Posts Tagged ‘PS4’

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.

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Arkham Knight Title

Ultimately, Rock Band 4 was the driving force behind my getting an Xbox One, but this game was a close second. You simply don’t get games as great as Arkham Asylum and Arkham City everyday, so with the announcement of Arkham Knight, there was no question that I would need to find a way to play it at some point. How could it not be amazing?

The Set-up:
You are Batman. The Dark Knight. Hunting dangerous and deadly villains by the light of the moon. After taking down the Joker (along with virtually every other foe in Batman’s rogue gallery) in Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, you find yourself tasked with stopping Scarecrow on Halloween. His plan? To flood Gotham with a new fear gas and bring an end to you. With Gotham evacuated save for thugs and villains, the city becomes your massive playground.

The Story:
At the end of Arkham City, the Joker dies. This is extremely important to Arkham Knight as it leaves a void in Batman (he and the Joker are essentially a balance of good and evil, this isn’t a deep secret). Also, it becomes clear a bit into the game that Batman was infected with the Joker’s toxic blood in Arkham City, and is suffering hallucinations of the Clown Prince of Crime, including a fear that he will turn into a Joker-esque figure. This is only strengthened by exposure to the Scarecrow’s fear toxin.

Arkham Knight Scarecrow

John Noble will always be Walter to me. #Fringe

Speaking of, Scarecrow is the big bad of Arkham Knight. As noted above, he is threatening Gotham with a new fear toxin, and has also planted bombs around the city, leading to the evacuation referenced above. He also manages to kidnap Oracle early on in the game, leading to a new urgency for Batman to track him down. The Scarecrow has always been one of my favorite villains, and he is genuinely creepy in this game, thanks in no small part to John Noble’s absolutely brilliant voice work. It is downright chilling.

Also, because all of this isn’t enough for the Dark Knight, a new villain, in the employ of the Scarecrow, has risen. Going by the name of the Arkham Knight, this character essentially comes across as a militaristic psycho. Very visceral and brutal, he is an evil Batman, a well trained madman with no conscious. His identity remains a mystery for the bulk of the game, but those who are familiar with Batman storylines and pay attention to the clues within the game will most likely figure out who the mystery man is (I did, though it didn’t take away from the storyline).

Akrham Knight Character

Had it been a Red “A,” this would have been an entirely different game.

In addition to the Scarecrow and the Arkham Knight, other villains such as the Penguin, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze make appearances, though some are only available via the purchase of DLC. The stories behind each of the other villains are fairly short, but that is to be expected, and was the case in the past Arkham games. In regards to the DLC, the stories flow seamlessly into the main game, and become available as you reach certain percentages of completion.

The Gameplay:
This is the bread and butter of the Arkham games. Rocksteady managed from the beginning to give Batman a combat style that is both deep and easily mastered. No easy task. That hasn’t changed in Arkham Knight. Just as in the past, you can fight with punches and kicks, or delve deeper and use his array of gadgets to take on the various foes. New moves are unlocked by gaining upgrade points (basically, leveling up). For the most part, this is cut and pasted from the previous Arkham games, but that’s most definitely not a bad thing. The combat is superb in those games, so why screw with something that already works? Rocksteady didn’t, and the game benefits because of it.

It’s been a while since I finished off Arkham City, but I do believe that there are a few more gadgets to use in this title. My personal favorite was the one that allowed you to hi-jack drones and screw with other electronically controlled weapons/objects. Causing a drone to blow up on its own operator never got old. My second favorite was the voice distorter. Directing a thug into a trap by imitating their boss gave me far more joy than it should have. I did have some disappointment with the gadgets used in battle. As with another aspect of this game, there almost seemed to be too many to master. Ultimately, I just stuck with a few that I liked and ignored the rest. Also, it sometimes seemed that the trigger for using a gadget just didn’t work. The primary offender for me was the freeze blast. In all fairness, this could have just been me crapping up the controls, but it did seem to happen multiple times.

Arkham Knight Hacker

Seriously, this was pretty cool.

Stealth is also a large part of this game, though it didn’t feel as integral as in the past two games. Rarely will you find yourself in a building where remaining quiet and unseen is an absolute necessity. If you get seen, there is little punishment as you can simply grapple away or go into the vents (though the thugs now drop bombs into the vents if they spot you going into one, which was a nice touch). This is much like the previous games except, again, these areas simply don’t seem as numerous or as important to your current mission. In most cases, I found myself just watching foes from afar, then sneaking up on them when they were alone. I didn’t feel the need to utilize a variety of take downs, sticking to a couple that worked for me. Perhaps I’m simply remembering incorrectly, but I don’t recall it being that easy in the past two games. Now, that said, there are a few areas (recurring mission) that do require absolute stealth, and those are pure joy for those of us that love that element of this series.

There are two major changes that shape Arkham Knight and differentiate it from the previous titles. The first is the sheer size of Gotham City. I’ve read that it’s about five times the size of Arkham City, and I can believe that. There are three main islands that make up the city (only two are available right away), and each has various areas that you will explore. The size of the city is both a blessing and a curse for the game. On a positive note, it provides for quite a bit of variety and makes exploring the game a ton of fun. Also, the city is beautiful. Highly detailed and interesting to explore. Negatively, it sometimes just feels empty and is easy to get lost in. In the past two games, I felt like I got to know the lay of the land. By the end, I didn’t even need a map to know where I was. In this game, I had to rely completely upon the map and waypoint systems. There was just too much for my taste. The islands share some common features, so there never seemed to be any distinguishing styles that allowed you to know exactly where you were just by observing your surroundings. This is a minor quibble, but it just made me feel a bit disconnected from the game.

