Mario Jara

Currently a working professional by night, gamer by day. I'm slowly working towards earning my place in the gaming industry. I like all sorts of games, blockbusters, old school, indie, console, handheld, etc.

Feb 262013
 

February is the month of love and while the time for chocolates, flowers and romantic dinners has passed, our coverage of certain colorful characters continues.  This week we take a look at Wascot from Super Monday Night combat.  Whether or not you had a good Valentines weekend, you’ll be thankful you didn’t run into someone like this fellow!

wascot

As if he wasn’t terrifying enough, this is Wascot in his Man-baby outfit.

Wascot, while not very well known, is definitely one of the weirdest, most awkward characters in videogames.  He stars in Super Monday Night Combat, a free to play multiplayer online battle arena that’s very trigger happy.   Unlike other MOBA’s, SMNC is all about real time movement, fast paced combat and lots of bullets and guns. It’s fun and exhilarating and certainly not your average MOBA.   Wascot belongs to the Commando Class, which are the glass cannons of the game.  This class, unlike any other class in the game, specializes in melee attacks as well as fast movement.  Because of this Wascot is your worst nightmare, his is skillful, deadly and will troll you at every chance he gets.

Wascot does not have one dysfunctional factor he has many.  From the outfit that he wears in the battle arena to the weapons he uses, he is dysfunction from head to toe.  Wascot wears a uniform to battle that resembles Bullseye, the title’s mascot.  However he seems to have modified it with a variety of “accessories.”  He switched Bullseye’s traditional yellow for the color orange and equipped himself with some biker-like gear.  He has a black helmet, gloves, shoulder pads and boots.  He seems to be wearing some sort of leather harness as well as a pair of fishnets.  Yes, you read that right… fishnets.  He also carries a teddy bear in his back.

His weapons are quite “unconventional” as well.  His primary weapon is a coin launcher, which disperses fake coins throughout the battlefield.  When an opponent tries to pick up the coins, they explode.  His secondary weapon is what he calls the -ahem-“Heart Breaker.”  Such weapon resembles a leather paddle with the shape of a heart at the very edge.  He uses the heart breaker to smack you around and as if that wasn’t enough, when he grapples you he will bend you over his knee and spank you with this weapon.  If you ever wanted to “troll and pwn” somebody, Wascot is your guy.

Wascotlove

Before he took the character of Wascot, his name was Frank Deeford and even then he had obsessive tendencies.  His obsession revolved around anything SMNC especially if it was related to their mascot Bullseye.  His heroes fell from the pedestal he had them in when, as a fan, he called the post-match show and Bullseye accidentally hung up on him.  Since then he went from being a spectator to an active participant in SMNC matches, taking on the persona of Wascot.  However he now stalks Bullseye out of revenge, not love.

So there you have him, Wascot, officially one of the most dysfunctional characters of all time.  He is the weird, creepy and obsessive lover you never want to have.   Next week we close off this section with our last dysfunctional character.  Until next time!

Feb 132013
 

Ah it is February and love is in the air.  It is time for chocolates, flowers and romantic dinners.  But nothing says it’s February like random tokens of dysfunctional appreciation from unbalanced individuals who feel left out of this faux-holiday.   So if you are single this Valentines day, Worry not!  Consider that it is better to be single, sane and happy than popular and pursued by some crazy suitor.  So, in this twisted spirit of valentines I present you Dysfunctional Love a weekly profile series that will run through February.  Each week we will highlight some of the more ‘colorful’ characters in games.  Enjoy!

voldoigThis week we open with the well known Voldo from the Soul Calibur series.  Voldo holds a special place in my heart.  If there is one word that can describe Voldo, it’s Unconventional.  This spunky dude originates from the beloved Soul Calibur series; his first appearance took place in Soul Edge.  As a matter of fact, Voldo has appeared in every game of the Soul Calibur series to date!  He is a well-known character in the gaming community and considered a tough character to master among Soul Calibur fans.

His dysfunctional factor is his appearance.  He looks like kinky version of Edward scissor hands.  This is in part due to his signature weapon, a pair of katar, which resemble giant claws.  His signature look usually follows a Sadomasochistic motif, which tends to include a leather harness, a head trainer and fishnets.  In addition to this, he acts in a pseudo-animalistic way as his body bends and turns in ways not conventional for humans.  The stability of his  personality is questionable as his is obsessed with protecting the Money Pit, and honoring his dead master Vercci.

Most people would turn around and walk the other way should they encounter Voldo in a dark alley.  However, Voldo isn’t much of a terrible person.  His personal story revolves around a theme of loyalty and dedication.  Voldo has taken the task to protect his master’s property, the money pit.   In every iteration of Soul Calibur Voldo’s sanctuary has been ransacked or attacked in some way, which leads to his counter attack.  My favorite ending for Voldo is that of Soul Calibur IV in which he becomes the guardian of the Soul Calibur, keeping it from the hands of those who would use if for evil.

Voldo_big

That is all for this week guys.  Next time we will take a quick look at another unbalanced yet unique individual from the video game world.  Since it will be the day after valentine’s day, I will profile one of my favorite dysfunctional characters!  I’ll give you a clue:  He loves to spank people and can be a real party pooper. Alright, that’s it I’m practically giving it away…  See you next week!

 

Nov 012012
 

Ah yes, the mobile gaming revolution.  It has brought us the likes of Angry Birds, Triple Town and Infinity Blade.  This renaissance of videogames has spread the joys of gaming to the masses… and by masses I mean anybody with a smart phone.  Now the influx of games is starting to reverse and we are starting to see some successful mobile plataform games being released for the PC.   Hero Academy is one such game.  Originally available for iOS mobile devices, Hero Academy is now branching out with this PC version available via steam.  Read ahead and find out if Hero Academy is worth your time.

Hero Academy featured top-notch presentation when it was first released in for the iOS devices.  Now on steam, the game holds  remarkably well, this is part due to its strong art style.  At this time, Hero Academy features 5 teams to choose from:  The Council, The Dark Elves, The Dwarves, The Tribe and Team Fortress 2.   While they are all different, each teams seems to fit in well within the Hero Academy aesthetic.  Every character sprite is nicely detailed and features upgrades corresponding to that class, which also fits nicely with the team’s overall theme.  All sprites are also animated and while the standard standing animation is nothing more than marionette-like waving and bobbing of body parts, it still looks nice.  The more eye-catching animations take place during battle, which is the meat of this game.  Overall very little was changed from the iOS version to this version.  This also applies to the audio, which borders a bit on repetitive.

For anybody that didn’t play the original Hero Academy, the game’s progression centers on a squared grid with a crystal on opposite sides.  The objective of the game is to destroy your opponent’s crystal.  In order to do so, you need to employ the diverse tactics available to your team.  The game essentially plays as a hybrid of chess and a turn based RPG.  Each turn is represented by a pie chart with 5 sub sections; each subsection represents a player action.   During your turn, you are able to move, attack, equip items or heal however you see fit.  By defeating your opponent’s forces, you get a crack at the other player’s crystal.   Overall the mix of turn based strategy and RPG elements is a pleasant one.

There is one major gripe that I have with Hero Academy:  Communication.   Because this version of Hero’s academy plays exactly as the mobile version, you are not able to see your opponent’s movements until they have executed them.  This works well when you are playing on the go, as you can load up the game and see if it is your turn, play, execute your strategy and then go about your day.  This does not work well when you are siting in front of a computer.  Once you are in a match and have executed your turn, then you just wait.  There is no way to know if your opponent is ready, away from keyboard, planning a strategy or has left his PC to make a sandwich.  So you wait, and then you wait some more.  There is a small space at the bottom left of the screen that any player can use to type messages; it is unfortunate that anybody hardly ever uses it.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that Hero’s Academy features cross platform play and that I’m able to play with people who own the game on their phones or on their iPads.  However, I dislike not knowing if they playing from such devices.  If I knew, then I would be able to give them a reasonable amount of time to respond.  The other option would be to run Hero’s Academy on the background while doing other things online, in order to allow other people enough time to respond; that is preposterous.  I played a few matches of Hero Academy and there were times when some players would take 10 minutes for a turn.  That means that I would have invested 30 minutes of my time for a measly 3 turns in this game.   There are much more interesting and exciting games out there that can do much more in that short amount of time.  This doesn’t make Hero Academy a bad game, it is a good mobile game… just not a great online game.

