E3 2014 Overview

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Whoo, buddy. E3 2014 was my first time to the big show, and what a show it was. All three companies came out swinging with solid showings, highlighting a variety of titles that seem to have a great deal of potential. For Sony, I found myself most interested in their reveal of LittleBigPlanet 3 and Uncharted 4 (though I’m really hoping that installment isn’t the end of the line for the series). Microsoft wowed me with its Master Chief Collection. That’s the sort of fan service that I’ve only ever seen come from a company like Nintendo, but I don’t think even its ever done anything as ambitious as what Microsoft is attempting. Nintendo, though, ran away with the show, as far as I’m concerned. Nearly every game on its show floor was a must-have, and the lineup was packed with both familiar faces and pleasant surprises. All in all, Nintendo had the complete package, and it was very apparent.

So, here’s looking forward to the rest of this year and beyond, and please check out my little gallery of pics, below!

 

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Intermission

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Getting tired of the semi-hiatus here at Retro(spective)? (All five of you, I mean). Me, too! I did warn everyone though, so I’m not losing too much sleep over it, but still, nothing worse than dead air. What can I say, school has been a beast lately, Nintendojo (which you all should be reading) always has something percolating, and well, I can’t write about games if I don’t play them! Summer approaches, though, so expect things to start getting livelier as we move deeper into June.

Mario Kart 8 will be getting the old review treatment, and expect the same for Tomodachi Life, too. Beyond that, E3 is going to be huge. What I don’t post for Nintendojo will be here, so look forward to hands-on time with whatever amazingness lies in wait for this year’s show. I’d also like to point out, Retro(spective)’s one year anniversary is also fast approaching! Maybe I’ll… give something away in celebration! Exciting times await, dear readers! I hope you’ll all be along for the ride.

Titanfall Shouldn’t Go Annual

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Call of Duty, love or hate it, is king of sales in the FPS market. Every year, fans lineup outside of GameStops and Walmarts across the country to get hold of the latest installment of the series. While the campaigns remain fairly engrossing from title to title, the real draw of CoD is its immersive online multiplayer. In the wake of CoD’s juggernaut momentum, many developers and publishers have done their best to enter the fray with a game to counter Activision’s darling. There have been a handful of games that can claim to compare, most notably EA’s Battlefield series, but overall CoD is in a league of its own. At least, it was, until Titanfall came out.

Another EA property, Titanfall is, for all intents and purposes, CoD with mechs. It’s a crude analogy, and recent converts are quick to point out the myriad of differences that separate the two games, but it’s the simplest way of summing up what makes Titanfall unique. Reaction to the game has been overwhelmingly positive, and there’s already quite a bit of rumbling about a sequel. I have no problem with seeing another Titanfall game make its way to the world, but if the title is truly primed to be a CoD contender, I don’t think it needs to follow the same sales model.

This is the first year that I haven’t gotten into the latest installment of a CoD game. Ghosts felt like a genuine step backwards compared to Black Ops II, so I’ve been sticking with the older game, instead. If Activision were still releasing map packs for the title, I’d be downloading them, but under CoD’s current structuring, each installment only gets a year’s worth of support, then it’s on to the next. I think Titanfall might benefit from adopting a sales plan different from CoD. People are having a lot of fun with this first installment of the series, and it also doesn’t have a single-player component, so I say put the next sequel out two years from now and in the interim support the current game with DLC.

I honestly think that fans would have no problem with CoD not being annual and just paying for new maps. I’m certainly tired of paying a minimum of $60 for the game followed by another $60 for map packs over a year. The value just isn’t there, at that price. Titanfall, though, is already luring people with its epic gameplay, so it would seem smart to ensnare them a little further with the proposition of not having to invest $120 a year just to play. Frankly, it would be refreshing to know that the $60 buy-in for the game will allow a player to stay current without as much expense over a two year period. It’s not like it doesn’t cost money to create a yearly installment of any game, either; this model would allow the devs to stretch their resources further.

It’s unlikely EA can resist the temptation of going toe-to-toe with CoD on a yearly basis, but it would be nice to see something different come from the industry. Titanfall is bringing something new to the FPS genre with its gameplay, so I don’t see why the same can’t be said for how its sold. I think there’s a great deal of discontent amongst CoD fans over having to adapt to a new multiplayer experience every single year at $60 a pop; Titanfall can be the change we’ve all been looking for.

