As we go into a new generation of gaming this fall, I have looked back at this current one with fondness; but there are glaring issues that this generation have created. This past generation we had the console for everyone (the Wii) a tech powerhouse (the PS3) and a core console (the Xbox 3600). Now my issue I am diving into started just before this generation, but it became more prevalent as this generation continued to roll on; games have become too easy. I recently went back and played Mega Man 9, Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and a hand full of Mega Man NES titles on my 3DS, and I felt like I had missed a step. I felt like I may have been better at games 20 years ago, despite I play more games than ever and now judge them on merit. I played through Bionic Commando: Rearmed over the course of one evening, trying to get all the upgrades and complete the game which turned into a night of precision platforming and quick reactions. Though I wanted to snap my controller in frustration, I felt real reward for accomplishing what I did. As my retro kick was still in full effect I loaded up Mega Man 9 and was defeated by Splash Woman’s stage, which is considered the easiest of the lot. I recently tried to sit though Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 3 on the 3DS and was handed by blue bottom more so than not. I sat back and thought about my results of the past couple days of retro gaming and can place my blame on modern gaming.
In the current industry we want to tell stories and don’t want game mechanics to overshadow the writing. While I enjoy this in some games and genres I still think we need to look at the story as a reward in a sense. Take The Last of US that I have been playing recently. Naughty Dog could have added a regenerative health system and made the game a bit more easy, but they didn’t. I am making note of this game specifically because the writing and story are some of the best gaming has to offer right now. I have never felt so much sorrow, heartache, and terror in a game. The writing, direction, and voice acting take the game to another level, but I feel I get to enjoy these parts with out my hand being held to reach this points. The game requires you to manage inventories, deiced when it is a good time to fight or to run, and to scavenge for items to craft your own health, for with out this you won’t make it very far. The Halo series, my beloved Halo series, had fallen to the easy side after Halo: Combat Evolved. During the original Halo, you could not hide behind cover and simple become well again, you needed to find health packs, and be a bit more thorough before charging into a fight. In Halo 2 and beyond, you could charge into a battle, be hit several times, and then just go hide behind a rock until your boo boo healed. Because of the sale on the Wii U, I recently played Super Mario World (SNES) again and had a blast. It was difficult and it didn’t hold my hand like current entries in the series. Starting in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, they had something called the super guide in place. If you failed a level too many times you could kick in the super guide and it would walk you though on how to beat said level; where is the fun in that? On top of that finding 1-ups and gaining lives through coin collecting was at an all-time high. SO not only do I have 10’s of lives to burn I can also have the game show me how to play it, effectively killing any challenge the game might of had. The Soul series (Demon Souls and Dark Souls) have been the modern bastion of gaming difficulty. The games are difficult and can be mildly off putting from the start; but once you get the combat and how the game works, finishing quests has never been so gratifying.
The industry is a state of flux as we transition from one console generation to the next. New game mechanics can be implemented, new additions to how we program A.I. to out think us can be made, and looking to past to instill the future of gaming’s fun, yet challenging persona. In trying to further this entertainment medium, have we lost a core value? Do I want to save the galaxy by simply pushing a button, or do I want to save it by formulating strategies, using precise skill, and using that grey mushing thing three feet above what I am sitting on? In a world of instant gratification and the attention span that would insult a gnat, games have become lazy. Why spend 10-20 hours in a complex shooter like Half-Life, when in 4-5 hours I can sit on the explosion roller coaster that is Call of Duty. Do we need to cater to everyone? Most certainly, but do it in a way that makes us gamers, no matter the skill level, feel rewarded. Yes, there are difficulty levels, but as seen with the latest Borderlands 2 DLC, we will just through more enemies at you and make them annoying and cheap. Spamming enemies, or throwing so may at you the odds are never going to be in your favor isn’t good design because you come away feeling annoyed or cheated. I am not asking for the Battletoads friendship ending difficulty, but I am pulling my hand away because I am tired of it being held, I want more challenges. This is one thing our medium does better than the rest, it makes us work and think to get an ending or reach a climax in the story. In a movie, you can turn your brain off and enjoy the ride, a movie can be visual fluff. I am paying $10 to see that visual fluff, not investing $60. I hope games like The Last of Us show future game designers that we can have a great story, but we have to work for that reward. I play games and write about games because I love the experience they give me over other mediums. It is an interactive medium that makes you work for your end result, and more games should be fun, yet challenging. I hope that with the hit run of these classic remakes like Bionic Commando, and the wave of classic availability like Nintendo’s Virtual Console, we can strike a balance between a good difficulty and story telling; that game developers can make challenging, yet accessible titles.