Secondly, and I believe this aspect was added solely due to the size of the landscape, the Batmobile is present and controllable. For what it’s worth, it is a quick way to travel from place to place, and there are some battles you must undertake in the Batmobile that are quite fun. That said, I never really liked the inclusion of the Batmobile. I prefer grappling from place to place, but the game design clearly discouraged that in favor of driving. Also, the handling of the car is rough at best. You’re never penalized for poor driving, but there are missions where poor handling can screw you up (I’m looking at you Firefly). However, the biggest sin with the Batmobile are the Riddler tracks. These are challenges by the Riddler, in which you must complete three laps around a rigged course with a multitude of traps and pits, many of which are insta-kills. These are, at best, mind-numbing, and I only beat them to advance the Riddler’s story. I just don’t understand why these were added, or why they were ever considered a good idea. They’re the driving equivalents of escort missions. Apparently just there to see how much crap we’ll put up with to complete an otherwise good game.

Arkham Knight Batmobile

Outside of the horrible Riddler tracks, the Batmobile isn’t all that bad.

Speaking of the Riddler, his trophies and challenges are back. The challenges, outside of those involving the Batmobile, are pretty fun. Tracking trophies down is, essentially, identical to Asylum and City. Trying to solve his clues however, can be a bit of a pain due to the simple size of the city. Trying to find a specific poster, mildly alluded to in a clue, in a game five times the size of Arkham City can be…challenging. And tiring.

Conclusions:
I think that sometimes I’m just too critical. Or maybe I have far too many expectations of a game. Ultimately, Arkham Knight just didn’t seem as fun as the first two games. Don’t misunderstand me. It’s a very fun, but I did feel that it fell just a bit short of what came before it. Maybe, though, that was always going to be unavoidable. Had this game been the first of the series, I’ve no doubt that I would have thought it was nearly perfect, but it wasn’t the first, and you can only add so much to a sequel. Far too often, parts of this game just didn’t feel as fresh as I had expected. But, again, there was hardly a chance that it could have. It isn’t fresh anymore. Also, when I say I’m disappointed, I mean in a Temple of Doom versus Last Crusade way. At the end of the day, Indiana Jones movies are still better than most any other movie out there, and like those, Arkham Knight is still heads and shoulders above many, many other games.

Let me say this. If you enjoyed the first two games, you will love this game. For all of the criticisms I’ve pointed out above, I played the game nearly non-stop until I had finished it. You don’t do that with a game that’s not great. A game that’s actually stellar. I’m harder on it because it’s already established itself as a franchise that I’m a huge fan of. I’m going to pick it apart far more than if it were another mundane Sonic game (side note: don’t ever play Sonic Lost World…holy cow). The Arkham series deserves a ton of praise, and this game is a part of that. For all the issues I’ve raised above, they are but small issues in an otherwise wonderful gaming experience.

Arkham Knight Joker

E3 2014 – Sony

Posted: June 6, 2014 in Current Gaming
Tags: , , , , ,

E3 Sony

Wrapping up my E3 Predictions (which will undoubtedly be 100% accurate) is my take on Sony and their PS4 and PSVita. Feel free to also read my previous entries:

E3 2014 – Nintendo
E3 2014 – Microsoft

PS4
Whereas I thought that both Nintendo and Microsoft had to make a difference, I think that Sony really just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. They have a comfortable lead in the console race, and, outside of Japan, are generally outselling the other two consoles on a monthly basis. The PSVita is also enjoying moderate success. It’s no 3DS, but it’s still selling respectably well. Basically, Sony, don’t f**k things up.

Yeah, don't do anything like this.

Yeah, don’t do anything like this.

Okay, that’s too simplistic. But Sony really doesn’t need to shake the world to come out of this conference looking good. They, much like Microsoft, do need to find a way to add value to purchasing a PS4 over sticking with a PS3 or Xbox 360. Much like Microsoft, I’m not totally sure how they do that outside of bringing new games to the system. Preferably this year. They have to get some next generation exclusives out, and soon. Right now there’s just not much coming out for the PS4 and Xbox One that aren’t also coming to the PS3 and Xbox 360. I hate to continue beating this drum, but I think it’s a major problem that neither Sony or Microsoft has been able to adequately address to date. With so many exclusives (such as Batman: Arkham Knight) being moved to 2015, and new titles (such as Mortal Kombat X) still coming to both generations even into 2015, there is still no huge incentive to upgrade just yet.

PSVita
In addition to the PS4, Sony also has to focus on the PSVita. I’m sure they’ll have some focus on the little handheld that could, but I do wonder how much. In all honestly, the game support for that system has been lacking. Perhaps now that the PS4 has launched, Sony can shine some more light there, but I wouldn’t expect it. Truthfully, I’m not sure that Sony really knows how to approach the handheld market, even with the success the PSP enjoyed. Nintendo still owns that market, and I think that has pushed Sony off their stride.

