Archive for the ‘Current Gaming’ Category

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.

Nintendo Switch

Posted: October 23, 2016 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , ,

 

nintendo-switch

Boys and Girls, the Nintendo NX has been unveiled:

 

On Thursday (10/20), Nintendo released the above 3 minute trailer for the newly minted Nintendo Switch.

What we know so far:

  • It serves as both a home console and handheld (as rumors had previously stated), and the systems can communicate with one another, apparently
  • It will have detachable controllers that can function together as one controller as independently for (at least) a few multiplayer games
  • A pro controller will be available
  • Amiibos will work with the system
  • A Mario and Splatoon title will be available at some point
  • It launches in March
  • It uses cartridges
  • Um….it’s made by Nintendo

What we don’t know:

  • Games other than Mario and Splatoon that will be available in the launch window
  • Specs
  • Price
  • Battery life
  • Third party support
  • Essentially, anything not listed in my first list

Guys, I’m a Nintendo fan, and I like what I’ve seen so far, but we really do know so little that it’s hard to even form a true opinion on the Switch. I genuinely like the idea behind it. It’s just so…Nintendo. By which I mean it’s unique and odd and bizarre and wonderful and exciting. Since the end of the Gamecube era, it seems that Nintendo has decided that they’re just going to do what they feel like doing, and maybe some of us will come along for the ride. It worked with the Wii, not so much for the WiiU, but Nintendo just doesn’t play it safe anymore, so now we have the Switch. And darned if it doesn’t seem kind of cool. Keep in mind though, this is coming for a self-professed, but somewhat grounded, Nintendo fanboy. My bias may be showing.

As I’ve written before (in a post I’m going to contradict a bit now), Nintendo excels in the handheld market, and this system appears to be their effort to merge that market with the home console market. The question this creates is, will Nintendo begin replacing both the WiiU and 3DS with the Switch? I’m certain that we’ll hear how this isn’t replacing the 3DS, and while that still may be true (after all, the 3DS is still very popular), we heard the same thing about the GBA when the 3DS launched. How did that work out?

The point here being, if Nintendo does attempt to market this as a handheld, they will be their own most prominent competitor with the 3DS. That would be a tough balancing act to keep up. It’s also hard to imagine them actually stopping support of the 3DS given its success.

If I had to make a guess here, I would say that they’ll market this as their next home console, which just happens to be portable. Focusing solely on the Switch at the expense of the 3DS would be put all of Nintendo’s eggs into one system, and that would be a dangerous gamble. What if the Switch stumbled as the WiiU has? They would have no backup system in another market segment to sustain such a misstep. Not that Nintendo would cease to exist or anything like that, but it would be a major blow.

The popularity of the 3DS also means that Nintendo can allow it be kept afloat with third party support, letting their in-house developers concentrate on beefing up the Switch during the launch window, and the first year thereafter, avoiding the game drought that the WiiU experienced soon after launch, and worked towards its ultimate demise. This is a pretty big deal, and a situation Nintendo hasn’t been in since the launch of the original GameBoy (over 25 years ago). The WiiU may have stumbled, but no one questions Nintendo’s game development abilities, first or second party. They simply make, far more often than not, fantastic games. Focusing those abilities like a laser on one system would be a boon, should that actually happen.

switch-third-party

There is some reason for optimism regarding game development outside of Nintendo’s in-house developers

Still, this is all speculation at this point. Nintendo has already stated that no more info will be released this year. We’ll probably get a full Nintendo Direct in January. To wait much longer almost seems like madness. Actually, waiting that long almost seems like madness, but Nintendo is quirky like that, a quality I think many of us both love and hate about them. At the moment, I’m excited, but ultimately, games will make or break this system, and on that front, like it or not, we’re still in a wait and see limbo. I’m just going to hope for the best. A video game market with a vibrant Nintendo pushing the envelope is a win for all of us.

 

nx-patent

I’ve been bearish on Nintendo for a while now, regarding their handling of the WiiU and their next console, codenamed NX. Even as a Nintendo fan, and someone that thinks the WiiU actually does have some great games on it, the realistic part of me is already finding fault with the rumors of what the NX exactly is. That said, in recent days, I’ve found myself wondering if maybe, just maybe, Nintendo has learned from the WiiU, and is on the verge of launching an incredibly popular system.