PC Game

Graphics

80
 

Audio

70
 

Gameplay

70

Creativity

70
 

Execution

50
 

Offset

50
    

6.5

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

Pros

  • Same great gameplay, bigger screen
  • Cute sprites with good animations

Cons

  • You can make a sandwich while you wait for your turn
  • More expensive than the iOS version
  • You might as well read a book while playing this game
Sep 282012
 

It was about one year ago that I first heard about SMITE.  It was the new kid on the block when it came to the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre aka MOBA.  Seeing it in action really got me excited, Hi Rez sudios had successfully tweaked enough things to make the genre their own but also managed to craft a solid MOBA game. Smite follows the traditional MOBA progression yet changes the field of view to a third person perspective.  Further more, it gives the player WASD movement instead of the standard point and click.  In order to finish with style, Smite also adds stronger graphics than the current MOBA in the market.  But as with any game, there is much more to this one than its pretty exterior.  Read on and find out if it’s worth your time.

The first thing that catches your eye as you load Smite is its presentation. Smite has strong technical graphics, but suffers from an inconsistent art style.  This is obvious the moment you step out of your home temple, which is your base and starting area.  The temple looks great and the Minotaur you have to defend appears strong and intimidating.  However, as soon as you step out of this area, things take a turn for the generic.  The greatest offender here is the trees along side the jungle areas.  They look boxy and polygonal and have an abysmal texture painted on top of them.  Fortunately, it is not the arena that is the focus of the game, but the Gods that inhabit it.  Currently, Smite has 30 gods to choose from.  Most of these gods are drenched in style and have a personality of their own.  It is great to see a clash between multiple deities and their varied abilities. There are few rotten apples in this first batch of gods (Thor I’m looking at you), but nothing that is painful to look at.  It is also plausible that some of these gods look so plain in order to encourage the purchase of additional skins.  Some gods like the standard Zeus look like extremely generic, but have really eye catching alternate skins.

The music for the game is great, though limited.  What really stands out is the sound design; each god has its own unique and appropriate sound cues.  This further enhances the personality of each god. Even if I were blindfolded, I could easily recognize each god in a match due to the sound bites attached to their actions.  Take for example the Chinese god Sun Wukong; his audio clips have “crazy-monkey-king “ written all over them.   He screeches and taunts at his opponents during each of his attacks, which really embeds his essence into the battlefield.  For example, his ultimate attack, Year of the Monkey, really feels like a celebration as you see and hear all of the fireworks exploding and whirling through the air.   Overall the audio is well designed and executed.  However, occasionally the narration of the game will lag behind, the narrator might announce a double kill before even announcing the first kill.   This is far and in between, but at times might confuse the players in the arena.

The meat of every MOBA is its gameplay and Smite has plenty of tweaks to keep the formula fresh and streamlined.  The first thing a new player will notice upon logging in to the game client is that newbies are grouped together into a novice queue.  This allows newcomers to get used to the game without being harassed by higher-level players.  In this mode skill upgrades and item purchases are done automatically for you, ensuring that players focus on learning to play the game.  Shortly afterwards players rank up and have access to the regular queue and can start planning on constructing specialized builds.It is in this queue where the game really begins to shine.  Like other MOBA games in the market Smite has 3 major lanes in the map, a jungle area and a home base or “temple” area.   The lines are guarded by towers and in the case Smite, the innermost defense of a lane is not a tower but a phoenix.  Once a phoenix is defeated, stronger minions spawn in that lane attempting to invade the temple.  Inside the temple there is a Minotaur, slay him and victory will be awarded to your team.  But beware, this Minotaur will defend himself.  Furthermore, the minotaur gains a buff if there are allied phoenix or towers still standing so attack him at your own risk.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Smite mixes things up by switching the perspective to third person and giving the player full WASD control.   By doing so, Smite needs to use the movement of the mouse to aim and move the camera.  This makes every attack on smite a “skill shot,” in other words don’t expect to click on an enemy and assume that your attack will land or that they will not evade it.  This really puts the emphasis on action rather than passive gameplay.  While taking care of enemy spawns is still relatively easy, dueling another player is immediately intense and rewarding.  During these duels it is imperative to judge speed, distance and orientation.  Knowing which skills you can use and how to use them, as well as what type of enemy you are facing is crucial during higher ranked matches.  During these 1-on-1 duels each god is constantly moving and taunting as well as attacking and snaring.  These types of skirmishes are most common at the beginning of a match, when each god is trying to protect its lane.

As the match progresses, gods will team up to take down lanes or defend them, these events lead to team battles.  In these matches the squad that makes better use of team strategies and has a better squad composition will emerge victorious. Having a good mix of melee, range and tank characters gives a team a higher chance at survival. The matches in Smite last on average about 30 minutes.   Unlike other games, these tend to go by pretty quickly and are full of action.  By the thirty-minute mark ultimate attacks will be triggered, towers will be destroyed, gods will be ganked, phoenix will be slain and reborn and ultimately a Minotaur will be slain. Overall, Smite feels like a faster and more intense version of the battle arenas currently in the market, which is a welcomed change in this genre.  If you are into duking it out in an online arena, you should definitely check out Smite.

PC Game

Graphics

85
 

Audio

85
 

Gameplay

80

Creativity

90
 

Execution

95
 

Offset

87
    

8.7

  

How do these ratings work? Click here for descriptions!

 

Pros:

  • More action and less passive gameplay
  • Mythological theme with deities from several cultures
  • Better Graphics than the competition
  • Fast character progression
  • Excellent Macro communication system
  • Ability to purchase gods with in-game points

Cons:

  • Occasional audio glitches
  • Inconsistent art style
  • Lots of gods to choose from, but only a few unlocked
Sep 122012
 

Today is the long awaited day for apple fans, today is new iphone day.   As expected, Apple has officially announced the iphone 5.  This new device boasts an impressive set of features, unfortunately some of these bells and whistles have already been present in its android counterpart.  So while a new screen size, a 4G connection and a slim case is great, it is nothing new.  However, the one thing that did interest me is the new processor dubbed “A6.”  We all know how good a game can look on a phone, take for example Epic’s Infinity Blade II.  If you take into consideration that the iphone 5 is roughly “twice as powerful” as the 4S, does this mean that full fledged handheld gaming has arrived to the iphone?

The answer is both yes and no.  Apple finally seems to be pretty serious about expanding into the gaming division since Rob Murray, Executive producer from EA studios, debuted a brand new game during the announcement of the new phone.  That game is Real Racing 3 and it showcased what the next generation of the apple chipsets can do.  The game demonstrated a beautiful race featuring realistic cars and showcasing real time reflections in both the rear view mirrors and the metallic chassis of the cars.  It blew the Nintendo 3Ds out of the water and gave the PSVita a run for its money.

While the game looks beautiful, it is not graphics that make the core of a game.  Good gameplay and well executed mechanics will always triumph over dazzling graphics.  In the case of Real Racing 3, we have yet to see how this new game handles under touch controls.   It is in this department that the 3DS and PSVita cannot be matched.  Both of the handhelds are made to play games.   Now matter how good a touchscreen is, it cannot replicate the accuracy and sensitivity of native analog and button control.  So while apple may be boasting “console quality” gaming, I remain very skeptical about that prospect.

The iphone 5 will release September 21, if you want to get your hands on one I’d suggest you pre-order one.  Pre-orders start in two days (September 14) so be sure to sign up if you want to get in on the first batch.

Sep 062012
 

Yes, I know.  You are probably reading this article shaking your head from side to side.  The answer is yes; I do dare resurrect this feature.  For those of you reading this and are unfamiliar with the backlog challenge, I’ll summarize it briefly:

I will not buy any new games in 2012 and I will try and finish games from my backlog.