Again I am slipping a bit this week by posting this a day later, so I apologize for that. Let’s get down to what is hitting the Xbox Live Marketplace this week. The huge highlight this week is the final Borderlands 2 DLC, Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. This is touted as the largest expansion to the game, and features new weapons, enemies, and magic for the first time. The DLC makes references to table top games like Dungeons and Dragons, while throwing Borderlands absurd humor into the mix. The DLC will run you 800 MP and is included if you have the season pass. There is quite a sale going on for some Microsoft Studio’s Arcade titles. Here is the list:
600 (50% off)
Fire Pro Wrestling
400 (50% off)
600 (50% off)
Toy Soldiers: Cold War
600 (50% off)
400 (50% off)
400 (50% off)
400 (50% off)
600 (50% off)
600 (50% off)
I can recommend almost every title on this list outside of Bloodforge, it just really isn’t worth the half off price tag. Limbo should be an instant buy for anyone that has yet to grab the game. Both Toy Soldiers games are great action tower defense games and Cold War add’s some humor with an 80’s flair. Perfect Dark, which I have been playing recently, is not that mediocre launch title, but rather a reworking of the original N64 classic. The game plays exactly the same but with a new coat of paint and a stabilized 60 FPS. Fruit Ninja is a good time if you are looking for something to use with your dust collecting Kinect and you can look like a Power Ranger infront of your T.V., what else do you need. Also hitting this week is the newest Magic: The Gathering, dubbed 2014. While I typically don’t play these, my brother who is an avid Magic player, think this could be the best in the series. Magic 2014 will run you 800 MP. If my sources are correct, the newly announced free titles that are coming in July, Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3, the first of which should be out on the 1st. I believe they are planning two games a month and releasing them on the 1st and 16th of each month. Right now if you are looking for a free game, Fable 3 is still available to download for nothing. While not the best of the series, Fable 3 certainly added some clever ideas and could last you until the next free game is delivered. For everything here and anything that I didn’t cover head over to the Official Xbox page.
It has been a while since I have posted this article, with E3 and other crazy commotion afoot, it was hard to sit down and listen to some tracks to present. With EVO 2013 coming around the corner (July 12th-14th) I though it would be interesting to hit some of the music from a couple of the games present at this years championship. Today we are listening to a track from Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition and two tracks from Street Fighter X Tekken. For those that don’t know EVO is the fighting game tournament to end all tournaments. It is held in Las Vegas and pulls fighting fans from around the globe to compete in several fighting games. I think I have spent more money on the Street Fighter franchise this generation than any other franchise. I bought Street Fighter IV, when it was released. Then one Super Street Fighter IV was released, I traded in IV to get Super. Once the 3DS was released I bought Super Street Fighter IV: 3D edition so I can have some asphalt rocking on the go. Then I traded in Super to get the pack that would sit on my shelf in all its glory, the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary Collectors set that would include Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade Edition, Street Fighter X Tekken among others. It also came with 11 CD’s worth of music from the Street Fighter series, which I am sharing with you today.
Theme of Ryu – Hideyuki Fukasawa – Super Street Fighter IV: Arcade edition
One of the most iconic tracks from the Street Fighter series has been Ryu. A personal favorite, the driving beat gets the blood pumping. One of things I must commend Capcom for is the way they keep making these iconic tunes turn it up a notch. Sadly the tune only clocks in under 2 minutes but the way the bass drives the melody is uncanny. The breakdown at the (1:24) mark is by far my highlight of the track as it brakes the melody an reintroduces the bass line.