All rumors point to the NX being both a Console and a Handheld. My criticisms of the NX, or what we know if the NX, are as follows:

  • It is launching mid-generation, much like the WiiU, throwing out of the console cycle.
  • It is reported to be on par with the PS4, at best, meaning that, in terms of power, it could find itself behind almost from its launch as the PS4 and Xbox One are upgraded.
  • It has yet to be revealed, in spite of launching in March of 2017, so all hype is built only on rumors.
  • If my second point is true, will third parties ignore it instead of downgrading their games for it (which they stopped doing for the Wii, and essentially never did for the WiiU)?

There are other points, but you get the idea. I guess, once a company has experienced a stumble on the level that Nintendo has experience with the WiiU, you want to hope for the best while expecting the worst with their next venture. That’s the stance I’ve been taking with the NX. I hope it’s good, but wouldn’t be surprised if it’s met with tepid sales and lackluster fandom.

wiiu

The little console that…never really did.

But…but there is a market that Nintendo knows, and has never stumbled in. Nintendo knows the handheld market. Nintendo has been challenged multiple times (Game Gear, NeoGeo, PSP) and has always come out on top. Even with the WiiU floundering, the 3DS is still chugging along, practically embarrassing the Vita (which begs the question, why does Falcom insist on sticking the new Ys games on the Vita, forcing me to consider getting one in the very near future???).

Now, this brings me back to the NX. It is almost certainly going to be a console/handheld hybrid. There are simply too many rumors from reputable sources for this not to be true. What if Nintendo markets the NX the same way they’ve marketed the 3DS, DS, GBA, etc…? What it Nintendo treats the NX as a handheld with television features? Yes, it’s their next console, but it’s also their next handheld, and Nintendo knows handhelds. It occurred to me, if this is the path Nintendo is truly committing to, the NX could be amazing.

For one, it destroys the stigma of launching mid-generation. Handhelds aren’t held to the same standard as consoles in regards to when they’re launched. If it’s even close to the PS4, it’ll be viewed as extremely powerful if you take it on the go (and while I have my concerns, having a console at that level is hardly a bad thing). Also, if it’s a handheld even part of the time, why would third parties not port to it. That’s an entirely different market for them.

3ds-games

The 3DS has done okay for itself.

Finally, I think the most important development to come out of this is that for the first time since around 1990, Nintendo won’t be developing games for both a handheld and a console simultaneously. For the first time in 25 years, game development will be focused on one machine, and I don’t think the importance of that can be overstated. If you disagree, think of it this way. Years ago, I stated that if Nintendo wanted to shift a few million WiiU consoles, simply release a mainstream Pokemon title to the system. Pokemon sells. Period. A Pokemon game, by itself, would bring sales. I believed it them, I believe it now. Guess what. It’s happening with the NX. Granted, we don’t know what it will be yet, but rumors are that it is a remake of Pokemon Red/Blue. If true, that would be huge. And it’s possible now because Game Freak (after Sun/Moon) can shift their focus to Nintendo’s next handheld, which just happens to be their next console.

Okay, this is all speculation on my part. The 3DS definitely still has life in it, so if continues to sell well, it will remain supported, and that could muddy the waters. There’s also the chance that I’m reading Nintendo’s intentions all wrong here. I don’t have an inside line or anything, I’m just making assumptions based on the rumors we have to work with. But I’m an eternal optimist, and I love Nintendo, so I’m doing all I can to see this in the best possible light, and I truly believe there’s a path for Nintendo to have a massive success with the the NX.

NES Mini

Even with the massive success of the Wii, it’s impossible not to realize that Nintendo has struggled in the home console market over the past few generations. Starting with the Nintendo 64, it seems like Nintendo has consistently missed what consumers are wanting. You could even argue that the Wii found most of its success with non-traditional gamers (both my parents and my in-laws had one; their last console prior was an Atari). This is, admittedly, exactly what Nintendo wanted to do, but it seems that it gave them a false impression of their own audience when it came time to unveil the WiiU.