The challenge was started back in January of this year.  I started with a few set of rules and some exceptions.  Some of these have been upheld and others have been broken.  I kept posting about this challenge roughly in a monthly basis; then the summer came.  Summer put a big dent on my available time, since I decided to go to summer school while working full time.

This was a blessing and a curse.  Because I had limited free time, I never had a chance to pay attention at what was being released during the summer.  However, this also meant that I had less time to sink my teeth into my backlog.  This was rather unfortunate because since the beginning of the year, I had been finishing games at a rather sluggish pace.  I had planned to finish at least one game per week for the entire duration of the summer.  This, of course, did not happen.   I ended up finishing two games over the summer:  Bioshock and Portal 2.   Both games are amazing experiences from beginning to end.

I wish I had invested the little time available I had into comparable experiences.  Unfortunately, I was playing 3 MMO’s at the time.  First up was my return to Final Fantasy XIV, which reminded me why the game is getting a reboot.  The original build of FFXIV was so atrocious, it will be remembered as one the worst MMO’s releases in videogame history.  Then was the death of Star Wars:  The Old Republic.  This MMO falls into the category of “gaming wounds.”  It is one of those games that you want to be successful, but ultimately they fail.  I knew it was over when I decided to take the game for a spin and my game character “woke up” to find a deserted capital city.  Every player was gone.  I was completely alone.  Last but not least is the original Guild Wars.  When Arenanet announced that they would be releasing Guild Wars 2 in August of this year, I was flabbergasted.  I simply had to get more points into my Hall of Monuments; and with that the grind for Hall of Monument completion began.

It is now early September and I do not play FFXIV or SWTOR.  Even Guild Wars has been cut from my gaming list.  Now I only play either Super Monday Night Combat or Guild Wars 2.  Currently SMNC is only used as a palate cleanser for those rare of occasions when I get temporarily tired of Guild Wars 2.  The challenge now is not to avoid buying new games because, quite honestly, I have enough games to keep me entertained.  The challenge now lies in leaving the wonderful world of Tyria to play any other game.  The Gauntlet has been thrown!

So here are my updated objectives:  A) Play more games B) Play less Guild Wars 2 C) Try not to use giftcards until I have finished a few games. D) Post an update every two weeks, even if I’ve slacked off.   That is all for this entry!  See ya soon!

Aug 102012
 

Before I decided to challenge myself to abstain from buying any new games in 2012, I was quite the bargain hunter.  Sales and special offers can greatly reduce the pricey cost of being a hardcore gamer.  While I may not be doing a lot of shopping these days, my bargain hunting skills are still intact.  This morning, I was browsing around the internet when a wild tweet appeared on my feed.  It led me to his website:

Naturally, I was skeptical.  Walmart has good deals from time to time, but this was an abnormally good deal.  There is no way that anybody else was selling the soon to be released Assassin’s Creed III for 15 dollars.  I thought to myself “clearly this is a phishing website!”  I closed that website, went through Walmart’s main page and tried to search for this deal.  Surprisingly, it was still there.  However, there was a little bit of a discrepancy:

As you can see, only the Xbox 360 version of this game show’s the discounted price.  The PS3 version of AC III is listed at the full retail price.  The question is, in the case of those who pre-ordered/pre-purchased the game on the Xbox 360, will Walmart charge them the full price once they have realized their mistake or will they honor the price they advertised?

UPDATE:  The site for the incorrectly priced Xbox 360 version of Assassin’s Creed III on Walmart.com has been pulled.  As of 8/12/12 they retail chain has re-instated the site for the product, the price now identical to that of the PlayStation 3 version.

 

Aug 032012
 

For anybody that has played Defense of the Ancients or League of Legends, the term “MOBA” is as ubiquitous as “FPS” is for those who play Call of Duty.  However to the average gamer, “MOBA” is not as familiar.  That is bound to change with the rise in popularity of League of Legends and the imminent release of Defense of the Ancients 2.   MOBA, which stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena, is gaming genre that dates back to the original Warcraft III mod.  This style of gameplay has been around for a while, but right now it is really starting to take off.

League of legends has gathered such an impressive player base that the game is now featured in the Major League Gaming website.  Tournaments are now held for LOL with thousands of dollars as the prize for the winning team.  With so much commotion surrounding this game, I had to try a match of League of Legends; honestly, it was underwhelming.   I can appreciate the intricate weaving of game mechanics and progression from the game design standpoint.  However, I can’t get past the first 15 minutes of the game.  They are slow and boring.  You may certainly call me shallow, but the truth is, this game fell off the ugly tree and hit every branch on its way down.  I can see this game being very exciting near the late half of a match, but the first half is a tough sell.  It was quite unfortunate, since I enjoyed the MOBA formula.  Fortunately for me, there are alternatives to several MOBA giants out there.  Check them out, you might end up being pleasantly surprised.

Awesomenauts

I like to call this one the “gateway-MOBA.”  It plays well, has great controls and it is very polished.  Did I mention it is 2D?   No?  Well, it is!  That gives this game a very multiplayer co-op/versus platformer feel.  It’s great!  It is highly stylized so it looks great in motion.  Each character feels unique and full of personality.  They arenas are nicely varied and stylized as well.  The only draw back for this title is that there is only one character for each role.  So there really is only one tank, one character that specializes in “gank-ing,” one healer, etc…   Recently the game was updated to add two new characters.  These proved to be worthy additions to the game and I hope there are subsequent updates.

Super Monday Night Combat

It is rather easy to say that you are “really into” a game.  But after spending 300+ hours playing one, I can honestly say I’m really into Super Monday Night Combat.  This is a third person shooter-MOBA hybrid that is quite a spectacle.  SMNC follows the usual MOBA formula but makes some key changes that make it feel fresh, fun and familiar.  Instead of having an isometric view of your character, you have full control of the character’s (or “pro”) movement and field vision.  That is because shooting is the primary way to deal damage in SMNC.  Basically, if you took League of Legends, Team Fortress 2 and Gears of War blended them together with a hint of over the top humor, you’d get Super Monday Night Combat.  If you have Steam you owe it to yourself to download this free-to-play game.  Yep you heard that right, it’s FREE.  Go get it.  Now.

Smite

Now if you like traditional MOBA purist you might be thinking:  “2D Perspective?!  Heresy!  Third-Person Shooting?!  Blasphemy!”  Fine, fine!  Then Smite might be the game for you.  This game has not been released yet, but I’ve seen this one up and running at PAX and it is beautiful.  Smite brings to the table everything that League of legend lacks.  This game is fast, it is action packed and it is gorgeous.  The game follows a mythology inspired theme; so various gods from different backgrounds will be available and ready for battle.  Keep your eye on this one, it might be the next big thing in the MOBA scene.

 

So there you have them, three great alternatives to the tried and true.  If you have an interest in finding what MOBA games are all about, these are all great games.  Check them out and see you in the Battle Arena!

May 032012
 

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Jagged Alliance: Back in Action

Windows PC

Contains: Blood, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, Violence

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.


Jagged Alliance: Back in Action, tasks you with the mission of freeing the country of Arluco from the grip of Queen Deirdanna.  If this sounds familiar, that is because Back in Action is a remake of Jagged Alliance 2, originally a tactical RPG for the PC released in the late 90’s.  The premise of this game is to re-master its graphics and rework its core mechanics around a Hybrid RTS frame-set.  The original Jagged Alliance 2 was a hit with PC gamers, unfortunately for fans of the series this remake is not the place to take a stroll down memory lane.

The presentation of Jagged Alliance:  Back in Action serves its purpose.  There is nothing fancy here; it just gets the job done.  There are two ways you can observe the traversal across the map.  There is the classic top down view and the isometric view.   During isometric view, you can use the scroll wheel of the mouse to pan the camera slightly down and get a more 3D feel for the environment.   You will need both views in order to get through any map.  This helps showcase how the maps have been revamped with 3D structures and terrain. The maps vary in scale and size and have been constructed with an open environment in mind.   The characters on the other hand, seem to have been less of a priority.  They all seem like randomly generated NPC’s from the pre-HD era.  They are stiff and some characters literally look the same.  Overall, there is nothing special here.  This title looks as generic as they come.