What Nintendo seems to understand is that when most consumers buy a handheld, they do so wanting to play a different type of game than what they play at home. Not worse games or more simplistic, just different. Games that can be broken down in chunks. Sony seems to think that consumers want to take their console games on the go, and I’m don’t believe that is the case. When you go down that road, you end up competing against yourself because there is no differentiation in the games that you are offering your customers. Maybe this is the year something clicks and they find a sweet spot for the PSVita, but past marketing efforts don’t give me much hope.

Case in point

Case in point.

Predictions

  • The Last Guardian will be mentioned as not cancelled…and that’s it
  • Uncharted 4 will make an appearance, coming in 2015
  • Price cut for either the PSVita or the Memory Cards
  • I’m at a loss here. I really don’t have anything else for Sony.

Hell Frozen Over

So last week, this happened:

Wii U outsells PS4 in Infamous’ first week in Japan

No, mass chaos did not ensue, there is no zombie apocalypse, and I saw no signs of Hell freezing over…despite the header I added to this blog.

First of all, we need to figure out what this DOESN’T mean for the WiiU. It doesn’t mean that the WiiU is suddenly going to start outpacing the PS4. Keep in mind that it only took a few months for the PS4 to completely pass the WiiU’s worldwide sales. In addition to that, the PS4 continues to outsell the WiiU in the worldwide market. This doesn’t foretell a future trend for the WiiU in other markets. Japan, like other markets, is very unique and have their own quirks, just like North America or Europe. Most certainly, this doesn’t mean that Nintendo can declare some sort of victory and rest on their laurels.

Oh, don't be so smug.

Oh, don’t be so smug.

Frankly, I’m most surprised that people are surprised by this. An article I looked at cited an interesting trend in regards to the first few weeks of WiiU sales versus the first few weeks of PS4 sales:

Week 1: WiiU – 308,142 Units / PS4 – 309,104 Units
Week 2: WiiU – 126,916 Units / PS4 – 65,685 Units
Week 3: WiiU – 122,843 Units / PS4 – 35,294 UnitsYeah, that’s a might big drop-off for the PS4 after it’s first week of sales. What was evident right away was that in Japan, the sales would be closer than in other areas at time passed and the new wore off the PS4. It may have taken a while, but the WiiU did finally catch up, and that’s kind of what the sales curves were predicting. Still, what else can we take away from this.

Yes, exactly. See, this isn’t so much that the WiiU is just amazing, it’s just that the PS4 lowered itself to the WiiU’s level, then decided to go lower. So, if these two are selling so poorly, then what is selling in Japan.

1. Nintendo 3DS LL – 20,304
2. PS Vita –13,334

What could those two have in common…? Maybe it’s that they’re both handhelds. Just a thought. Truthfully though, I think the main takeaway here is that Japan may have, over the past few years, morphed into a handheld dominant territory. Even with questionable software lineups, one of the two new consoles should be rivaling the two older handhelds, yet they are far behind. I don’t think you can blame software here. Yes, I think both the WiiU and PS4 are soft on software (sorry for the redundancy there), but Infamous is a big release, and it did very little here. Also, the past few generations have had questionable software right out of the gate, lacking those “must have” titles that sell consoles, yet this low level of sales is new to this generation. No, I don’t think you can point at the negatives of the consoles, but instead have to point at the positives of the handhelds. They are more affordable, have stronger libraries already in place, and are convenient.

This isn’t new for Japan, where the DS was a beast and the PSP was a tough luck loser, but still highly successful. I think that, again, this all points to a change in the market in Japan. What’s important to remember about that though, is that we’re only speaking of Japan. In other regions, the newer consoles are still doing well…or at least those not called “WiiU” are doing well. So, for Nintendo, this is kind of cool. They’re beating a rival in their home country. They could use some good news after what has happened with the WiiU so far. Still, this is not a trend in the larger marketplace. It is a quirk. A cool quirk if you’re Nintendo, but a quirk none the less.

Amazon

The fact that Amazon is launching a set-top box offering streaming video services is hardly a surprise. Much like Netflix, Amazon has dabbled in original series and who can blame them for wanting to have a service that means you can only get that content straight from Amazon on their device. So, as expected as this might have been, what has been a surprise is that Amazon also seems intent on jumping into the gaming market with this device.

The rumors are that Amazon will offer streaming video games and will compete with Apple and Roku, but Amazon has done something that makes me wonder exactly how far they want to take their foray into the gaming market.

Amazon has increased its gaming-related hiring of late and even acquired Killer Instinct and Strider developer Double Helix Games for an undisclosed sum last month. 

This reeks of more than just mild interest. Granted, that’s only one studio, and is rather old news, but I expect this to be the first of a few purchases for them. My feeling is that they are looking for original content in terms of both television shows (that terms is quickly becoming outdated) and video games.

Backing up the rumors of game content was the release of a supposed controller last week.

Controller

Well, I think it’s pretty fugly, but it does the job I suppose. Seems very Android based to me.