The WiiU is the culmination of Nintendo missing their mark. It is a mishmash of bad decisions: launching mid-generation, producing another under-powered console, failing to secure third party support, mis-communicating the use of the gamepad, believing that the Wii brand would be enough to bring consumers on board. I’ve written before that Nintendo fell into the trap of believing their own hype. It seems to run in the industry and both Sony and Microsoft have been guilty of it as well, but this post isn’t about them.

All bets are still off on Nintendo’s next console, still known only as the NX, but regardless of how it performs, there is still one area that Nintendo handles well, and knows how to market.

SMB 3

This is meant to be a hint, but the blog title kind of gives it away

About a month ago, Nintendo unveiled the NES Mini (officially the NES Classic Edition). A small NES replica containing 30 classic Nintendo games, including a replica NES controller that can be used for Virtual Console/eShop NES games on the Wii/WiiU. Now, Nintendo has enough first party titles that they could have crammed the NES Mini half and half with great titles alongside mediocre ones, but they didn’t do that. Instead, they included their own classic titles (Super Mario Brothers, Legend of Zelda, Kirby, Metroid, Kid Icarus), but also included some of the best third party titles to appear on the NES (Castlevania, Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden, Double Dragon, Bubble Bobble, Final Fantasy, Startropics). Honestly, I know I’m a bit of a Nintendo fanboy, but you’d be hardpressed to find more than two or three titles that the average person doesn’t like (personally, I’m looking at Ice Climbers with skepticism).

This is where Nintendo still excels. They know how to market their classic catalog. And keep in mind that this isn’t a one off. When it was first revealed that the Wii would have a Virtual Console that would allow you to purchase digital copies of games from the NES, Super NES, N64, Sega Genesis, Master System, Commodore 64, and Turbo-Grafx16 systems, it was unlike anything else on the market. No other company had explored such an avenue with their catalogs. It’s easy to point out that neither Sony nor Microsoft can compare to Nintendo’s catalog, but neither explored securing games from Sega or Hudson Soft. Nintendo, somehow, knew that a market still existed for those games, and it was a major selling point for the Wii. It allowed Nintendo to introduce “new” games weekly. It was also a way to obtain those extremely rare games without paying the $75+ Ebay was demanding. I don’t think calling the Virtual Console a revelation is an overreaction. It was, in my personal opinion, truly a game changer.

MMX3

I love Mega Man X3, but it’s not an over $100 kind of love

 

Nintendo continued to leverage their catalog with the WiiU and 3DS, adding Gamecube and Wii games to the eShop on the WiiU, while keeping the original Wii virtual console fully intact and accessible on the WiiU via the Wii Menu. I downloaded Castlevania III just last week. It’s still there and functioning perfectly. I’ve no doubt that the NX will continue this trend. It’s all positive. No negative.

For all their missteps, and all the things they’ve done to aggravate their loyal fans, Nintendo still finds a way to shine through from time to time. The NES Mini wasn’t hinted about, it wasn’t asked for, it wasn’t expected, but Nintendo, in some ways, does still know who their most loyal fans are, and sometimes they come through in ways we never expected or saw coming. As I pointed out above, they could have packed the NES Mini with their own titles, and most of us would have bought it, but they went above and beyond, adding games that show up on virtually all NES Top 10 or Top 20 lists. Nintendo deserves kudos for that. It’s all fan service, and fan service done well. They may have faults when it comes to handling their last few home consoles, but when it comes retro, Nintendo still does it well.