The audio is somewhat repetitive, however the  sound design is well done.  The static 3D environments seem a little more alive due the audio.  For example, in a swampy jungle map you will hear ambient sounds followed by the cries of birds.  If your squad is crossing a stream or pond, you will hear the swooshing and bubbling of water.  It is always a nice touch to have appropriate environmental cues to match your squad’s location. This is essential for a game that takes sound/noise into consideration during gameplay.  But I’ll elaborate more on that later.  The voice over in this game is completely a hit-or-miss.  A lot of lines are delivered quite flatly.  This could be an attempt to make the mercenaries appear gruff, tough and raw.  But the delivery of those one-liners is so abysmal that at times it would be better if the characters did not talk at all.

But enough about the window dressing, after all it was the solid gameplay mechanics that made Jagged Alliance 2 a classic.  The original title featured an assortment of gameplay styles fused together to create a great tactical RPG.   The main premise of Back in Action is to revamp this installment by taking away the turn-based segments and replacing them with a real time strategy system.  This is where things spiral out of control.  The core mechanic of battle has been switched to real time, however other aspects of the game have remained the same.   The original Jagged Alliance 2 featured a plethora of multitasking.  You could build your own team of mercenaries (aka ‘mercs’), each one with different skills, weapons and stats.   By equipping different items, each merc could enhance its own individual talents.  These talents are spread across several categories, which included descriptive stats (level and health points), efficiency stats (strength, intelligence, etc), and skill stats (where character classes differentiate according to points allotted to medical, explosive, and other skills).  Needless to say, the original Jagged Alliance 2 was super number-crunchy, but this was ok because it was turned based game.   This allowed the player to use his time freely before or during battle.  Unfortunately for Back in Action, the super-number-crunchy and super-micro-management aspect of the original is still present.  This type of set up does not work in a real time setting.   It is as simple as this:  Squad Alpha is a mercenary task force composed of three characters; two damage mercs and a medic.  One merc is a short range and melee specialist, the other merc specializes in burst fire at medium range.  The medic can also damage an enemy or two, but its primary function is to keep the other two alive.

May 032012
 

The Penny Arcade Expo, also known as PAX, has set a new record for itself.  The attendees of the gamer-centered convention have gobbled up all of the 3-Day passes available.  This mega expo, which celebrates gaming culture and happens twice per year, takes place in Boston (PAX East) and Seattle (PAX Prime).  The next gathering of geeks, gamers and nerds is scheduled to take place at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center from August 31st thru September 2nd.

 

Last year, PAX prime had a record attendance of 70,000+ gamers.  It also took a full 22 days for the 3 Day passes to sell out.  This year PAX Prime badges went on sale April 25th, but the website used for sale and registration quickly crashed due to demand.  The site was relaunched later that day and crashed once more.  Shortly afterwards there was an update on the PAX Prime website attributing the registration woes to a new vendor the company was trying to do business with.  While some badges were sold during the fiasco, official registration was postponed while Penny Arcade switched to their previous vendor.

That brings us to this week.  As usual, the official twitter account for PAX (@official_pax) tweeted that the registration was live.  Less than 5 hours later, all 3-Day passes for the convention had been sold.  Single day passes for the convention are still available, get them while you can!

UPDATE:  As of this Morning (05/03/12), the PAX registration website is not selling Single Day passes for Saturday.  They are sold out.  If you wish to attend PAX snag a Friday or Sunday Pass ASAP!

Apr 192012
 

As E3 approaches, more and more pieces of news will continue to trickle down to the media.  After all, E3 is one of the biggest gaming events of the year. Therefore, in order to have big reveals for the show, there has to be extensive preparation on the part of those participating in it.  This of course, leads to the infamous press leaks.  The most recent leak is a trailer for Kratos’ latest adventure, which is titled God of War: Ascension.  I’m sure a lot of fans are going crazy over this.  I’m not.  Basically, this upcoming title features Kratos (duh!) and takes place during his service under the Olympian gods.  Yes, it takes place before the original God of War.  No, it is not God of War: Ghosts of Sparta for the PSP.  This is another prequel.

So far the God of War series has 3 main titles, 1 mobile game and 2 portable games.  If we exclude the mobile game, then Ascension becomes the sixth title in the series.  That’s a lot of titles for a series that started in 2005.  Don’t get me wrong, the God of War series is a testament to the quality of games that can be played on the Play Station.  However, I wonder why there is more excitement and coverage on a leaked trailer for an existing franchise on an existing console, than say Pikmin 3, which is a relatively new series on a brand new console.  Why doesn’t Pikmin get any love?  Is it because it doesn’t have a trailer yet?

Every console right now has a great line up (well except the Wii who is headed towards the chopping block) and each console has their signature games.  It is foolish to think that there won’t be any more God of War, Halo or Mario games.  These franchises are money making machines and are here to stay.  Then why do we act surprised when we see franchises returning time and again?

Is there another action/adventure console-exclusive title as popular as God of War III on the Play Station 3?  No, I believe there is not.  So why do we even doubt that there will be any more installments to the series?  Take a look at Nintendo, this company survives on the charity of third party developers and a back bone of strong first party titles.  It is not a question of whether there will be a Mario game, but when.  The same goes for the Xbox’s Halo series.  Master Chief’s original trilogy might be concluded, but how can Microsoft pass up on the idea of bringing back the franchise that single-handedly  made Xbox a household name?

But in this industry it doesn’t matter that we keep rehashing the same news over and over again.  It matters who get’s the news piece out first.  It is not about content, it’s about speed.  So there you have it, new announcement for God of War.  Here’s a shocker:  There will be a Zelda game for the Wii U!  Also, the moon orbits around the earth!  I know, things are getting wild in here.

Mar 032012
 

Let me start by saying that I am well aware that the last entry was in February.  I know, I’ve been slacking it.  A lot has happened in the past month:  from personal, to professional to the site being hacked.  This includes my first game purchase.  Yes, you read that right.   I’ve fallen off the band wagon.  But I’ll leave the juicy bits of this entry until the end.  For now, I give you an inventory of my Wii/PS3/PC.

As noted on the last inventory entry: If the game’s title has a normal font, then the game has been played, but not finished.  If the game’s title has a bold font and has an asterisk next to it, the game is brand spankin’ new.  If the game’s title is scratched  off, then I have completed the title.

Retail Wii Games

  1. *A Boy and His Blob*
  2. Animal Crossing: City Folk
  3. Blastworks
  4. Bully
  5. Mad World
  6. Mario Kart Wii
  7. Metroid Prime: Trilogy
  8. *Metroid: Other M*
  9. Monster Hunter Tri
  10. Muramasa: The Demon Blade
  11. Rayman Raving Rabbids
  12. Rockband
  13. Super Mario All Stars
  14. Super Mario Galaxy
  15. Super Smash Bros Brawl
  16. TLoZ: Skyward Sword
  17. ToS: Dawn of the New World
  18. Trauma Center: Second Opinion
  19. Wii Play
  20. Wii Sports
  21. Wii Sports Resort
  22. Zack & Wiki

Downloadable Wii Games

  1. King of Fighters ‘94
  2. My Pokemon Ranch
  3. Ninja Gaiden
  4. Pokemon Snap
  5. SSFII: The New Challengers
  6. Super Mario Bros
  7. Super Mario Bros 3
  8. Super Mario World
  9. TLoZ: Majora’s Mask

The list of Wii games is not as imposing as the Xbox 360 one.  I don’t have a huge collection of Wii games and I also tend to avoid the Wii shop.  Most of the downloadable titles are old favorites, so I don’t feel too bad about not finishing them. The same applies for the PS3 list:

Retail PS3 Games

  1. Demon’s Souls
  2. Disgaea 4
  3. Dragon Age Origins
  4. God of War III
  5. Heavy Rain
  6. Little Big Planet
  7. Portal 2
  8. *The Sly Collection*
  9. *Uncharted 2*

Downloadable PS3 Games

  1. Grimgrimoire
  2. *Infamous*
  3. Pixel Junk Shooter
  4. SFIII: 3rd Strike
  5. Wipeout HD/Fury

Now on to PC games!