Main Menu Theme – Capcom – Street Fighter X Tekken
When these two famed fighting franchises collided it was interesting to see how the game played and how the music would line up. Tekken is more about timing punches, kicks, and grapples; while Street Fighter tends to have a more over the top, super move feel. The two feel similar in soundtracks, with most recent entries hitting very hard in the electric, high energy side of things. This main menu track is no different. It is full of the high pitch Capcom flair, and has a pulsating beat to get you pumped to see these two classic franchises collide. The Street Fighter IV art style fit the Tekken characters greater then anyone could imagine. The above image is one my Tekken favorite Jin as he appears in the crossover.
Vs. Rival Battle SF Arrange 2 – Capcom – Street Fighter X Tekken
As a bonus track I went flipping through the 2 discs for the Street Fighter X Tekken soundtrack and came across this track. Its initial beat had me hooked and is a variation of the Street Fighter title track. I love the bass guitar that enters in at (0:06) to drive along the electronic melody until the familiar Street Fighter theme takes over at (0:19). At (1:33) the beat that drove me to this mix returns and is my favorite part of this track. Enjoy.
June 20, 2013
Nintendo eShop Update: Luigi and Mega Man lead the charge
The year of Luigi, as Nintendo is dubbing 2013, hit it’s major title today with New Super Luigi U hitting the Wii U eShop. New Super Luigi U is DLC for New Super Mario Bros. U in which you play only as Luigi through 80+ new levels. The DLC will run you $19.99 and will require New Super Mario Bros. U to play. There will, however, be a standalone version of the DLC, and it will hit retail for a limited time this August. The standalone disc will run you $29.99, but comes in a limited green packaging. I have my heart set on the green packaging and will be picking it up later this summer, the packaging (pictured above) is just awesome and must be on my bookshelf. Also hitting the Wii U eShop on the 23rd, is the latest in the Wario Ware series, Game & Wario. Game & Wario will be available to download at midnight the night of the 22nd and the game will run you $39.99. The newest 30 cent Virtual Console title is also available. Yoshi is available for 30 cents from now until July 11th. The final game in the promotion will be Donkey Kong (NES) and will be available on July 15th. Speaking of the Virtual Console, lets check out what is hitting both the 3DS and Wii U. First the Wii U is getting the original Mario Bros. and Wrecking Crew. Wrecking Crew is an interesting title that I never had the chance to play until I got it as part of the Ambassador Program. Both titles will run you $4.99 and come with all the new Wii U VC features. The 3DS continues to pile on the Mega Man classic titles and this week we see one of my favorites Mega Man 6. Mega Man 6, was not really know for its robot masters, in fact, Plant Man is seen as one of the worst. Despite this, Mega Man 6 does see Rush helping Mega Man in the coolest of ways by transforming into a jet pack and power suit. Mega Man 6 will run you $4.99. Making their debut a few weeks ago, the eShop has been receiving Sega Game Gear titles on the Virtual Console. This week we get the additions of Sonic Blast and Tail’s Adventure. Sonic Blast has Sonic and Knuckles teaming up to stop Dr. Eggman while Tail’s Adventure has Sonic’s sidekick flying off on his own quest filled with 12 unique levels. Sonic Blast will run you $3.99 and Tail’s Adventure will run you $4.99. I like that Sega is bringing these titles back, the Game Gear is a handheld I never owned and would love to play some of the popular titles I never got to try. For everything here and anything that I didn’t cover head over to the Official Nintendo Page.