 

From the grave

Almost Made It: de Blob, Okami, F-Zero, Ecco the Dolphin, Bubble Bobble, Contra, Mana, Startropics, R-Type, Adventure Island
Not Franchises, but Need a Sequel: Ghosthunter, Sphinx & the Cursed Mummy, Dante’s Inferno, The Wonderful 101, Enslaved

Legacy of Kain8. Legacy of Kain
Last Entry – Legacy of Kain: Defiance (2003)
Legacy of Kain began life as an overhead styled game called Blood Omen for the Playstation, where you played as newly minted vampire, Kain. While popular, its sequel, Soul Reaver, is where the series truly pulled me in. It was the Ocarina of Time to Blood Omen’s A Link to the Past (strictly in regards to game style). It also began the story that would permeate the remaining entries in the series, which ended with Defiance in 2003. The problem is, Defiance didn’t exactly wrap the story up. Oh, there’s an ending, but there are threads for future stories that have yet to come. The only news available for Legacy since 2003 is an MMO Game called Nosgoth that was ultimately shut down. It was only mildly related to the overall series, and was not developed by Crystal Dynamics. Considering the popularity of the Legacy of Kain series, it is surprising that it has remained dormant this long, but those of us that are still fans of the games still hope to see a more definitive ending to Kain (and Raziel’s) journey in Nosgoth.

Blaster Master7. Blaster Master
Last Entry – Blaster Master: Overdrive (2010)
If you don’t know Blaster Master, stop reading this blog, go find a copy (check the Virtual Console/eShop), and play it. Then come back. Everyone else knows Blaster Master. You play through an open world via a side-scrolling/overhead shooter hybrid style. You’re goal? To get your frog back and stop some radioactive mutants from taking over the Earth. Blaster Master is a classic that saw entries on the Sega, GBC, Playstation, and a remake via WiiWare (which is pretty darn good, FYI) and has been praised for level design as well as seamlessly merging separate game styles into one game. Aside from the remake, the last actual sequel was the PS entry Blaster Master: Blasting Again, released in 2001, which received average reviews (but which I thoroughly enjoyed). Blaster Master is a franchise that is so well know that I’m rather amazed that nothing new has been developed since 2010. The gameplay style(s) scream 3DS. Still, sadly, it seems that there is currently nothing on the horizon for this beloved series. *Note: Blaster Master received a wonderfully corny Worlds of Power adaptation. If you can find a copy, I strongly suggest reading it.

Baldur's Gate6. Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance
Last Entry – Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance 2 (2004)
I realize that Baldur’s Gate is hardly a forgotten series, but I’m speaking specifically of the Dark Alliance series developed for consoles. As I’m not much of a PC gamer, Dark Alliance was my only foray into the world of Baldur’s Gate, and I loved it. Dark Alliance is an overhead hack and slash RPG with character selection. The original was extremely well received, even winning a Role-Playing Game of the Year Award. The sequel was also acclaimed, though it was noted that it added very little to the gameplay of the original. The primary reason I feel this series needs a new entry is that the second title ended on a cliff hanger. You’re shown that someone has been working against you behind the scenes, yet you’re not shown who it was. It also stings that a third title was in development but cancelled solely due to legal issues. Every now and again, news crops up on a Dark Alliance 3, but it’s generally just wishful thinking or unsubstantiated rumors. I still hold out hope though, that I’ll one day get to play through the conclusion of the story from Dark Alliance and Dark Alliance 2.

Darksiders5. Darksiders
Last Entry – Darksiders II (2012)
Really? 2012? It seems so much longer. Regardless, Darksiders burst onto the scene in 2010, bringing us an apocalyptic Zelda-esque title. You play as War, the horsemen, who has been summoned by someone, and is accused of beginning the Apocalypse early. You’re then given a chance to prove your innocence and find the true culprits. While the story does give you answers, it never feels finished, and the ending scene hints at the arrival of the remaining three horsemen. Darksiders II takes place concurrently, placing you in the role of Death, and opens up more of the story of the franchise. Since then, we’ve been left to wonder exactly what became of the four horsemen at the end of the original game. Development of a sequel has most likely been held up by the selling of the license due to a bankruptcy. This franchise came to mind for two main reasons: the plot is surprisingly deep, and the gameplay is both varied and familiar between the two titles. There is also the fact that the other two horsemen, Strife and Fury, have not (yet) been playable characters. I’m excited to see their interpretation in the franchise, and how the gameplay will be adapted to their “powers.” Recent news regarding Nordic Games (the owners of multiple THQ licenses), seems to indicate that the wait for Darksiders III may not be that long.

