Friday, August 31, 2012

[EDITORIAL] What Nintendo Needs to Do With the Wii U; Thrice

If you caught the subtle music reference, good on you.

In this third installment, we're all about how you interact with the Wii U, primarily, the GamePad. We're gearing up for the September 13 conference Nintendo is holding. History has shown that Nintendo loves September announcements for pricing/availability for their upcoming systems, so expect this day to be the day we learn how much of a hit our credit cards are to take.

The biggest hurdle that Nintendo has in this generation, asides from not knowing a fucking thing that Sony and Microsoft are doing, is convincing people - customers and developers - that the GamePad is worth the investment. The GamePad, in itself, is an amalgamation of various technology knick-knacks we've grown accustomed to over the years. One part tablet, one part controller, squeeze in some social networking, add a touch of NFC (Near-Field Communication), and you've got a clusterfuck of gizmos.

By and large, it's main goal is to be a controller. In reality, it's nothing more than a gigantic, single-screened DS. Think about it: your TV would be the top screen, delivering the goodies to your noodle, while the controller's screen - a touch enabled screen, mind you - is where you interact with the game, with menu inputs, maps, inventory management...all the shit we've seen in DS games over the past 8 years. If the GamePad is allowing you to play the Wii U games on the controller, what's the point of the 3DS?

Between the 3DS, the GamePad, and the Wii U, cross-play gaming should be a no-brainer. Sega, of all companies, started the whole cross-play aspect with the Dreamcast and the Visual Memory Unit (or the VMU); sadly, it didn't catch on like it should have, as the technology then was severely limiting it. Then, Nintendo caught on with the GameCube and the GameBoy Advance, and the connection using the Link Cable; this was a hindrance, as some games (such as Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles) didn't suggest using the GBA, it was almost forced. Next up to the plate was Sony, and while the PSP was a great move forward with interlinking home console and portable system, the Vita is where it took off, as your game saves could go back and forth, making the Vita a true "portable PlayStation", despite some severe limitations. Where Sega started, Nintendo innovated, and Sony took on full-force.

* * *

A fantastic idea.
Also, the worst infographic ever.
The Vita, despite having sluggish sales and a poor library thus far (with a few gems), the connection there between it and the PS3 is fairly remarkable. I recently picked up WipEout 2048 on the Vita, but only after it was announced that WipEout HD's content was going to be a free download for anyone who owns both versions. It was a great step forward for the cross-compatibility, but there are huge hurdles that need to be gotten rid of. Main point? Why the fuck do I need to own a copy on both systems in order to bring it over? Much like Digital Copy and Ultraviolet for DVDs, or even ripping my CDs to my computer and dumping them on my iPhone, why in the name of fuck can't I get a digital download of the Vita version if I buy the PS3 version? Thankfully, Sony has recently unveiled their Cross Buy platform at Gamescom, where if you buy the PS3 version, you get the Vita version for free. They've yet to detail the program - Can I buy the Vita version and get the PS3 verison? Is it a digital version of the Vita game? - but Sony has some big games lined up for the service, and is definitely a welcomed addition.

[REVIEW] Darksiders II

Darksiders II
Release Date: August 14, 2012
System Reviewed: Xbox 360
Plays Like: The Legend of Zelda, God of War, Prince of Persia

What's Great: The combat has gotten much better, as your magical prowess is expanded, and the abilities you can use are actually worthwhile. The magical abilities are far more useful than the crap that War had, as these abilities grow on with one another in the skill tree. The game world definitely feels larger, especially with the different realms that you do visit; they rarely feel like "mirror worlds" of one another. Having Despair (your horse) from the very beginning is so goddamned welcome after the debacle that was the first game. 

What's (Not So) Great: The GUI and the gun. Learning that the UI team was fired back in March only helps to aid my hatred for the menus. It's generic, it's old, it's terrible to look at. It works (hardly), but it's ugly. The worst offender in the menus are the stats. If I'm looking at changing my gear around, why is it showing what the numbers are going up to rather than what they going up by? 