Feb 102012
 

Metal Dead is an old school indie point and click comedic adventure…  No wait, don’t go yet.  I know what you are thinking: Point-and-click?  In 2012?  Really?  Yes, really.  Let’s face it, the point and click genre isn’t the most sought after game genre now a days.   However, this little indie game managed to impress me.  The premise of Metal Dead is to take the genre’s staple, telling a story, and infuse it with blood and guts.  You see, Metal Dead takes place during a zombie apocalypse.  In the middle of this madness, there are two friends who are trying to survive the undead Armageddon.  These two buddies are hardcore heavy metal fans, hence the name of the game.  So in the spirit of Metal Dead, feel free to play some Metallica or Megadeath as you read this review.

The first thing that you’ll notice is the game’s visual style.  Technically speaking, the game leaves a lot to be desired.  You will not find sweeping animations or flashy back drops.  You could recreate any scene from the game in Paint; so don’t expect masses of individually detailed zombies.  However, the games artistic flair grows on you early.  The overall style of the game is reminiscent of 90’s cartoons, it often reminds me of a stylized Bevis and Butthead.  More attention to detail was paid to the fifteen or so human characters present during the course of the game.  Furthermore, everything in the game has been styled to fit the tough/metal/undead theme.  The menus and different pointers flow nicely into the aesthetic of the game.  As mentioned before, the two main characters are the metal heads Malcolm and Ronnie.  Both are well done, Ronnie representing the typical over-the top crazy metal fan, while Malcolm is his more cerebral counterpart.

The player controls Malcolm and experiences the story from his point of view.  The gameplay and controls are standard point-and-click fare.  It is easy to navigate Malcolm through the game’s scenes where you can walk, analyze a point of interest, interact with an object or talk to another character.  You cycle through these choices by using the right click of the mouse, and then point with the left click.  You can also “equip” an item collected during your journey, essentially making it the fifth option as you cycle by right clicking.  Being as this is a point and click game, there will be a lot of clicking, and clicking you shall.

The best part about Metal Dead is that is succeeds in making me want to click on everything.  Take for example the beginning of the game:  You wake up in a car with your best buddy Ronnie in the driver’s seat.   After some story development, you gain control of Malcolm for the first time.  Seeing as he is in a car, he can’t walk anywhere so you have three choices: Observation, interaction and conversation.  My curious nature leads me to touch my surroundings.  As I click under the interaction icon (a hand), Malcolm’s thoughts are materialized above him.  These small text fragments go from informative to comical.  For example, when I click on Ronnie, Malcolm states, “Even if every woman on the planet turned into a walking corpse… I still wouldn’t touch Ronnie.”  What is even better is that Ronnie responds to the players interaction by teasing Malcolm: “I’ve seen you eyeing me, Malcolm.  You don’t have to deny it, I know I’m beautiful!”  Conversations and commentary like the one above are peppered throughout Metal Dead’s adventure, which made the extensive amount of clicking a pleasure instead of a chore.  While clicking on everything from innate objects to people is fun, the story of this game is what will keep the player engaged.

It won’t be long before Malcolm and Ronnie end up in a medical facility by the name of MediGeniTech.  This is where the game takes place.  I will avoid most story elements in order to avoid spoilers.  Needless to say, this medical facility is central to the plot of the game.  Not only that, but this location is the epicenter of the undead apocalypse.  As time passes, more and more zombies gather outside of the building.   If you want to get out alive, you’ll have to work with the remaining humans taking shelter inside the MediGeniTech building.

Feb 042012
 

Another week without new games equals one more penny in my pocket.  It hasn’t been easy, but it hasn’t been excruciatingly hard.  I’ve come to realize that, partially, the reason that I own so many games is because I made a habit of going to gaming retail stores and hunting down bargains.  The same goes for online websites with their perpetual ‘limited time offers’ to one genre or another.  In the case of retail hunting, it was as simple as stopping by that gaming-retail-store after the gym, on my way home.  It was quite relaxing, like a post work-out cool down.  When it came online shopping, gamers are constantly bombarded with legitimately good offers. If you own a gaming PC, it is not a question of if you’ll buy online, but when.

As I mentioned before, habit was partially responsible for the expansion of my small collection.  However, a great part of my buying compulsion stems from what I call “the Christmas morning feeling.”  When I buy a new game, there is anticipation and angst.  Will it be good?  Will it live up to expectations?  Will I enjoy it as much as I think I will?  Will it be completely different, yet surprisingly enjoyable?  Unlike other media, video games continue to evolve as you play them.  A DVD or CD will always play the same movie or play list no matter what.  Video games on the other hand, have the potential to change your perspective during the course of a play session.  There is always a new weapon, new area or a new person to play with.  In games such as Skyrim, the potential for deviation between characters/sessions is so deep, you could be playing two games entirely.  Add the element of fun to that equation and you have a recipe for something great.  Every time I would acquire a new game for my collection, I would treat it as a potential bundle of video gaming ecstasy.

With such potential and excitement contained within a video game title, more titles should equal to more fun right?  Wrong.  With so many games available to me at any given time, I started to “sample” games instead of playing them.  I ended up playing through a game only if its first impression was a good one, otherwise it went back to the ‘video game pile.’  Even though I’m only one month into the year, I think I have gained my sense of appreciation back.  I try to stick to a game for a while before putting it back on its case.  This sense of appreciation along with avoiding gaming retail stores have paid off.  It is, however, impossible to escape from the internet.  Which is why I’ve come across several games that I was/am in the verge of buying.  I have decided to catalog these games.  As time passes, I think it will be fun to analyze games that I should buy along those that would have been a terrible disappointment.

Pushmo

This cute little game really sneaked up on me.  When the 3DS launched, I was very skeptical of the launch games and the system itself.  When the ambassador program was announced, I regained a little hope as this move indicated a strong retro library for the handheld.  Slowly the system started to gain titles and a strong retro background, but not enough strong downloadable titles.  I consider Pushmo to be the first major release for the Nintendo eShop.  This little sucker has been built from the ground up for the 3DS and uses 3D as a vital component for its game play.  Add to this a cute visual aesthetic and the ability to create your own puzzles and share them, and you’ve got a winner.  One day you will be mine Pushmo (just not today…).

Final Fantasy XIII-2

As linear and at times dull as Final Fantasy XIII was, it was still a great game.  It had an amazing battle system and (some) characters that I genuinely cared for.   Yet the game sacrificed too much for too little, and while not a bad game by any means it lacked that Final Fantasy feeling.  Square Enix then announced Final Fantasy XIII-2, and the bad memories of FFX-2 instantly started to flood my mind.  Why? I thought.  Why can’t they just let them be?   I had the lowest expectations for this game, until I saw the battle system in motion at PAX Prime 2011.  I found myself at a crossroads:  Will this game actually improve on the previous one or will it fall victim to the final fantasy sequel/spinoff curse?  Based on the various reviews that I have read, it seems that it has a little bit of both.  I get the feeling this one is more of a rental.

Kingdoms of Amalur:  Reckoning

As I try to think of something, anything, to write about Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning all I can think of is this: “Don’t pre-order, don’t do it.”   But I’m afraid that is what I’ll do.   This is game combines enough gameplay elements from other titles, that is succeeds in wooing me into its world.  I love RPG’s and especially love the ones that can make me feel powerful but vulnerable at the same time.  The thing that sold me on KoA was its combat system, which is surprisingly deep for an RPG.  The cherry on top of the cake was the Mass Effect X Kingdoms of Amalur promotion.   At the beginning of this challenge I stated that ME3 was the only game exempt from this challenge and now this promotion comes into play.  I think this is a sign.   It must be the gaming gods telling me I must buy this game.