The big question about Amazon’s actions are how this thing will be received. Even though the Gamespot story states Apple TV and Roku as the primary competition, once you enter into the gaming market in this way (purchasing a publisher with a few recent titles in Killer Instinct and Strider), you also have to consider the current generation of consoles as competition as well, especially given how media ready these devices are. Between the PS4, Xbox One, and WiiU, you can access Netflix, Hulu, Youtube, and Amazon for your viewing needs, just to name a few. These devices are also dedicated gaming consoles, receiving acclaimed games that I just can’t imagine an Amazon console receiving (I mean, most of these aren’t even hitting the WiiU).

I admire what Amazon is hoping to do, and I do expect them to be moderately successful, but I just can’t see them making any kind of true inroads with the gaming community. We’ve already put out funds for something that gives us gaming as well as access to multiple choices of media streaming, be it for free or via a monthly fee (looking at you here Microsoft). Still, Amazon’s actions seem to indicate that they hope to wade into the deep waters with the big three, and if they do try that, I fully expect them to be completely devoured.

SONY DSC

In case you haven’t noticed, this current game generation seems to be big on requiring peripherals that alter how you would normally interface with your game console. Now, this did start last generation with the Wii, but that’s arguably more of a non-standard take on the traditional controller with added motion functionality. A fine line, but I’m willing to toe it, and wouldn’t argue back if you disagreed with me.

First up was the WiiU. Yes, it is current generation, so stop rolling your eyes. As we all know, the key selling point of the WiiU was the Gamepad, a controller with a decent sized touch screen included. This was going to change how we played and looked at games. I’m not sure how, but that was the claim. Along with allowing for additional information to be displayed while you play in-game, the Gamepad could be used for off TV play, essentially turning the WiiU into a portable device of sorts. It is 100% required for the WiiU, according to Nintendo.

Simply revolutionary

Simply revolutionary

Next up, let’s hear it for the Xbox One! Microsoft loved the Kinect so much for the Xbox 360, that it became an integral part of the Xbox One. Now, full disclosure, I have a Kinect for my 360 and really enjoy it. It’s not the perfect peripheral, but I never expected it to be either. The Kinect for the One is a more advanced model though. It allows for the motion and waving actions to be read, takes pics and videos, takes voice commands, etc… It’s fairly advanced…and is 100% required for the Xbox One, according to Microsoft.

What fun!

What fun!

Finally, the PS4. Sony has integrated their handheld system, the Vita, into the PS4 console, meaning that it works in much the same way as the WiiU gamepad. There is off TV play for it (download play, essentially) as well as other features. This is still in its infancy so full use probably hasn’t been seen yet. What’s important to remember is that it’s 100% required for the PS4, according to Sony.

No…wait. My mistake. It’s 100% NOT required for the PS4, according to Sony. On a totally unrelated note, let’s check in on which system has sold the most as of the end of February.

NPD February: PS4 still top of US retail chart
-Actual Headline

Okay, so I’m not going to suggest that the PS4 is ruling the roost solely because it doesn’t come packaged with a peripheral that changes how you control the games on the system. I don’t believe that at all. I also have to point out that the PS Vita is an entirely separate system that has to be purchased whereas the Gamepad and Kinect are part of your purchase of the console. Still, while both of those statements are true, I do believe that it has had an impact on sales. Of the three current generation consoles, the PS4 is the only one that hasn’t wedged new control schemes into their games in an effort to justify a packaged peripheral.

If only it was a more traditional controller.

If only it was a more traditional controller

See, I think that’s one of the key issues here. With the WiiU and Xbox One, both Nintendo and Microsoft are trying to sell more than just a console, they’re also selling a new, more advanced way of playing. Therefore, when they release games for their systems, or work with third parties, they’re going to want to have at least some focus on that aspect. The problem is, even if both work fine and are generally good ideas (theoretically!), you can’t just wedge new interfaces into every game. For every Pikmin game where a new control scheme seems like a stroke of genius, there is a Batman: Arkham City where the controls seem to detract from the game rather than add (speaking of the WiiU version).

Even as a diehard Nintendo fan, I will admit that game controls don’t always need an overhaul. The gamepad is at its best in a game like Darksiders 2 (inventory) or Lego City Undercover (map & video calls) where it’s supplemental to the game. It doesn’t force you to change your play style, it just gives you additional information and saves you some time in pause menus, similar to the use of the screen in the Castlevania DS games (map display = simple, yet brilliant). The same is true of Kinect use, though I don’t believe it to be as intrusive…so far.

Both Nintendo and Microsoft have stated that their systems will not be sold without their respective control methods, but not everyone is sold that this is the case.

“Don isn’t there anymore. You have a new boss over the Xbox division, who has no skin in the Kinect game,” Pachter said.

“Sure they’re gonna unbundle. Not in 2014. They will not change the SKU that dramatically in the first full year. It’s a 2015 event.

That would be Michael Pachter, video game analysis and frequent target of fanboys everywhere. He doesn’t address the WiiU, but I’ve seen similar chatter suggesting that Nintendo would do well to ditch the gamepad. The reasoning here goes beyond intrusions on gameplay however, and is the second key point about these peripherals. See, neither the Kinect or Gamepad are included for free. Each is an expensive peripheral that drives up the price of the system. The WiiU is already fairly cheap, comparatively, but would go even cheaper should the Gamepad be jettisoned. For the Xbox One, dropping the Kinect at some point may allow Microsoft to price match Sony’s PS4, which is currently ahead in the console race by about two million units. As I’ve written earlier, after four months of being on the market, two million units is a sizable number to be behind by.