June 20, 2013
PlayStation Network Update: Jak and Daxter head to the Vita
I appologize for this being a day late. Yesterday was a mad house of running around and then the Microsoft bomb shell that was dropped late yesterday afternoon, I just didn’t have time to post this. But I am making in up by posting this first thing today. There is plenty for both PS3 and Vita users this week as we see the release of two Vita titles on the PSN and we see yet anther fantastic title hit the PS+ Instant Game Collection. Hitting in full downloadable form this week is Disney’s Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two finally shows up on the Vita, the game will run you $29.99. The Jak and Daxter Collection that has been sitting on the PS3 for some time now heads over the Vita. You can pick the title up for $26.99, the game is also available for PlayStation 3 and I snatched a copy at my local Target a week or so ago for $14.99. The collection includes Jak & Daxter: The Precursor Legacy, Jak 2, and Jak 3, all of which I have never played (yes you can rag on me for not playing these awesome games), but I do plan on playing through them very soon. There is a new collection available on the PSN for the PlayStation 3 consisting of a ultimate Sonic the Hedgehog collection. The collection will run you $29.99 but comes with an astonishing 9 titles plus the more recent Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episodes 1&2. Here is the list below:
Sonic Adventure DX Upgrade
Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 DLC
Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic The Hedgehog 2
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1
Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2
All those titles for $29.99 is a great deal. Typically you would pay that for both of the Sonic 4 episodes. There are two games that I would have included in this pack to really make it complete, Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. If you are going to include two of the four Genesis titles, why not include the last two that are equally as great? Anyway, if you do download the bundle, give Sonic CD a try, it is still considered the definitive Sonic title. For you PlayStation Plus members you get one of my more recent favorite sandbox games, Saint’s Row: The Third. This open world title may resemble Grand Theft Auto, but goes in the opposite direction and does not take itself seriously. Jumping off random buildings and pulling your parachute at the last minute is a blast and there are tons of over the top set pieces to entertain you while you are playing the story. The game can be finished with a co-op partner, so if you or any of your PS+ friends are looking for a fun co-op game, look no further. For those who play Uncharted 3’s multiplayer, there is new items for you to buy as well as new tournament prizes that will continue though out the summer. If you have never played Uncharted 3’s multiplayer, everyone is eligible for the tournaments. You get 10 tournament tickets that are refreshed weekly, and if you want to purchase more you can. For everything here and anything that I didn’t cover you can head over to the Official PlayStation Blog to check out the whole list.
Microsoft announced today via Xbox Wire, that they are backing off of the online restrictions for the Xbox One. The Xbox One came out of E3 with some very negative feed back. The policies in question were the every 24 hour online check in and the DRM policies where games could only be lent to 10 online friends plus pay a license fee for used games. Sony addressed these issues with the PlayStation 4 at their press event openly stating that the PS4 will not have a persistent online check and the way you play used games will be how you play them on your PlayStation 3. This backed Microsoft into a corner, do they take the black mark and stick with their polices or do they finally deal with them publicly and change the fate of the Xbox One. They have changed their policies as of today. The Xbox One will require an initial internet connection to set the console up after that games will run as normal like they do on the 360. The games will not be restricted any more as well, you can play, trade, borrow, or sell games just like you do know. The choice to try and go digital is not something I can blame Microsoft for, I see what they were trying to accomplish. Publishers and developers don’t see anything from used game sales, digital downloads maybe the future as well, we have seen that with the PC. Though we have seen this with the PC it was not an easy transition nor was it widely popular at first. I think we will see a transition to digital this coming generation, but it has to be natural and not forced like Microsoft was trying to do. Now that these policies have been removed it will be interesting to see how this will effect the perception of the box and the Xbox brand. This also brings into question the games, like Forza Motorsport 5, that were going to use the “always connected cloud computing” for things such as A.I. and persistent worlds. There are more questions that need to be answered surrounding the things they already announced that will be effected by this change of heart. A day one update will be required for these new policies to take effect, but once that is done, you can use the console like you use your 360. What are your thoughts and reactions, this changes almost everything going into the fall launch, does this sway you away from the PlayStation 4 or Wii U or does it keep your pre-order untouched? You can check out Microsoft’s response on Xbox Wire, right here.