Lufia4. Lufia
Last Entry – Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals (2010)
Lufia was one of the premier RPG’s on the Super NES, before finding a home on the Gameboy/DS systems, but has been quiet since Curse of the Sinistrals (DS) in 2010, itself being a remake of Lufia 2 (Super NES). The fact that Lufia remains knows is even more surprising when you consider that it has received no eShop/digital distribution of the original titles. The franchise is running solely on the fact that it was so good on the Super NES (the DS remake was just average). This is a series that could benefit greatly by returning to its roots via a 3DS title. Speaking strictly of feasibility, I can’t imagine a full-fledged console Lufia title simple because the budget would be insane, hence a smaller title on a handheld. I’m sad to say that I missed out on Lufia for the most part, and would jump at a chance to play the originals or even a proper sequel. With any luck, Neverland hasn’t forgotten this gem of a series.

Mega Man X23. Mega Man X
Last Entry – Mega Man X8 (2005)
If you don’t know what Mega Man X is, see my note on Blaster Master above. Mega Man X is Mega Man’s cooler, older brother. Keeping the conventions of the original series, robot masters, excellent platforming, multiple weapons, Mega Man X added enough new aspects to seem familiar, but not identical. Like many side-scrollers, Mega Man X fell out of favor as 3-D gameplay became the new norm. The one foray in 3-D for Mega Man X was…disappointing at best. Mega Man X8 was somewhat of a return to form, but something still felt a bit off from the initial titles. While the original Mega Man series saw two “old school” sequels released digitally (both being very good), Mega Man X has continued to be MIA in terms of a new title since the release of X8. Capcom could please many people by taking the Mega Man 9/10 route with X and designing an X9 that looked and played much like X – X3 on the Super NES. After the success of Mega Man 9/10, I’m actually still shocked that X9 hasn’t come down the pipeline. It’s simply hard to believe it wouldn’t be a success. Mega Man is a beloved icon. A new game in the X series should be a given at this point.

Metroid2. Metroid
Last Entry – Metroid: Other M (2010)
First of all, Federation Force is not a Metroid game. Yes, it has the title, but it has no Samus Aran. It is not a Metroid game. We will not discuss this further. Anyways, Metroid is one of Nintendo’s golden franchises, and has been universally acclaimed with virtually every release (Other M being the exception to the rule). At this point, the future of Metroid is very cloudy. I’m certain there will be a proper sequel, but I have no clue if it will go the route of Fusion/Zero Mission, or take the FPS style of the Prime series. Either would be welcome by fans of the Metroid series. Other M left a bad taste in the mouths of most Metroid fans, and one has to wonder if it’s negative reception isn’t what has caused Nintendo to step away from Metroid for a six years. If that’s truly the case, Nintendo need only to look at Fusion or Prime 3 to see that the series has had only one hiccup in its entire history. One misstep is not enough reason to shelve a premier series that features a game that many consider to be one of the two or three best games ever made (the fact that you’re not sure if I’m speaking of Super Metroid or Metroid Prime speaks to the high quality of Metroid titles). Metroid turns 30 years old this year. Nintendo has remained silent on this fact. I’m hopeful that they’re saving something for the NX reveal but, despite my normal optimism, I’m not holding out much hope in this case.

Castlevania1. Castlevania
Last Entry – Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (2014) / Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (2008)
I must clarify here. I’m speaking not of the reboot Lords of Shadow series, but of the original series, which last saw an entry in 2008 with Order of Ecclesia. Until Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the Castlevania series was know for level based platforming. Symphony of the Night adopted a style similar to Metroid, featuring an open world that became more accessible via the collection of abilities or items, coining the Metroidvania term for this type of game style. Symphony of the Night was so extremely popular that virtually all Castlevania titles from that point on adopted the same style, excepting some 3-D titles that received mixed reviews, but which I enjoyed. Yet, despite each successive title being similar in style, the design of each game managed to feel fresh and new each time. In 2013, the series was re-imagined for the Lords of Shadow series, going from open world platformer to a 3-D level based game. The Lords of Shadow games are fine games, but titles such as Dawn of Sorrow and Order of Ecclesia scratched an itch that few other games relieve. Castlevania made #1 on this list because I’m skeptical that we’ll ever see another title that matches the quality the series was once know for, if another title at all. Konami has publicly stated that they are shifting focus to mobile games, meaning that Castlevania may be put on the shelf for quite some time. There is a glimmer of hope though. Long time Castlevania producer, IGA, has developed Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for all current consoles. Due out in March of 2017, Bloodstained is described by IGA himself as a spiritual successor to Castlevania and is using the Metroidvania style. I’m certain I’ll download this title, but it still makes me sad to think that we may have realistically seen our last Belmont. Our last Castlevania.