 

E3 Anticipation

It’s only March, but I can’t help but think about E3 2014 and how very close it is. Soon, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft will be promoting their newest games (and maybe hardware!) for the world to see, but half the fun is guessing what those reveals might be! Here are five things I’m looking forward to seeing at E3 2014!

5) Halo 5

Last year’s demo built hype, certainly, but it seems likely that we’ll finally get a true glimpse at Halo 5 this E3. Or Halo something-or-other, because Microsoft has been coy about committing to the traditional numbering from the Xbox and Xbox 360 days. Taking a cue from the comic book companies and trying to ditch “intimidating” high numbers on its boxes might be Microsoft’s goal (which sucks), but no matter what Halo 5 is ultimately called won’t mean a thing if the game can’t maintain the high quality the series is known for. Given how embraced Halo 4 was, I think it’s a safe bet that Halo 5 will be just fine. That being said… what comes next for Master Chief?! I’m torn whether I want to see something radically different or more of the same, awesome Halo gameplay we all know and love.

4) New Vita IP

I don’t care what anyone says, Tearaway was an amazing game that played to Vita’s strengths. It was as charming as LittleBigPlanet and a breath of fresh air regardless of platform. I’d love to see a sequel make its way to Vita (or even PS4), but I’d also like to see some more, original IPs head to the handheld, preferably straight from Sony itself. PSP brought the world the wonderful Patapon and Loco Roco series (which need Vita sequels, like, NOW), and I’m curious what other sorts of unique, fun handheld games Sony has up its sleeve.

3) Mega Man

It’s just sad that fans have been waiting years now for a true, new Mega Man game from Capcom, but that’s the world we live in, folks. With all the attention that Mighty No.9 has been (justly) receiving, it would be foolish of Capcom not to capitalize on the Blue Bomber. There’s room for both series in the world, and maybe now would be a good time to unveil a Mega Man title to create some friendly competition between Comcept and Capcom. Fans would be the winners, in the end, no matter what! Just to geek out a bit, here, but after the Worlds Collide crossover between the Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog comics by the folks at Archie, I’d love to play a video game with the two characters. The comic was fun and introduced some weapons concepts that would be awesome to see in action!

2) New Nintendo Hardware

I’m thinking that Nintendo will either reveal a new variation of the Wii U hardware or a redesigned 3DS. As far as Wii U goes, I don’t foresee a full-blown redesign, but I can picture Nintendo either doing something to make the system differentiate itself more from the original Wii, or offer models with way more memory or a slimmer GamePad. A redesigned 3DS is probably the safer bet here. The base model 3DS remains the weak link of the three versions of the handheld, with low battery life and some clunky design choices (I’m looking at you, Home/Pause/Select buttons!). As it stands now, the 3DS is the middle child and not all that appealing. I’d be pretty happy to see Nintendo put out a new model that’s reminiscent of the XL’s design, with rounded edges, better buttons, slightly bigger screens, and longer battery life. Make it ultra thin, and it would be pretty dang cool.

1) New Zelda

This is a foregone conclusion, as Nintendo has already confirmed we’ll be seeing the first glimpse of the next installment of Zelda, but no one knows what it’s going to be like. Realistic graphics? Toony? A middle ground like Skyward? Will the waggle be back? Where in the timeline is it going to fall? So many questions! Just talking about it gets me excited, and with the incredibly fun and gorgeous games that Wii U has already graced us with, I know that the next Zelda is going to be amazing. I just want to know more about it!

A handful of predictions/guesses, but here’s hoping that some of them come true! Until then, I should probably get to actually finishing a bit of the mountainous backlog of games I have piling up. Till next time!

Overlooked Games of Last Gen

It’s easy to overlook that backlog of games many of us have with Wii U, PS4, and XBox One providing a whole new assortment of titles to play. Even easer, though, is to forget the games that weren’t spotlight stealers even when Wii, XBox 360, and PS3 were in their prime. Let’s look back on some great, overlooked titles that many people might have missed back in the day!