That is it for this entry.  I’ve decided to keep it short since I will be doing yet more inventory.  This time I will go through my PS3, Wii and PC games and see what I can find.  In addition to keeping an inventory and with the possibility of me succumbing to the dark temptations of Amalur, I started thinking of what would happen if I end up buying more games through out the year.  Did I fail?  Should I just quit the challenge?  Should I do something to redeem myself?  That and more on the next entry of the Great Backlog Challenge.  See you next time!

Jan 232012
 

Apologies for posting so late!   But here it is:  This is the first part of my gaming inventory.  I decided to start with the Xbox 360, because it is easily the largest library of the systems that I own.  It is also the system that I play that most and therefore I’d like to finish as much as possible from that library before moving on to the other systems.

This final list totals to 56 retail games (I own the physical disc) and 36 downloadable games (this includes Arcade, Retro and Indie games).  At first I couldn’t believe that I had bought so much and played so little.  I certainly have my work cut out for me.  Some of these games, like Bayonetta, I did play extensively, just didn’t get the chance to finish them.  Other games, I quit out of frustration: is the Devil Bringer supposed to be fun DMC4? Really?  Don’t get me started on the game’s protagonist, Nero.  Last but not least, there are games that I own that just plain suck.  I keep these games only because I couldn’t trade them in or the value of the trade was incredibly low. Instead of letting that gaming-specialty-store-that-shall-not-be-named get their way, I decided to keep the game (DDR Universe 3, I’m looking at you).

How to read this list: If the game’s title has a normal font, then the game has been played, but not finished.  If the game’s title has a bold font, and has an asterisk next to it, it has never been touched.  Ever.   If the game’s title is scratched off, then I completed/finished the title, automatically making that game not part of the great backlog challenge.

  1. Alan Wake
  2. Assassins Creed
  3. Bayonetta
  4. Bioshock
  5. Bioshock 2*
  6. Blue Dragon
  7. Borderlands
  8. Bulletstorm
  9. Child of eden
  10. CoD MW2
  11. Dance Central
  12. Dance Central 2
  13. DDR U3
  14. Dark Void*
  15. Dead Island
  16. Devil May Cry 4
  17. Dj Hero
  18. Duke Nukem Forever*
  19. Enslaved: Odyssey to the West
  20. Eternal Sonata
  21. Fable 2
  22. Fallout 3
  23. Final Fantasy XIII
  24. Gears of War
  25. Gears of War 2
  26. Gears of War 3
  27. Golden Axe: Beast Rider
  28. GTA IV
  29. Halo Wars
  30. Kinect Adventures
  31. Lego Batman
  32. Lost Odyssey
  33. Mass Effect
  34. Mass Effect 2
  35. Mirror’s Edge
  36. MvC3
  37. Naruto SUN: Storm 2
  38. Ninja Gaiden 2
  39. Phantasy Star Online Universe
  40. Project Sylpheed*
  41. Pure
  42. Rage*
  43. Rockband
  44. Rockband 2
  45. Rockband 3
  46. Skyrim
  47. Splinter Cell Conviction
  48. Super Street Fighter IV
  49. Table Tennis*
  50. Tales of Versperia
  51. The Lord of the Rings Conquest
  52. The Orange Box
  53. Vanquish
  54. Your Shape Fitness Evolved
Now on to downloadable games!
Jan 232012
 

It is finally here.  The MMO that has been in the making for years will finally be able to reach our eager gamer hands in months.  Early this morning the ArenaNet blog was updated with a post titled “Welcome to the Year of the Dragon.”  The post was written by none other than Mike O’Brien, the Founder and President of ArenaNet.  The post coincides with the beginning of the Chinese New Year.  According to the Chinese zodiac, this year is the year of the Dragon.  The ArenaNet blog post took the opportunity to elaborate on the symbolism of the dragon and announce that Guild Wars 2 will be launched this year.

One of the most awaited games of this generation will finally come out this year

The post reads “This year, you’ll finally be able to immerse yourself in the vast, diverse world of Tyria.”  This is monumental for this game, since the team of developers became quickly known by their firm reply on the games launch date: “It’ll be released when it’s finished/ready.”  Furthermore, the blog post indicates that closed beta testing is complete and will move to “progressively larger” testing events.  The blog post did not specify a release date, but it mentioned that the release of the game will take place later this year.

Jan 092012
 

It is not uncommon to hear “New Year, New You” around this time of the year.  It is the time where many resolutions are made, some only to be broken.  This year I decided to do something I have never done before, and stick to it.  My new years resolution is to clear out the tremendous backlog of games that I have accumulated and to avoid buying any new video games.   There is a set of rules that I will follow, but before I go into detail, here is a recollection of events that lead to the creation of this challenge:

It is Mid November, I wait in line at that-gaming-retail-store-that-shall-not-be-named after going to the gym.  When it’s my turn to go up to the counter, I purchase a brand new copy of Super Mario 3D Land for my 3Ds.  I’m excited, it is my first ‘quality’ title for the system.  I currently have a lot of games on my plate but I don’t mind.  Enjoying new systems and their new games is one of the many pleasures of being a gamer.

It is Late November and ‘Black Friday’ is taking place.  I’m in the middle of my work week, it is early in the morning and I just got home after working all night.  I’m tired, I want to go to sleep.  I start to regret that I won’t be doing any Black Friday shopping. I always go “early bird” shopping during Black Friday.  I should go to sleep so that I can be well rested for the next workday.  Instead, I get up and go to a mall near my house.  I buy a new copy of Gears of War 3 (to replace my scratched one) as well as RAGE for a relatively low price.  I’m satisfied with my savings.

It is Mid-December and I lay on my bed talking to my cousin on Facebook.  He was a “hardcore” gamer before me, but I have continued to devour games long after his present gaming hiatus.  We discuss everything from work to gaming.  He cuts our current conversation abruptly with “By the way are your downloading SWTOR?”  I’m shocked.  He is the guy who really got into World of Warcraft and for a while it consumed him.  Later on, he quit and vowed to never touch WoW again.  I tell him that I will probably wait until SWTOR’s retail release, since I do not like Origin’s monitoring policies.  We then engage into a conversation about Star Wars, video games, and why I should buy SWTOR.  A few minutes later, I do some research and realize that I do not have to download the Origin client to play SWTOR, I only need to purchase the game from their website.  It wasn’t long before I purchased the Deluxe Digital Edition and stared the download process.

It is late December, I’m at a lesser known retail store with my father.   He is looking for a good deal on a flat screen t.v.   I’m there to decipher all of the tech-geekery-slang that is sure to boggle the mind of the most naive customer.  Essentially he is there to buy and I’m there to make sure it is a good buy.  In the end, he gets his flat-screen, and I take a look at the video game section.  They have a sale.  Most of titles are the usual rejects of bad games or sports games, but there are a few gems hidden in-between the trash.   I see Okami and A Boy and His Blob both for Wii.  Both of them for less than 15 dollars.  I have Okami for PS2 and despite my inability to play it (dam you PS3 Slim), I know that I should get A Boy and His Blob.  So I do and it feels good.  So very, very good.

It is early January, a copy of RAGE (still in the shrink wrap) sits next to a dozen other games, untouched.  I’m not gaming, instead I’m looking at my laptop, reviewing my savings account online.  I notice that my 2011 savings pale in comparison to the ones of the previous year.  In a separate tab of my browser I have my email open. In my inbox, there are emails from amazon regarding my Mass Effect 3 pre-order as well as other ‘amazon suggestions.’  Even though the thought of ‘maybe I buy too many video games’ had crossed my mind, it had never been as crystal clear as that point in time.

As I mentioned earlier, I will try to play through the majority of my backlog.  Currently  I have over 200 titles in my gaming collection.  This is includes everything from NES titles, handhelds and present generation games.  By doing so, I hope that I can achieve a few goals:

  • Play or complete games that were purchased but never played.
  • Finish the majority of games that I have started but never completed.
  • Restrict the amount of game purchases made this year.
  • Cancel Downgrade my Gamefly account during the course of this year.