For example, let's say I have a cowl equipped that grants an additional 20 point of Defense. If I find another shoulder piece that's better, but doesn't offer that much added Defense, it shouldn't be showing "16", but rather "▼4", as in the new piece of equipment is dropping 4 points; this makes it seem like you're dropping 16 points of added Defense, but it means it's dropping to an increase of 16 points. This forces you to go to the currently equipped item, memorize it's stats, then go back, and see if it's worth the minus 4 points for the added 5% gilt drop. There's also the issue that some item stats actually don't appear when viewing another item. Having a gauntlet that grants an extra 5% Experience is great, but when you see a better one that gives a whole bunch of stuff but added Experience, show me that the extra Experience rate is being removed, rather than not show it at all.

What should have happened was show the stats of the currently selected item, then the stats of the currently equipped item, and compare stats between the two. You know, like every other fucking RPG out there. THQ axing the entire UI team 5 months before the release was a detriment, because it's evident that a programmer finalized the touches, and not a graphic designer; it's functional, but ugly as sin.

Bottom Line: Looking back at my time with the first Darksiders, I thoroughly enjoyed the game, but it had the little annoyances that bugged me. Two and a half years later, THQ delivers with a promising sequel, not only making the game feel richer, but the nuances I had discovered were calmed. Was every issue I had fixed? No, not quite; matter of fact, with a new RPG system, there arises several issues. However, Darksiders II is a worthy sequel, and, with THQ this close to going under, I hope that we see more entries in the series.

Grade: B

(Rented the game from GameFly, finishing the game on Normal difficulty. Never went too far out of my way for tokens or non-essentials, but if there was a treasure chest, you can bet your ass I went after it. Obtained 33 Achievements worth 530 GamerScore over 17.5 hours.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

DmC Reboot Get It's Box Art

On the Devil May Cry Facebook page, Capcom has unveiled the box art for the I-Don't-Like-White-Hair reboot.

It's sad there are still people out there that, simply because Dante's hair is a different color, they refuse to play the game. Dante's hair was still white in Devil May Cry 2, and you people still played it, despite being horrible.

I can't wait to play DmC, purely because I enjoy Ninja Theory's games. Despite never actually finishing Heavenly Sword, I enjoyed it, and Enslaved was a fantastic fucking game.

Skyrim's Second Expansion, Hearthfire, Officially Announced; Arrives In One Week

Well, we had our fun at speculation, but Bethesda dropped in this announcement video for Skyrim's next expansion, Hearthfire. No, it's not quite what you'd expect, as this is far from what Dawnguard was.

From their YouTube page:

"With this official add-on to The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, you can purchase land and build your own home from the ground up - from a simple one-room cottage to a sprawling compound complete with an armory, alchemy laboratory, stable, garden, and more. Use all-new tools like the drafting table and carpenter's workbench to transform quarried stone, clay, and sawn logs into structures and furnishings. Even transform your house into a home by adopting children."

 Yes, we're going to be able to adopt kids. Unless I can use them as followers and send them to battle a dragon, no thanks.

Hearthfire hits Xbox LIVE on September 4th for the measly price of 400 MSP (that's $5 in real money).

Monday, August 27, 2012

[EDITORIAL] What Nintendo Needs to Do With the Wii U; Part Deux

Here's part two of my mass-editorial I will be publishing, focusing on Nintendo, the Wii U, and just how plausible its success really is, leading up to the conference they're holding on September 13. History has shown that Nintendo loves September announcements for pricing/availability for their upcoming systems, so expect this day to be the day we learn how much of a hit our credit cards are to take.

A powerful system cannot be the only crutch Nintendo can lean on. They need help, and they need to make people know they're still innovating. Sadly, their own innovation may be their own downfall, as others are quick on their heels, even before they get out the door...

Since the GameCube, Nintendo has been showing its age. When the Wii launched, many gave Nintendo hell, referring to it as the "GameCube 1.5", as it didn't have the technical glitz nor glamour as the Xbox 360 or the PS3; it was only slightly more powerful than the Xbox. Yes, the GameCube could do [insert advantage here] and the PS2 could do [insert another one here], but the Xbox was often regarded as the powerhouse of the last generation.

