct sequel, so the announcement of NieR: Automata caught me completely by surprise, and my excitement for it has only grown since that announcement, and has now reached a fervor since I played through the demo this morning. Playing much like the original Nier, with the added bonus of having Platinum Games on board handling the combat, Automata takes place much later in the same world as Nier. Machines have driven mankind to the moon, and androids have been sent to do battle with the machines. It is these androids that you will control (with “2B” apparently being the primary character). In regards to the narrative, Nier (and Drakengard, from which it originates) are noted for dark storylines, and I expect nothing less from Automata. It is the story that hooked me on Nier so completely. It may not always be happy, but it is deep and engrossing, and I will happily take a deep, dark story over a shallow, happy one anyday. It’s going to be a long wait until 3/7/2017.