Microsoft, hearing that Sony is ahead in the console race

Microsoft, hearing that Sony is ahead in the console race

Now, none of this is meant to disparage either the Gamepad or Kinect. I happen to like both, but can also see where it may help both Nintendo and Microsoft if they found a way to not require one for each system. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze may be an indicator that Nintendo is moving in that direction. When playing on TV, the gamepad goes dark. The only use for it is for off TV play. This is a second party Nintendo title not using the Gamepad in any way. I can’t help but feel that that could be a bit of a hint about Nintendo’s plans for the WiiU Gamepad in the future. For Microsoft, as stated above, it would put them in a more competitive position with the PS4 with a reduced price. Both the Xbox One and WiiU find themselves behind the PS4 currently, and while I don’t believe that dropping the non-traditional inputs is the answer to catching Sony (especially for the WiiU…ouch), I have to admit that, despite enjoying both inputs, it would probably help.

In further defense of the Kinect, it did give us this.

Console Wars

Just a quickie this morning. I read an article this morning asking if the Xbox One was in trouble. I didn’t realize that this was an issue, so I did a check in on current sales of the PS4, WiiU, and Xbox One:

– PS4: 5.85 million consoles
– Xbox One: 3.54 million consoles
– WiiU: 5.78 million consoles
Data from http://www.vgchartz.com/analysis/platform_totals/

And PS4 is the early leader. Pretty sure I called that one a few months ago…but then, who didn’t?

Anyway, with 3.5 million consoles moved, I wouldn’t think the Xbox One is in trouble, but I did some more digging and found this:

– WiiU: 3.06 million consoles as of 12/31/2012

The WiiU launched in November of 2012 in most regions, so that’s about a month and a half of sales. We all know the story since. Hype and freshness will move consoles out of the gate, it’s what happens once that wears off that tells the real story. In the three months following that WiiU figure, it only moved around .4 million. Notice the decimal point there. Hype wore off kind of fast, I guess.

At the end of 2013, Microsoft had moved approximately 3 million consoles since launch. Nothing to sneeze at. In late January, the number was up to 3.9 million (calling into question either the age of the data I started with or Microsoft’s number rounding abilities). Assuming the .9 million figure is accurate for January, that’s not bad, except that the PS4 was reportedly at 5.3 million consoles sold just a couple of weeks later. By most estimates, as of right now, the PS4 has a 2 million console sales lead. It is still very early in this generation, but that’s quite a lead to have.

Still, is the Xbox One in trouble? I think it’s far too early to be making that claim. It’s still quickly gaining on the WiiU (come on Mario Kart!) and is definitely keeping itself in the game with sales. On top of that, the much hyped Titanfall will be launching this week. Granted, Infamous: Second Son is coming right on its heels for the PS4, but regardless of that, Titanfall will move some consoles quickly, if what I’m reading is to be believed. Also, don’t forget that third parties will be putting their games on both the PS4 and Xbox One most of the time, so they will be on equal footing in that regard (and something that will continue to plague the WiiU).

Titanfall

The bottom line as I see it is that PS4 was always going to win this generation. It was put into motion at the Xbox One reveal and cemented at Sony’s E3 Press Conference. Microsoft peed in their own cereal and are paying for it now. I want to keep Nintendo in this conversation, but we all know the story there. Mario Kart and Smash Brothers will write their story in a few months. So, is the Xbox One in trouble? No, not at all. But if the PS4 continues to outpace them, they could be. At the current prices, owning both isn’t a true option for most consumers, so they have to really push back. Not only against the PS4, but against their own missteps that, while old news, are still fresh in everyone’s memories.

Mario Death

I didn’t want to write this blog. I like to write about fun and positive stuff. But then Nintendo had to go and completely miscalculate how the market would react to the WiiU. Damn it, Nintendo! You force me to write about some unpleasantness. And unpleasantness about my favorite gaming company on top of that. Why would you do that to me!?

Anyway, most people have read the news on this , but just in case you haven’t, here you go:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/gaming/2014/01/17/wii-u-sales-forecast/4575041/

Yes, Nintendo slashed sales forecast by over 6 million consoles. Not a big deal if you’re talking a cut from 50 million to 44 million, but when it’s from 9 million to 2.8 million, that’s a mighty big cut…and a mighty big miscalculation of the console buying market. Damn it, Nintendo.

The question you may be asking me is why I care about this. After all, this doesn’t affect how my WiiU performs or the enjoyment I get from the games. My investment is because I’m a WiiU owner. Bad sales mean less games. Extremely bad sales could mean near abandonment. That means that I have a console that potentially won’t be receiving a lot of games. Look back at My Top 8 Upcoming Games of 2014. The link is just to the left. Three of those titles are WiiU titles. Is their development in jeopardy? I have no idea, but you do have to wonder if behind the scenes they aren’t considering cutting their losses and cancelling some of their bigger budget titles that are still quite a bit of time away (if I’m robbed of X they may lose me forever). Or maybe they’re being put on hold to see how Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Brothers affects sales of the WiiU. Again, I have no idea, I just know that by cutting forecasted sales, Nintendo is openly admitting that they miscalculated with the WiiU and are indicating that the console is in real trouble. Damn it, Nintendo.