Despite the lack of power, the Wii held its own while completely ignoring HDMI and (at the very least) 720p, two modern entertainment staples. Microsoft even caught itself in a fault, and added HDMI to the Xbox 360 mid-life-cycle, something fans and critics alike had hoped for in a revised Wii HD. Regardless, Nintendo skipped the revision and came full force with the Wii U (much like how they skipped on bringing the Wii Remote to the GameCube and made it less of an afterthought and more of the main attraction), including many missed opportunities the Wii left behind. It has been reported by third parties that the Wii U will be drastically underpowered compared to the Xbox Next and PS4/Orbis; Epic says that Unreal Engine 4-powered games won't find life on the Wii U past the first generation without being severely dumbed down.

Best joke ever!
Image credit:
Fortunately, that may not be the case...

A recent report from BGR says that the Xbox Next (or Durango; what have you) will be running an eight-core CPU with 8 GB of RAM. Despite this sounding fairly powerful, this same report puts it at six times more powerful than the 360. If this report is true - which I'm taking it with the largest grain of salt known to man - then that means it's only marginally more powerful than the Wii U, which has been described as "definitely more powerful than Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3" by 5th Cell (the guys behind Scribblenauts). This puts the Wii U at about 2-4 times more powerful than the Xbox 360.

This becomes a contradiction with a recent statement from Sumo Digital's executive producer Steve Lycett (Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed) saying the Wii U "looks as good any of the HD platforms". He quickly brings our hopes back up with this number: "The Wii U has way more memory, so we can take advantage of that with less compression on elements and textures, so [Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing Transformed] will look all lovely and shiny."

Now, we all know that we shouldn't be asking "how many more times" is one system more powerful than another, but used as a general rule of thumb; despite the GameCube being regarded as an inferior system, it could still do things better than the PS2 and Xbox, something I'm hoping repeats itself with the Wii U.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Walking Dead: Episode 3 Could Actually Be Released Before the Month's End

Surely, you've been sore about the "mid-August" release date for Long Road Ahead coming and going, aren't you?

Well, if Telltale is any indication, the third episode has been sent for review, and should be out early as "next week".


SquareEnix Countdown Disappointment: World Ends With You Coming to iOS?

Remember that count down site on Square's website that was about The World Ends With You? The one everyone thought was going to be a sequel? Well, Square's been trolling hard, as a leak on their Japanese eShop says it's for an iOS port of the same game with new music.

Take of it what you will, but if Square thinks charging a total of $30 for episodic Final Fantasy in the form of Final Fantasy Dimensions, then Thor only knows where this could go...


Looks Like Toejam & Earl is Coming to XBLA/PSN

ToeJam & Earl is coming to digital platforms sometime soon, as Xbox360Achievements have gotten a hold of the Achievements list. It's even tagged under "Sega Vintage Collection", so it appears there are other Sega classics included in the fourth volume.

No word on when it's to hit, though, but seeing as the Achievements are out, I'd say within one or two months.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

[EDITORIAL] What Nintendo Needs to Do With the Wii U

The Next Big Innovation?
What you're witnessing is the first part of a planned five for a mass-editorial I will be publishing, focusing on Nintendo, the Wii U, and just how plausible its success really is, leading up to the conference they're holding on September 13. History has shown that Nintendo loves September announcements for pricing/availability for their upcoming systems, so expect this day to be the day we learn how much of a hit our credit cards are to take.

May we look at Nintendo's competitors - or their own history - as inspiration for the Wii U's success? What about where they look for inspiration? What proof do we currently have that the Wii U may, or may not, be successful?

It's coming. It's inevitable. We stand on the precipice of a new generation's step forward into the spotlight. Nintendo is ushering in the eighth generation at the end of this year, and with it brings another flurry of criticisms and skepticisms. We saw it when Nintendo showed off the Wii's controller, unveiled the system as the 'Wii', and when they laid out technical specs on the system; just Google around for it, and you'll see it around the internet. Hell, it even happened with the GameCube (what with it's purple lunchbox attire) and the Nintendo 64 with it's cartridge-based games; Nintendo always receives criticism when a new system comes out.