Spyborgs | Wii | 2009

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Brawlers can be a tricky nut to crack, and not everyone’s idea of the perfect slugfest is always going to mesh with other people, but I really had fun with Spyborgs. The graphics were polished and vibrant on Wii, and the controls were solid. Pummeling foes was smooth and satisfying, as the best beat ’em ups should be, and I had a soft spot for the over the top heroes Clandestine, Bouncer, and Stinger. It’s also a good co-op game for those wanting some buddy time on Wii!

Z.H.P. Unlosing Ranger VS Darkdeath Evilman | PSP | 2010

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PSP might not have quite the library of games that Nintendo’s DS does, but that doesn’t mean the system is devoid of overlooked gems. Unlosing Ranger is one of them, a sort of cooky tactical RPG filled with character and excellent combat. A lot of common convention of the RTS subgenre of RPGs were thrown out of the window for this game, making it much more accessible to a wider variety of players. Plus, it’s pretty and funny! At the same time! Nice.

Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands | PS3/XBox 360 | 2010

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The aptly-named Forgotten Sands remains an under-sung highpoint of the franchise.  Excellent play mechanics complemented the game’s immersive, sweeping visuals, and, with its engaging story, made it a real can’t-miss experience. Except, quite a few people did, and the Prince has been MIA ever since. Don’t let this collect dust when you pass it in a GameStop; it’s easily worth your time if you enjoyed The Sands of Time.

Alice: Madness Returns | PS3/XBox 360 | 2011

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This is a title that was really failed by reviewers. The narrative was creepy, dark, and gripping, which isn’t easy for a lot of games. It didn’t hurt that combat was a blast and the psychedelic, intricate visuals were wonderful eye candy. This is a game that has to be played to be appreciated. Keep your eyes peeled for shout outs to other video game series while you play!

Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective | Nintendo DS | 2011

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It’s absolute murder that this game didn’t sell better. Ghost Trick remains at the very least an equal to the Phoenix Wright series, with clever writing, beautiful visuals, and a nice twist ending. The play controls put a wonderful spin on the visual novel genre, while the character animations are something else. People who complain that the video game industry doesn’t experiment enough should slap themselves if they never picked this one up.

Honorable Mention- Klonoa: Door to Phantomile | Wii | 2009

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The Klonoa games in general don’t get enough love, but this Wii remake of the PlayStation original was a standout experience. Its 2.5D gameplay is as fun now as it was when it debuted, mixing 2D platforming with 3D environments. It’s cutesy, but that’s no crime, and shouldn’t be a deterrent to anyone who wants a solid platformer. Seek out the Game Boy Advance titles, too!

There are lost of overlooked games waiting to be played; go get your hands on some today!

Thoughts on XBox One and PS4 Launch

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Besides a crippling lack of cash, I didn’t see any reason to jump on board with PS4 and XBox One just yet. Aside from lackluster launch lineups, there are always problems with new hardware. Something overheats, a disc try shoots out like a bullet, and a thousand other nasty little glitches rear their heads in the early days of every console launch, and PS4 and One have been no exception. Sometimes, there are systems that dance between the raindrops, but for the most part there are growing pains aplenty to contend with as an early adopter.

That begs the question, though, of why anyone would take the risk, especially when console prices are at their peak for a launch. It’s simple; there’s nothing quite like snagging a new console right when it comes out. Every box is its own world to explore, with interfaces to learn, controllers to experiment with, and a slew of features to become familiar with. When I got my Wii U a year ago, I was thrilled standing in line with other Nintendo fans, knowing that we’d all be going home and discovering the system’s new intricacies. It’s not often you can get that many like-minded video game players in the same room!

A sense of community isn’t uncommon in the world of video games, but fans are certainly often limited by the digital confines of the medium. Some people can boast about having hundreds of friends across their various consoles, but how often they actually see and interact face to face with any of them is another story. Console launches are one of those rare opportunities to meet other gamers in person and talk about their favorite pastime. One of these days, someone is going to see that there’s money to be made in creating a place for gamers to meet, play games, and enjoy one another’s company, but that’s a blog for another day.