I can't imagine how important this title must be to Nintendo & the WiiU right now.

I can’t imagine how important this title must be to Nintendo & the WiiU right now.

Oddly enough, this seems to be the trend for console manufacturers after they’ve had a very successful console generation. Sony royally screwed up the PS3 launch after dominating with the PS2. Microsoft became a running joke after unveiling the Xbox One. Nintendo has been down this road before by sticking with cartridges on the Nintendo 64. There seems to be this belief by these companies that consumers aren’t fickle and unfaithful creatures when they really are, outside of a very small group of loyal fans. Whichever manufacturer finds itself in the catbird seat in the current generation, seems to think that those fans will flock to their new console due out for the next gen, so they feel that they can set the rules for how things will work. Everyone loved the PS2, so of course we can charge $600 for the PS3, thought Sony. The Xbox 360 did extremely well, so of course we can include regular online check-ins, thought Microsoft. The Wii sold like the PS2, so of course we can just slap a name modification on a machine a bit stronger than current gen and launch it, thought Nintendo. Damn it, Nintendo.

There is a reflex to point out that the 3DS was once in similar trouble, but is now a monster, outselling everything in 2013, but I have a problem with that comparison. See, the 3DS only had to compete against the Vita (I’m not discussing tablets and smartphones in this post), and Sony was hardly taking advantage of a weakened 3DS, plus the 3DS had quite the headstart on the Vita. The WiiU, however, is having to compete on two levels. Firstly, it has to compete against the PS3 and Xbox 360 because, rightly or wrongly, it’s seen as a contemporary to those in regards to it’s processing power. Secondly, it’s having to compete against the more powerful PS4 and Xbox One. The WiiU is over a year old while those are new. It’s never fun to compete against “New & Shiny” when you’ve been out a while. Combine that with a lack of games and a perceived (and probably factual) lack of power, and you have a console that’s going to be a hard sell. Damn it, Nintendo.

It does, and you're going to need it.

It does, and you’re going to need it.

Did I say lack of games earlier. My mistake. I meant a veritable drought of games. Look, Nintendo makes amazing games, I don’t think anyone would argue against that. Even if you don’t necessarily like most of their titles, you can appreciate the fact that Nintendo are among the absolute best when it comes to game designing. The problem is, no matter how good they make games, they can’t single handedly support a console. For all the grief the Wii gets when it comes to its game library (for reasons I don’t fully understand) in reality it had a very good library of games. My favorite game on the system only launched in North America in 2012. Nintendo was able to get third party support along with their own games. It was a good mix. That’s not happening this time. Oh, teaming with Platinum to publish The Wonderful 101 and Bayonetta 2 was a genius move. Allowing Link to be used in a Dynasty Warriors based game is pretty cool, whether you like the series or not. But even with those two points, that’s still a ton of weight on Nintendo’s shoulders, and right now, only Activision and Ubisoft seem truly dedicated in putting their games on the WiiU. With none of those being exclusive, it provides no real motivation to move to the WiiU from an Xbox 360 or PS3 or newer console. The WiiU is becoming a console that is basically a Nintendo machine, and that’s just not going to be enough for many people, especially at the current price tag. Damn it, Nintendo.

So what does Nintendo do? Throw their hands up and start preparing for the next generation now? Go all in and throw money at developers to increase game releases for the WiiU? You know, I don’t have a clue. Nintendo has been in business a long time. I feel fairly confident that they are smarter than I am. Also, Nintendo has surprised us before. I’m so used to Nintendo pulling things out of the dark that it wouldn’t shock me to see them announce Half-Life 3 as a WiiU exclusive at E3…assuming they have an E3 presentation this year. I’d think they have to, assuming they’re going to fight for the WiiU. They could certainly use some buzz and excitement and there’s no bigger venue than E3. Nintendo Directs are a cool idea and all, but nothing matches the audience reaction at a new game reveal. Just imagine the live reaction of Mega Man’s reveal for Smash Brothers. It would have rivaled the now famous Twilight Princess reveal. I hate that we were robbed of that. Damn it, Nintendo.

You know you love this moment.

You know you love this moment.

I’m an unabashed Nintendo fan. I love the company, I love their games, I want them to succeed. I’m an invested customer, but I’m also invested because this company defined my childhood. To see them going through such trouble now is not something I enjoy but, at the same time, something I think they deserve. They mistakenly thought they could dictate the rules of console sales and are now paying for that miscalculation. This is where the forecast slashing becomes a positive. To solve a problem, you first have to see it and admit you have it. Until now, Nintendo hadn’t done that. The idea that they would sell nine million WiiU’s was absurd to everyone but them. Now that number’s gone. Nintendo is finally admitting their misstep, and maybe they’ve done it early enough to at least reverse their fortunes somewhat. Understand, I don’t believe that the WiiU will kill Nintendo. Nintendo as a company will be fine. They have deep pockets, but even with those, they can’t afford to continue supporting a failing console. The question now is what do they do to turn it around. Again, I don’t know the answer to that (but it should be interesting to watch). The WiiU will not win this generation. That ship has sailed. At the same time though, it can still be workable and sell respectably. I don’t know how that happens, but I firmly believe it can. I’ve thrown out ideas on Twitter, but people much more experienced in this than I am are calling the shots. As a WiiU owner and Nintendo fan, I just hope the hole isn’t yet too deep for them to dig out of. Damn it, Nintendo.