It that time where the dust from E3 settles and we are back to our daily lives waiting in anticipation for the fall, while waiting out the summer drought. There are a few things to get excited for this week including DLC for Gears of War: Judgment and s huge Pop Cap and Sega Sale. Lost Relics is the newest DLC for Gears of War: Judgement and most fans have written this game off, but with this DLC I wouldn’t do so just yet. Yes the price is a bit high, for those with out the season pass it will run you 1000 MP next week (it is just out for season pass holders this week) but the new game mode Breakthrough, is quite fun and could spring life back into its community. Breakthrough is a simple attack and defend game mode that plays well on the more multi-tier maps that are in Judgment. I have yet to play any of the new maps, there are four included (Checkout from Gears 3 makes a return) and there is one specifically for Overrun. There are plenty of Pop Cap arcade titles that are on sale this week but there is one glaring omission, Peggle. Below is the list and pricing of each title:
400 (50% off)
200 (50% off)
200 (50% off)
Feeding Frenzy 2
400 (50% off)
600 (50% off)
200 (50% off)
Bejeweled Blitz Live
200 (50% off)
400 (50% off)
400 (50% off)
To compliment this sale there is also a Sega publisher sale that includes some Games on Demand titles as well as Arcade titles and add-on’s. There are some great deals like Condemned: Criminal Origins and Sonic Generations each hitting the 800 MP ($9.99) mark. Arcade titles such as Virtua Fighter 5: Final Showdown, NIGHTS: Into Dreams, and Jet Set Radio are as low as 400 MP ($5). Please check it out, there are some great titles and may Dreamcast greats that you may have missed. There is also demos for NCAA Football 14 and Painkiller: Hell & Damnation. The NCAA demo should be up as of the time of this writing, I read there was some backlash when the demo wasn’t included with the 5 A.M update. I didn’t know there was that much demand for college football. Growing up just outside of Pittsburgh, college football was never a call for excitement because we had the Steelers playing on Sunday. Well for you college fans, it should be there. For everything I covered and anything I didn’t, head over to the Official Xbox page.
Last week during E3, we found out several details about Sony and Microsoft’s next generation consoles. We were told everything from price, launch windows, and even the price of these new controllers we will be using. Each of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers will retail for $59.99. That is $5 and $10, respectively, above their predecessors and while with new hardware we typically see a rise in price of input devices because they have grown in either tech or functionality. The PS4 controller will have a added light bar, built in speaker, a headset input, and a touch pad that has the ability to be “clicked” in much like an analog stick. The Xbox One will have the comfort and feel of the 360 pad, with triggers that have rumble feedback, and a less intrusive battery pack. It’s that last feature that still gets me, less intrusive battery pack, is this 2005? The Xbox 360 ushered in the era of wireless controllers as a standard right out of the box. The Wii had wireless as well (well due to the design there was no other option) and the PlayStation 3’s original wafer that was the Sixaxis, came wireless as well. Both of the PS3 controllers, the Sixaxis and later the Dualshock 3, came with a in controller housed battery. The battery was integrated into the controller, eliminating battery packs or complicated charge and play kits. Some could argue that this is a bad idea and you have to send it into Sony to get a new battery or throw away the controller and spend $54.99 on a new one. I would then have to argue that my $54.99 Dualshock 3, which I bought back in 2008 when they launched, and after years of ample use, still works like it came out of the package. The Xbox 360 went a different route with a standard AA battery compartment and selling rechargeable battery packs at a separate cost to the consumer. Now granted, those were only $20 to pick up and they came with a battery pack and a charging cable, but the life you got from them was no where near what I have received from my DS3. With this new generation of consoles, I was expecting integrated batteries across the board. Nintendo struck first with the Wii U and the larger Gamepad came with an integrated battery, though the charge span can vary between 3-5 hours. The console came with a charging cable and if you bought the deluxe set, a charging cradle as well. The PlayStation 4’s new controller the Dualshock 4 will have a integrated battery that charges via USB 3.0 and a micro USB charger will be in the box. The Xbox One will not have this. The Xbox One controller does have a more receded compartment but will not let go of the AA batteries. Above is the new charge and play kit from Microsoft. There is no retail for this kit yet, but if there are any indications from the previous set up, it will run you somewhere between $20-$30. Now I am not saying all of this to pick a fight with Xbox One supporters or choose sides. I am saying this as a consumer. Why am I going to pay $59.99 for a controller, then sell out extra money for batteries (whether they be disposables, rechargeable, or a Charge and Play kit) when the competition is charging the same and giving me more? This just feels like a antiquated business practice that has no real application any more. 5 years my Dualshock 3 has lasted and I still get 20+ hours out of it’s battery, my 360 battery packs may make it just over a year with my latest only garnering about 8 hours of play time. I understand making these input devices takes a lot of man power and time. They are though out, and planned to be what we use for years, but I feel somewhere during the Xbox One’s controller timeline someone infused it with a rechargeable battery, and a higher up said yank it. The Xbox One Charge and Play kit will be on sale alongside the launch of the Xbox One this November. There will also be a special controller + Charge and Play kit, I don’t know if that is the $59.99 controller or will run you extra.