Pokemon Go

I had intended to write a simple post relating my thoughts on Pokemon Go. Something touching upon how it works, how fun it could be, etc… That was the plan. But, as with all of the best laid plans, something happened that I didn’t see coming. Shortly after the launch of Pokemon Go, there was a sudden backlash towards it. A wave of ridicule and derision that I never saw coming, and still don’t fully understand. Therefore, my simple post reviewing the game morphed into this. An answer to the backlash.

Before I start, there are things to say about Pokemon Go. Yes, there are people being morons with it. If you trespass, play while driving, or commit some other detrimental action while playing, you need to be ridiculed because you’re being stupid and making the rest of us look bad. All of the bad though, doesn’t mean that there aren’t positives.

My wife and I were at the park not took long ago walking and encountered a group of teens walking together, having a good time, and playing Pokemon Go. I’ve encountered people playing all over the place, simply having fun. This is not a negative. It’s actually rather incredible. It’s a game that gets you moving, exploring, and socializing. I can’t see the bad aspect of this. I’ve read of hospitals using it to get kids up and about that are recovering from an ailment. This is a wonderful thing.

Still, there can’t be something popular without people having to react to it. Based on what I’ve seen, the criticism of Pokemon Go can be broken down into three groups, along with a fourth group that I admire and am addressing first:

The Indifferent

There are very few memes for this that I can find because these people note that Pokemon Go is a thing, then move on with their lives. Many only remember Pokemon from the late 90’s. This is the attitude that I hope I have with fads that I’m not interested in. I admire these people. Something is happening, it doesn’t affect their life, they look at, then carry on. Kudos to these people. You guys rock.

The Religious

Even as a practicing Christian (anyone know why we call this kind of thing practice???), I don’t get this one. The primary problem with it, aside from the use of Kermit, is that it presents two things as being mutually exclusive. Based on these memes, you can’t possible be spiritual and play a game. This is simply an impossibility. But, if you put in two other actions, it shows just how absurd this is. For instance, “Some of you folk should be going to Church with the same vigor with which you mow your lawn.” That’s a crazy statement, but represents the same idea. This group doesn’t anger me at all, they just mystify me.

The Funny

All of my life, I’ve told people, if you want to criticize me or make fun of me, just make it funny. That’s all I ask. That is what these people are doing with Pokemon Go. I’ve no issue with this. If you can’t take humor, then you need to examine yourself. So, my hat’s off to these people. So long as your humorous, I say keep it coming.

The Angry

These people man…wow. These people are the opposite of the indifferent I wrote about above. These people are incapable of letting something that isn’t changing their lives in any way from passing by without a snarky comment. These people actually make me angry with their needless anger and criticism. I guess I react more strongly to this than some may because I play Pokemon Go with my son. Going by these memes, I’m a bad father, I don’t know how to work hard, and am apparently not a productive member of society.

Seriously, look at the memes above. Apparently, if you have any pastime that isn’t productive in some way, you will never understand the value of hard work. What if that meme said this: “Teach your kids the value of a hard day’s work, so they don’t grow up and sit on the couch all weekend watching football.” It’s exactly the same meaning for the most part, except…except no one in their right mind would post such a thing because it’s an asinine statement. Everyone has something they do in their down time, something they enjoy. Be it watching sports, reading, hiking, or playing games, including Pokemon Go.

As I point out at the start of this post, at least Pokemon Go is getting people outside. They’re meeting people, having fun, etc… There is very little negative, but some people just have a mindset that prevents them from keeping their thoughts to themselves. A mindset that says, I don’t do this, I don’t understand it, but I must insult those that do because I simply can’t help myself.