2014I bemoan my backlog for a while, then post about the games I want in 2014. Nothing absurd about that. Anyway, in regards to this list, my only limitation on titles is that they can’t have been released yet. I didn’t limit it to games on systems I own or anything. These are just the games that I’ve seen that appeal to me the most for this year. Of course, there is no guarantee that these are definitely coming this year, but I’m being optimistic. I’ve also used placeholder names in cases where the final title is as of yet unknown.

Keep Training, Grasshopper: Strider, Yoshi’s New Island, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Alien Isolation, Fantasia: Music Evolved, Bayonetta 2, Phantasy Star Nova, Deep Down, Dying Light

Yarn Yoshi8. Yarn Yoshi
Nintendo showed this title off in a Nintendo Direct last year, then promptly seemed to forget that it existed. Yarn Yoshi (as it’s known) is being developed for the WiiU by the same company that developed Kirby’s Epic Yarn, which is exactly why I’m excited for it. The short preview we’ve seen looked gorgeous, and, while being a bit more 3D than Epic yarn, shared many of the same design choices of that game. While I doubt this game will be groundbreaking, the wonderful design of Epic Yarn makes me believe this game will be more than competent in that regard. My personal hope is that we see the return of Yin-Yarn in this game, after his exile from Dreamland.

Sunset Overdrive7. Sunset Overdrive
Normally, a game like this wouldn’t do anything for me (because the premise is a bit old at this point), but when I see that it’s being developed by Insomniac, I begin to take notice. The bottom line for me is that this game seems to have strains of Ratchet & Clank in it, in terms of design and humor. I love the Ratchet & Clank games, so that is immediately appealing to me. That aside though, the gameplay looks intriguing in its own right. It appears to be fast-paced and open, as in, there are a variety of ways in which you can take on tasks. Similar to Dead Rising, maybe. I’m also curious to see how the “living world” aspect of this game works. If it’s implemented as I’ve read it will be, it could keep this game very up-to-date and relevant for years to come.

Zelda U6. Zelda U
As time has passed since I finished Skyward Sword, I can more clearly see the flaws of the game. It was fairly linear and despite the heavy praise people gave the 1:1 sword movement with the Wii Remote, it just got on my nerves. All that said, I like what the developers have done with A Link Between Worlds and what’s being said about this game in terms of layout and linearity. I’m still clinging to the tech demo from the WiiU’s unveiling as the graphical style of choice, but that’s hardly been confirmed. It’s also unconfirmed that this game will grace us in 2014, but with the WiiU floundering, I’m hard pressed to believe that Nintendo won’t do everything in their power to have this title present for the holiday season in an effort to boost sales of the system.

Evil Within5. The Evil Within
While survival horror games will always appeal to me, it’s the pedigree behind this game that makes me want it. Shinji Mikami, who worked on the Resident Evil series and created the sublime RE4, is directing this title. If there is anyone I want watching over this type of game, it is someone such as Mr. Mikami. Even if you aren’t a fan of the fixed camera of the original RE games, the fear and dread they were able to create was amazing. RE4 was able to keep the bulk of that fear while making the actual gameplay much more user friendly. My hope for this game is a further blending of the fear in RE with the ease of play of RE4 (I think that sentence makes sense).

The Order (1886)4. The Order: 1886
A game set in 1886, featuring some steampunk elements and a rich story going back through the Arthurian Knights? Yeah, I think I’m probably sold on this title. The back story for this game has humanity fighting off monsters/mutants throughout history. After suffering many defeats, mankind has finally turned the tide when, in 1886, a new threat rises. Other than the plot, not too much is known about this title yet, but I still rank it this highly because I find that plot very intriguing. I just hope the gameplay impresses as well.

Lords of Shadow 23. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
I’ll always prefer the style of older Castlevania games, but Lords of Shadow did quite a bit right. The idea of taking that style of that game, moving it to an open world with a Metroidvania feel is extremely exciting to me. While I don’t relish playing the “bad guy” (which I’ve written about before), in a case where you’re taking on the rise of Lucifer, it’s more of a lesser of two evils situation. All printed previews of this game praise it, so I can see this as a title I try to purchase quickly and play immediately. One of the most appealing aspects of this game is that it’s a continuation of the previous games and will completely close off the story that began in those titles. I like the idea of a developer setting out with a story in mind, even if it advances over a couple of games.

Fable2. Fable Anniversary
Sure, it’s a re-release of a game that’s been out for some time, but what a game. Despite it’s flaws, I loved the original Fable. It never lived up to it’s expectations (but in fairness, no game could have done that), but what it did it did exceedingly well. Take that game, add some content, sharpen up the visuals, and bring it closer to what it was predicted to be, and you have one heck of a potentially amazing game. I’ve made it clear that I will rarely purchase a game quickly after its release due to both my backlog and tight funds, but this is a game that I will pick up relatively quickly after its release on 2/4. That is how pumped I am for this title.