June 14, 2013
Super Mario 3d World is the game I wanted at Launch
The Wii U did launch with a Mario title, New Super Mario Bros. U, but after seeing the newest Mario title in action I would have rather had this at launch than what we received. Now I am not saying New Super Mario Bros. U is bad by any means because it isn’t. It has wonderful level design, it looks fantastic, and finally brings back the sprawling map from Super Mario World. The concept behind the New Super Mario Bros. series is starting to fatigue on me. The series was introduced back on the DS and proved that the classic 2D Mario mechanics can work when drawn in 3D. The “New” series has seen a Wii iteration, a sequel on the 3DS, and the latest iteration that launched along side the Wii U. The 2D platforming is great in all of them, don’t get me wrong, butt after playing the superb Galaxy series and Super Mario 3D land on the 3DS, I am kind of over the 2D nostalgia factor that comes along with the “New” series and prefer the 3D Mario platforming. This December, Nintendo is introducing the first 3D Mario action title to the Wii U in the form of Super Mario 3D World. The game will have four characters and will support up to 4 players, but there is something interesting they are doing with the characters. There will be Mario (who will act normally), Luigi (who will have his flutter jump), Peach (that will levitate for a few seconds) and Toad (who is faster than the other characters). This is something we have not seen since Super Mario Bros. 2 and it’s a nice piece of nostalgia Nintendo is throwing in. We are also getting a new suit in the mix of things, the cat suit. Mario’s dabble into the world of furies has led him to become a cuddly kitty, that has the ability to climb certain walls and look down right adorable. I would have loved to have this game at launch and had them push back New Super Mario Bros. U to this holiday instead, but I know why they did what they did. Unfortunately on the Wii, New Super Mario Bros. outsold the Galaxy series despite the Galaxy series being superior. They wanted to bring that 2D Mario nostalgia to sell the first wave of consoles and did an admiral job at it. Like I said earlier, I don’t hate the “New” series, it is a fun time and especially in the Wii U iteration, some of the level design is top notch; it’s just ever since Mario 64, I prefer Mario in the third dimension. I will be nabbing this come December and like the Galaxy series and 3D Land, I will be putting ample time into this one. Super Mario 3D World will be out this December only on the Wii U.
Killzone has been the prize jewel in the PS3 crown for delivering some of the best visuals this side of a PC. The Killzone series started with the original trying to be Sony’s Halo killer FPS, but did an admiral job of providing an interesting enemy, but never did catch on to halt the Halo juggernaut. Killzone 2 & 3 proved to be much improved over the their predecessor and really showed what the PS3 hardware was capable of. Killzone: Shadow Fall is a prequel to the Killzone trilogy showing how the ISA and Helghast came to be the best of friends (sarcasm). The game is gorgeous and looks to be the PS4 killer app right off the bat. The PS3 had Resistance, which at the time was an untested franchise, but was a decent dab into the FPS by Insomniac. With Killzone, we have a proven franchise, a proven developer with FPS’s (Guerrilla Games), could make it a very viable pick up with your new console. Check out the host of screens and the latest E3 trailer. How does it look to you? I know a certain person that writes for this site that when he pre-ordered his PS4, Killzone was his top choice for a launch title. Killzone: Shadow Fall will be out this fall as a launch title for the PlayStation 4.