Naturally there are some rules to help me work towards my goal as well as to provide me with some leeway:

  • I will not buy any new or used video games ( Mass Effect 3 is the only exception to this rule)
  • I can use gift cards given to me during the holidays to purchase games.  This includes 1600 MS points and a 30 dollar gift card.
  • From time to time I review games, these titles do not count and are exempt from this challenge.
  • Free downloadable games are ok, since they do not incur a cost.
  • My subscription to Star Wars: The Old Republic is also exempt from this.  However, if for any reason I decide to cancel my subscription, I will not re-activate my account until 2013.
  • Vintage games and vintage gaming hardware are also exempt from this.  Unlike video games for the current generation, I tend to be very selective and picky about what I will buy, so my vintage shopping habits shouldn’t be a problem.

That is all for this week.  Next week I will start an inventory of my small collection and then I can start to tackle this challenge. So far, no games have been purchased in the first week of 2012! Baby steps! Baby steps!

 

Dec 232011
 

Today, the PlayStation Blog has provided plenty of details on the pricing of accessories as well as launch titles for the upcoming PlayStation Vita handheld console.   In the past Sony has been criticized for the amount of money it costs to purchase one of their proprietary format memory cards.  Fortunately for future PSVita owners, it appears that the memory cards for the soon-to-be released handheld will be pretty accessible.  According to the blog, pricing as follows:

4GB Memory Card        $19.99

8GB Memory Card        $29.99

16GB Memory Card     $59.99

32GB Memory Card     $99.99

These prices are lower than what the video game retail store Gamestop had predicted.  As of this time Gamestop’s online store still shows the price of the 4GB memory card at $29.99 and the price for the 32GB memory card at $119.99.

The blog entry also details first and third party launch titles as well as the prices for other PSVita accessories.  For full details on accessory pricing and a complete list of PSVita launch titles head over to PlayStation Blog.

Dec 222011
 

As if speculation on the price of its next console weren’t enough, rumors on the Big N’s beloved franchise, Zelda, are starting to circle around.  This time the rumor involves Nintendo’s official Zelda art book, which according to a user posting on a Japanese website (translated by a Kotaku reader), contains an official timeline.

Is the official timeline kept within its pages?

The legendary, mystical and obscure Zelda timeline (heavily guarded and protected in Nintendo’s HQ by an army of Stalfos) might actually be real.  There are no screen shots of the inside of the art-book as of yet, so this might acutally be completely false.  However, the translation of said time line goes as represented in this graphic from the original Kotaku article:

The first four titles flow into one another, however it is in Ocarina of Time where the bifurcation of  story-lines take place.  If OOT Link fails in his fight with Ganon, then the storyline continues to A link to the Past.  If OOT Link wins against Ganon then the storyline separates into two, Young Link and Adult Link.  If you want to follow the Young Link timeline, then the story continues to Majora’s Mask.  If you follow the Adult Link timeline, then the story continues to the Windwaker.

Once again this is all rumor and speculation.  Through out the years many fans and websites have tried to make sense of a greater, convoluted story to The Legend of Zelda series.  Once such work would be Gametrailer’s The Legend of Zelda Retrospective.

The Official Zelda Art-book, Hyrule Historia, hasn’t been released yet.  Currently it is only planned to be released in Japan.  No word from Nintendo on the leaked timeline or the possibility of the art book being released outside Japan.

 

 

 

Dec 192011
 

Notch went head-to-head with other game developers in Ludum Dare’s competition.  Ludum Dare describes itself as a “The Rapid Game Creation Community,” with rapid being a gross understatement.   The site’s main draw are its ‘LD48 Comp’ events, which are a competitions to make a game in 48 hours based on a given theme.  After the allowed time is over, the team of game developers submit their projects and vote on them.

Notch, of Minecraft fame, entered this month’s competition and thus Minicraft was born.  The theme for the Ludum Dare’s 22nd competition was ‘Alone.’  The premise for Minicraft is to “kill the only other sentient being in the world, making sure you’ll be alone forever.”  While not entirely original (it is essentially 2D Minecraft), the game shows a great amount of polish for a project created in only 48 hours.

 

Dec 142011
 

One of the flagship titles for the PS3′s Move controller was a title called ‘Sorcery.’  Virtually overnight, the PlayStation move demo became one of the most anticipated motion control titles.  That was back in E3 2010 and the team behind sorcery has been silent since then… until now.

Sorcery as shown in E3 2010

The PlayStation blog website has published a hands-on feature with the title.  The footage shown shows an older protagonist and bigger more menacing enemies.  The website also interviewed Brian Upton, the design director of the project, who details some of the changes the game has undergone since its unveiling.

The current build of Sorcery

The interview also revealed that Sorcery is “on-track” to be released this spring.  Read the full interview and check out some in-game footage over at PlayStation Blog.

Dec 142011
 

Recently the Australian retailer site EB Games has posted an estimated price point for Nintendo’s next console: The Wii U.  The current price listed for this console is 598.00 dollars.  The website Computer and Videogames, also known as CVG, contacted EB Games’s Media manager regarding the price listing and were told that the Wii U’s price point was “an estimated price which [EB] provide for all products where price has not yet been confirmed by the vendor.”

The Australian dollar and the American dollar are virtually equal in trade with a slight variation of about 1 cent per every dollar.  However, it must be noted that the price for games, consoles and accessories are significantly higher in Australia than in the US.  In the United states, the price of a 160 GB Playstation 3 is 249.99 US dollars (per US Gamestop).  In Australia, the price of the same console and model is 348.00 Australian dollars (Per AU EB Games).

No word from Nintendo on the pricing of its upcoming console.

Dec 142011
 

Just in time for the holidays, the 3DS Ambassador program does right by its early adopters.  According to Andriasang, the following GBA titles will be available for download this upcoming Friday:

  • F-Zero for Game Boy Advance (aka, Maximum Velocity)
  • Super Mario Advance 3
  • Zelda: The Minish Cap
  • Fire Emblem Seima no Kouseki
  • Kirby & the Amazing Mirror
  • Mario Kart Advance
  • Mario vs Donkey Kong
  • Metroid Fusion
  • Wario Land Advance
  • Made in Wario

The information came to the Japanese gaming blog site via a notice sent directly to Japanese 3DS systems.  As of this time, no such notices has been issued to 3DS systems from other territories.

 

Dec 092011
 

This year has been one of the busiest years in gaming that I can recall.  Many game series have debuted, other received sequels or three-quels.  New systems have been announced and other platforms have been launched.  Amidst all of the hustle-and-bustle of this year, there are certain games that stand out above the rest.  Here are my Game of the Year nominations.

Action/Adventure game of the year:  Saints Row: The Third

Ah yes, I remember when I was thinking Skyward Sword should take this place…  Then I played it.  I do believe this is 2011, not 2004.  *ahem* So, Saints Row: The Third takes the cake.  It’s massive open fun world and has potential for lots depravity.

RPG of the year:  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

As much as I love Disgaea, I have to give a very sound nomination to Skyrim.  I’ve never played the Elder Scrolls series and I wasn’t a fan of what I saw in Oblivion.  In Skyrim’s case, the massive open world, great storyline quests and the sheer amount of (fun) stuff to do makes this a very solid game.  This is one of the greatest RPG’s of the decade.

Shooter of the year:  Gears of War 3

Even though Battlefield 3 deserves a nod for going against Call of Madden: Modern Shooter 3, the game that really deserves recognition is Gears of War 3.  The final installment in the Gears’ series is outstanding.  It offers gamers a great solid campaign, great multi-player, new modes, new weapons, new mechanics, etc.  Oh and one more thing: dedicated weapon executions, we need more of those.

Sports game of the year:  Top Spin 4

Sports series come and go; some take a while to brew while others rear their ugly head every year expecting you to shell out your hard earned money.  Thankfully, Top Spin 4 is one of those series that offers quality.  It soars over the ‘other tennis game’ in virtually every aspect.  It is also very fun and very challenging to play.