When Nintendo first showed us the (then named) Revolution's controller, I, myself, was taken aback. It was a radical approach to a growing problem: lack of innovation. Nintendo broke conventional means of controller design they themselves created in the mid-80s, and every other console manufacturer stuck to since. Nintendo gave us some fine examples of what the controller could do, what with the pointer acting as an excellent approach to first-person games, or the accelerometers acting as their own method of input; Nintendo was ready to reinvent, or out-right create, new genres. The most ludicrous - or, dare I say, crazy - part about the entire endeavor? They knew people would buy it, and ended up ushering in the fitness craze in video games with their own Wii Fit, and others followed suit. The (purely) motion controlled games such as the pack-in Wii Sports - where there was minimal button pressing, and actually acting out what you wanted to do - was groundbreaking at the time; Nintendo is constantly seen as a key innovator in this field.

Six years later, Nintendo is in full pre-production of the Wii U, getting it's brand new system geared up for the holiday release. The Wii proved successful, because it hadn't been done before. One factor Nintendo is banking on to encourage customers to buy into their name all over again is the backwards compatibility. Not with just the games, but with every accessory made for the Wii, including games, downloaded or not; Nintendo could easily market this as "buy the new system, keep all of your old shit". The Wii U, on the other hand, is building off of two things: the established success of the Wii by keeping the name - falling victim to "sequelitis", much like the Xbox and PlayStation - and the booming success of the tablet craze Apple ushered in with the iPad.

Yes, I'm saying it: Nintendo is looking to Apple for ideas.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

[REVIEW] Deadlight

Release Date: August 1, 2012
System Reviewed: Xbox 360
Plays Like: Shadow Complex; Limbo; Trine

What's Great: My kind of game. Deadlight is a classic 2D platformer that dabbles in action elements, but is more 2D than 2.5D, in that, the visuals and environments are fully 3D (much like Shadow Complex), but the game is strictly up/down, left/right movement. There are no upgrades to your weapons, but you do gather a handful of different weapons to work with, such as an axe or shotgun. The story, while a tad shallow, does pick up the pace later in; the twist, while some could guess at, is a nice surprise, one that hasn't been used all that often as of late.

What's (Not So) Great: Some puzzle solutions are not incredibly obvious, but not a huge hindrance. Climbing and jumping - key elements of a platformer - aren't as solid as you would hope, especially when it comes to climbing down, which has been my biggest issue; the window of opportunity to tell Randall when to grab a hold of a lower ledge is sporadic. The spoken dialogue is fucking horrendous, and the writing could be just a smidge better. Shadows (what this game calls their zombies) can be deadly when there are more than one, which is what it should be, however, several axe swings later, they still haven't lost a limb, their head, or at least fallen over; combat en masse is the burden to this game.

Bottom Line: This is a fun game, do not let others tell you otherwise. If you are a fan of classic platformers, you'll fall right in line here. This may be another post-apocalyptic zombie game, but a great, fresh take on the genre; don't expect anything like Left 4 Dead, but more akin to The Walking Dead episodic game currently out there, as it's more focused on story and exploration, rather than zombie maiming. It is fairly short, so some may have a hard time swallowing that $15 price tag. If need be, wait until a sale, but you may be kicking yourself in the ass when that sale comes, as you didn't experience this game now.

Grade: B-

(Downloaded the game from Xbox LIVE Arcade for the full 1200 MSP. Played the game entirely, earning all 30 Achievements, taking just under 2 hours to complete the game altogether.)

(Ed. Note: I updated the 'Plays Like' field to be more accurate; referencing 15+ year old games isn't necessarily a good way to do it.)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Double Fine Adventure Backer Goodies Now Arriving!

If the mailmen are now coming
into your house and leaving packages,
it appears I may have a problem.
I stumble through my front door, with my various knick-knacks in hand after a week's worth of work, two cases of Sam Adam's Octoberfest under my arms, and as I get settled in at my computer, I see something standing there, on my desk, presumably left there by the girlfriend: a large cardboard tube with my name on it.

Pray tell, what could it be?

I pop the lid, and, low and behold, I discover something:

Sadly, I recognize that font anywhere.

I hastily dump the contents onto my desk, and here is the treasure trove of goodies sent from Double Fine studios, themselves:

The poster, shirt, pin, and sticker, all for the backers get for sending them a certain amount of money; I, myself, pledged $100 towards them.

I'll be wearing that shirt tomorrow.