While Sony and Microsoft will eventually work out all the kinks, there’s no denying that, so far, both companies have quite a bit to celebrate this Christmas. It’s a good sign for the industry, as pundits are hellbent on proclaiming consoles a dying medium of entertainment. Fans have come out in droves to prove them wrong, but hopefully this outpouring of affection will be as perpetual as it is passionate. If it does, maybe fans can look forward to the PS5 and XBox Two in the future. Whatever system you’ve chosen to plant your flag behind, happy gaming, and Happy Thanksgiving. I might pop in tomorrow, but if I don’t, be safe out there, Retro(readers).

How the PS4 Changed the Game

With the bevy of Sony news for both the PS4 and Vita in recent months, it’s hard to deny that the PlayStation brand is experiencing a bit of a renaissance. Things quickly unraveled for Sony after the launch of the PS3, with the overpriced system succumbing to the much more consumer friendly XBox 360. Sony spent the better part of the first half of the PS3’s lifespan trying to maintain a facade of control, when in reality their overbearing attitude had driven away the very fanbase they’d so masterfully cultivated with the PlayStation and PS2. The universe does have a way of eventually balancing things out, however, and it finally did in the form of the XBox One. In a twist of fate, the same mistakes Sony made years ago are being repeated by Microsoft, leaving Sony with the chance to reclaim the top of the heap once more.

Let’s face it, before and after the PS3 launch, Sony looked awfully big-headed. An obnoxious E3 presentation combined with a hefty price left consumers scratching their heads and wondering where PS2 Sony had wandered off to. Fun and games had given way to “computers” and statistics. As more of Sony’s share of the pie got eaten up by Nintendo and the upstart 360, the PlayStation brand’s place in the industry had become suspect. Flash forward a few years, though, and something amazing happened; Sony became humble.

The XBox One was lambasted following its reveal, with gamers incensed over the need for a constant internet connection, used game restrictions, and an over-emphasis on non-gaming features. Suddenly, Microsoft were the oblivious corporate stooges, leaving Sony with a choice; follow suit and share the hate, or do something completely unprecedented. In a move that shocked everyone, Sony decided to embrace the very fans they shunned back in 2006 by taking their side. Instead of shooting for bushels of extra cash and multimedia dominance, the PS4 burst through the gates as the very thing the PS3 pretended to not be; a gaming console.

Sure, the PS4 has a bevy of multimedia features, but Sony made sure fans knew right off the bat that the games were the focus of this new console. In another stunning maneuver, Sony outright slapped Microsoft in the face by declaring that the PS4 would neither have restrictive used game policies or the need for a constant internet connection. Putting this in perspective, Sony’s leadership essentially decided (in terms of the used games policy) to turn down a revenue stream in order to woo fans back into their fold. Wow. In a world driven by profits, it was quite the revelation to see a company be so forward thinking as to forego quick cash in favor of good will.

Clearly, there’s a whole slew of business tactics and so forth that went into Sony’s PS4 plans, but there’s no mistaking humility when it’s obviously on display. Sony screwed up with the PS3 and are finally admitting it with the PS4. Putting the focus back on games, acknowledging the needs of players both here and abroad, and frankly taking the strut out of their stride have put the ball back into Sony’s court. Factor in the potential revitalization of the Vita, which itself suffered from “PS3 syndrome”, and PlayStation has a real shot at returning to dominance.

Touching on the Vita for a moment, if anyone needs further proof of Sony’s attitude change, the recent price drops for the system and memory cards is a perfect example. The PS4 isn’t even out yet, but the positive reaction from loyal and lapsed fans around the world was so powerful that Sony decided to acknowledge the whole spectrum of complaints levied against them. It’s unheard of that a videogame company would take its fans concerns so seriously and that can only be a good thing for Sony in the long run. The Vita is a wholly competent handheld that shouldn’t be struggling as badly as it has been; if it can pick up the pace, it will only serve to reconfirm that Sony is on the right track with this new self-image.

Time is the ultimate arbiter of all, so it’s going to be a stretch before we find out if the PS4 wins out against the One (and the Wii U!). Regardless of the outcome, I find it truly heartening that Sony has at least made the effort to satisfy fans and bring some luster back to their name. Making the PS4 more accessible can only be a good thing for gamers, as there are already enough hurdles keeping more people from embracing videogames. Microsoft might have reversed the controversial policies that Sony capitalized upon, but the very sour taste they left in everyone’s mouths are going to take a long time to go away. As a result, Sony is in the best place its been in years and I’m excited to see what happens.