Actually, I think my wife put this far better on Facebook than I ever could have here:

So, I continue to see these clever little memes being posted about how we should be spending more time chasing Jesus than Pokemon, and how we don’t have time for Pokemon because we are adults and have so much to do. Maybe so. But are you on Facebook, scrolling thru your news feed to find these clever little sayings to post? Someone also sat at their computer and took the time to make these cute little pictures for your amusement. Couldn’t this time be spent doing all these things that keep you so busy, or digging deeper into God’s word instead of posting about it on Facebook? The point? Everybody has a pastime. Everybody has different interests and hobbies they enjoy. I don’t understand the negativity. I really don’t. Is it hurting you personally for someone to play a game they enjoy? Water your own lawn and I’ll worry about mine. ‪#‎pokemongo‬

Oh, she’s a keeper.

I don’t get it guys. I don’t get why there are people that simply feel that they must pee on the parade. And, you know what? I’m happy that I don’t get it. I don’t want that mindset. As I said earlier, if something’s going on that I don’t get or participate in, I hope that I’m the person that shrugs my shoulders and moves on. That’s the best attitude to have about it. And really, you have to wonder, looking at the time and effort people have spent ridiculing Pokemon Go, are the ones playing Pokemon Go really the ones that need to get life?

Pokemon Go Rebuttal

Zelda II

I recently reviewed Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, but I love the game so much that I felt compelled to expand on my thoughts.

As I stated in the review, Zelda II seems to have a magic that not many games have. There’s something enchanting about the game that pulls me in every single time I play the game. It never fails. At this point, I’ve probably played through Zelda II about a dozen times. Maybe more. Yet, it never gets old.

I will admit that at least some of that is nostalgia, but some of it is also the fact that Zelda II, more than most games, seems to take me back to being a kid and playing these games for the first time. I realize that that sounds like the same thing, but it goes deeper than simple nostalgia for me.

If you didn’t grow up in the NES era, then you have to understand that the natural limitations of the system almost required an active imagination. If you take a game like Zelda II at face value, then you’ll see an overworld with some paint by number villages, a few caves, and some temples to explore. But, if you can place it in that time period, it becomes something much more. That overworld was a vast, sprawling land that compelled you to check every nook and cranny. You just didn’t know where a hidden treasure bag may be lurking or a house may be hidden in a forest area. It offered up a ton of possibilities. The system couldn’t present a land that looked like Ocarina of Time, so the developers instead presented the idea of that land, and for me, it worked perfectly.

I think this more than anything made the game seem massive. When you’d finished the temples on the first continent, you ride a raft to the east only to find an entirely new continent. It’s almost impossible to explain how amazing that was as a kid unused to such massive surprises hiding in a game. It was such a joy to find that you’d only gone through about half of the game at that point, and had so much more to do. A good comp for how it made me feel is how surprised players where in Symphony of the Night when they get taken to the inverted castle and have an entirely new map, the same size as the map they’d been exploring, to fight their way through. That’s how it made me feel, and I still get a bit of that wonder today when I replay it.

Zelda II also serves as a reminder of when there were no internet spoilers, and no FAQ’s to help you out. You needed to explore the land fully, lest you miss something good. That wasn’t an annoying task though, it was part of the joy of the game. Also, as a bit of an open-world game, Zelda II almost challenged you to sequence break. Could I get to the second area without getting the candle first? [For the record, yes, I can.] Can I take on the fourth temple before the third? What happens if I just get the item in the temple, but don’t place the crystal? For a kid, the possibilities were almost limitless. I couldn’t look up the answers to these questions, so I had to test each one out, and I kept coming back to the game to see what it would let me do.

Zelda II isn’t the only game that had that affect on me, but it’s the one that stands out the most in my mind, and the one that I still revisit regularly today. For the most part, I’m not certain that I can fully explain the hold it has on me, but it really does make me happy, and reminds me of a simpler time in both my life and in video games. A time that I sometimes long for, but can’t recapture. Still, when I play Zelda II, I get at least a taste of that time again, and I’ll never be able to explain exactly how important that is to me.

Zelda II Lunch Box

I even had this lunch box. Would love to own it again.