X WiiU1. X
Xenoblade Chronicles was not only my favorite game for the Nintendo Wii, but one of the best games I’ve ever played. I never expected a psuedo-sequel to be produced, so my surprise and delight at this game being unveiled was beyond measure. X appears to be connected to Xenoblade in some fashion, which is, of course, exciting for me, but even if it were not, I would still be just as excited based on the previews I’ve seen so far. X seems to be set in an open world with a combat system very similar to Xenoblade. Traveling takes place both on foot as well as in large mechs (“Dolls,” according to the trailer). It also appears that there will be online coop, though that isn’t confirmed, just suspected. Regarding visuals, this game looks gorgeous. I don’t demand wonderful graphics so long as the gameplay is fun, but if they are wonderful, I will compliment them. This is a game that will put all my other games on hold once it is released. I only hope it receives the appreciation I imagine it will deserve upon it’s release on the WiiU.

Console Hate
Video Game fandoms, just like any other, are subject to some very passionate opinions that, among some groups, transform from friendly disagreements into full-on arguments that can be rather personal and visceral. Being a pretty easy going guy, I’ve never understood this mentality and regularly ask why anyone would treat their opinions on the video game medium so seriously. What is gained by trying to force your opinion on others and, alternately, what is lost by having a differing opinion from others?

Basically, there exists a subset of gamers that simply aren’t content to play games they enjoy, they feel that their opinions are superior and, therefore, must be broadcast to other gamers. If other gamers disagree, then they must be ridiculed. It’s comparable to those people that argue on public forums about politics or religion (or lack thereof). It’s not enough that they have their own beliefs, they must also convert everyone else or tell them why they are wrong. Having political and religious beliefs is perfectly fine, but abjectly ridiculing those that disagree with your own beliefs serves absolutely no purpose. I’m not speaking of friendly disagreements or explaining what you believe and why while also discussing the beliefs of others. No, I’m talking about those arguments that are almost vicious, arguments in which there is true anger and malice. Just as they exist in politics or religion, they also exist in the world of video games and seem to focus more on consoles, or the console makers.

We call this intersection "Perfect Harmony"

We call this intersection “Perfect Harmony”

What’s missed by these people is that opinions are, by definition, completely personal and subjective. Based on many of the people we have in prison, not even everyone can agree that murder and theft are bad, much less what video games and consoles are the best. For reasons that escape me, there are those people that refuse to accept this and feel that what they believe is factually and objectively correct and they must therefore subdue and convince those that disagree. I’m always very careful on this blog to state when something I’m arguing is completely my opinion. There are times that I have no evidence whatsoever for what I’m saying, and I own the fact that I could be wrong. It is this latter part that the subset I’m speaking of refuse to accept. While I believe what I’m saying is correct, I not only accept differing thoughts, I want and welcome them because it forces me to defend my thoughts and, on many occasions, means I may even modify what I believe because someone has presented a very valid point that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought of.

Ultimately, what is overlooked by those that want a company or console to fail is that when the current three competitors (Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo) are healthy and successful, it is beneficial to those of us that buy their products. For an example, look at the Nintendo Wii. It has received quite a bit of criticism during its life, despite selling over 100 million units. The success of the Wii and, by extension, its control input, resulted in Sony and Microsoft taking another look at their own consoles. Sony developed the Move (after adding some motion elements to their six axis controller) while Microsoft released the Kinect. While the Move wasn’t a roaring success, Kinect became fairly popular and has been refined for the Xbox One. According to those I know that have purchased an Xbox One, the functions of the Kinect seem to work very well (voice commands, for example) and are quite the positive for the console. Now, I don’t believe these were developed solely because the Wii was such a success (okay, the Move probably was), but I do believe that the Wii caused these new peripherals to be pushed harder towards the market. My point being that Nintendo being successful pushed both Sony and Microsoft to innovate their own products. There is little to no negative from this happening.

I understand when the vibrating function is enabled, the Move doubles as a....nevermind

I understand when the vibrating function is enabled, the Move doubles as a…nevermind

Fine, so you don’t care for motion controls or the Kinect? There are more examples of competition breeding better products. Nintendo was a curmudgeon about games on disc until the Sony Playstation became such an amazing success. Nintendo adapted accordingly with their next system. Online gaming was mostly the realm of the PC until Microsoft incorporated it so well into the Xbox. Now, it’s common place for most consoles. When the Sega Genesis became a serious threat to Nintendo’s dominance of the market, they loosened their draconian restrictions on game developers (such as the presence of blood in Mortal Kombat or the use of the Game Genie). The ultimate example? Nintendo’s NES was so successful it brought other companies (hello Sega!) into the market and brought us a golden age of gaming, only a decade after the disastrous crash of the early 80’s.

The entire mindset of rooting for one console or company while actively wishing for the demise of another is baseless. There is no positive to be gained from doing so. Complete dominance by one company is rarely a positive, simply take a look at Nintendo’s policies for developers on the NES that I mentioned above (limited yearly releases per developer, censorship). It took a threat to their market share to shake them up. In this industry, the success of multiple companies leads to each trying to one-up the other. The true winners when that starts happening? All of us that play and enjoy video games. Too bad that some people can’t just play what they enjoy while letting everyone else do the same.