Fighting game of the year:  Mortal Kombat

Reviving a franchise is never easy.  Luckily, Mortal Kombat makes a Komeback (ha! see what I did there) in a very classy way: covered in blood and guts.  Instead of trying to do 3D, the series goes back to 2D gameplay and 3D graphics, which paid off.  This is not only classic Mortal Kombat, but it’s Mortal Kombat at its best.

Puzzle/Strategy game of the year:  Portal 2

Portal 2 is easily the best puzzle game of the year.  It’s funny and witty and at the same time it is devilishly clever.  This sequel could have just been another set of rooms like the original Portal; however the guys over at Valve decide to add more craziness to the mix.  Portal 2 also features a Co-Op campaign that stands out on its own.  Oh and it has Glados and Wheatley, how could you NOT love those two.

Indie game of the year:  Bastion

It’s fun, it’s fast and there is a lot of it.  The quality of this game far exceeds some of the games released for retail.  It is quite amazing the type of games that developers are now putting out through venues such as XBLA.  Bastion is a shining example of that, not only is it a good downloadable indie game, it is a great game period.

Platformer of the year:  Super Mario 3D Land

At first glance, Super Mario 3D Land seemed like a glorified tech demo.  Once I got it and played it, the game seemed to dispel some of those feelings, yet something was missing.  I thought the game lacked length and challenge.  Then I got past the last level and into the real meat of the game.  Super Mario 3D Land has a ‘hard’ mode.  It was platforming glory once more.

Family game of the year:  Dance Central 2

Dance Central 2 is an amazing party/family game.  It has drop in/drop out co-op, a versus mode, crew challenge mode and a fitness mode.  It has a great song selection and all of your Dance Central songs can be imported into this sequel.  The songs are great, the routines have been vastly improved and the game is a lot of fun to play.

Game of the year:  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

There are two reasons why Skyrim deserves to be Game of the Year: Scope and Execution.  The scope of everything in Skyrim is so immense it dwarfs every other game released this year.  In Skyrim, you can truly play anyway you want.  You can go out and fight dragons or go collect butterflies to make potions; or both.  The sheer amount of variables available to the player is incredible and how they all intertwine and execute is astounding.  Yet Bethesda manages to make it work, and it works beautifully.  The concept, the flow, the sound, the views, they all work together to make an unforgettable experience.

 

Dec 092011
 

‘Tis the season of giving and should you own an iOS driven device (such and an iPhone or iPad) do yourself a favor and download Mirror’s Edge today.  This stylish platformer is a pint sized version of Mirror’s Edge, originally released for the Xbox 360/PS3/PC.  This mobile version the game has our heroine Faith tumbling, sliding, running and much more though a beautifully sterilized city landscape.

I believe I can fly...

So it doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice, as long as you get this game today.  Time to put those iPhones and iPads to good use!

Dec 092011
 

If you own an Xbox 360 and go Online often, then you’ll probably have already downloaded the new dashboard update.  The update comes with its pros and cons, depending on your preferences.  However, one thing that was ‘upgraded’ along with the dashboard were the advertisements.  In the previous iteration of the Xbox dashboard, you cycled up and down though rectangular channels, and then selected them to get to your destination.  There were some advertisements in these channels but you could easily skip them.

Notice the ad for Windows 7 on the bottom right corner.

The new dashboard update features a mosaic tile design, similar to the interface in Microsoft’s MP3 player Zune HD (now discontinued).  The mosaic design gives access to several categories within one screen, however one of the tiles in the mosaic seems to be used constantly for advertisements.   Well, leave it to the internet to find a way to block these ads.  This post over at Reddit details how any user can block those advertisements.

  • Sign up for an OpenDNS account (it’s free).
  • Add a network for your current IP address.
  • Go to Advanced Settings and next to ‘Domain Typos’, check the box ‘Enable typo correction’ if it’s not already checked and apply.
  • Got to Web Content Filtering settings and set the filtering level to ‘None’, and under ‘Manage individual domains’, put rad.msn.com and select ‘Always block’ and then click ‘Add domain’.
  • On your Xbox, go to System Settings -> Network Settings -> (your connection) -> Configure Network -> DNS settings -> Manual, and enter the OpenDNS IP addresses for the primary and secondary DNS servers: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220.
  • You may need to clear your hard drive cache before ads disappear entirely: System Settings -> Storage -> Hard Drive -> press Y -> Clear System Cache (note that you’ll have to re-download any title updates for any games you play after doing this).
  • No longer pay to be advertised to.

This is, according to reddit user absurdlyobfuscated, the easiest way of the multiple paths available to blocking the persistent ads.

Nov 302011
 

In May of 2010 there was a crowd-funding project to start filming a documentary about video games.  The documentary would focus on the process of making an indie game.  The documentary was simply titled ‘Indie Game: The Movie.’  Such project will now make its worldwide premiere as an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.  The movie features stories from the creators or Super Meat Boy, Braid and other indie games.

The Sundance Film Festival takes place January 19-29, 2012 in Park City, Utah.  The film festival is widely considered the go-to event when it comes to independent film making.  Indie Game: The Movie is directed, produced and edited by James Swirsky and Lisanne Pajot of Blinkworks Media.

Nov 302011
 

One astute Elder Scrolls fan has extracted the in-game text from the books found across Skyrim and has made them available to the masses.  Well, to the eReading masses anyway.  This dedicated fan goes by the name of Capaneus, who runs his own website.  It is here where he has made the texts available via MOBI (for Kindle) and EPUB (The majority of eReaders).  Snatch them and dump them into an eReader before they are gone.

Another viable and awesome (yet time consuming) option would be to print all those texts and bound them into an actual book as this pc mag article suggests.  Regardless of your preferred method, being able to carry around books full of Skyrim lore (The Black Arts on Trial, anyone?) is pretty darn cool.

Nov 282011
 

Playstation 3 owners will be happy to know that Skyrim’s first update dubbed ’1.2.’ is live and ready for download.  The Update will be available November 3oth for the Xbox 360 and PC.  The update includes:

  • Improved occasional performance issues resulting from long term play (PlayStation 3)
  • Fixed issue where textures would not properly upgrade when installed to drive (Xbox 360)
  • Fixed crash on startup when audio is set to sample rate other than 44100Hz (PC)
  • Fixed issue where projectiles did not properly fade away
  • Fixed occasional issue where a guest would arrive to the player’s wedding dead
  • Dragon corpses now clean up properly
  • Fixed rare issue where dragons would not attack
  • Fixed rare NPC sleeping animation bug
  • Fixed rare issue with dead corpses being cleared up prematurely
  • Skeleton Key will now work properly if player has no lockpicks in their inventory
  • Fixed rare issue with renaming enchanted weapons and armor
  • Fixed rare issue with dragons not properly giving souls after death
  • ESC button can now be used to exit menus (PC)
  • Fixed occasional mouse sensitivity issues (PC)
  • General functionality fixes related to remapping buttons and controls (PC)

According to the Bethesda blog, the studio will continue to monitor blogs, forums and more in order to address other issues and subsequently fix them with further updates.

Nov 162011
 

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is at it again.  This time they have released a flash parody of the Super Mario video game series named  Super Tanooki Skin 2D.  The game, drawing from the recently released Super Mario Land 3D, features Mario flying though a 2D level in a bloody tanooki suit.  Chasing after the mustachioed plumber is the playable character: a tanooki raccoon dog  that was apparently skinned alive and is now seeking to recover its fur.  PETA claims that by allowing our plump hero to wear a tanooki suit, Mario is “sending the message that it’s OK to wear fur.”

This is not the first time PETA has taken the liberty to parody titles from the video game industry.  In the not too distant past they released Cooking Mama: Mama Kills Animals, which featured a psychotic looking mama slaughtering a turkey for thanksgiving.  This was done to protest the slaughter of thousands of turkeys each year during the month of November.

It is obvious that PETA’s only goal is to fulfill their objective of turning everybody into brainwashed grass-eating robots (okay, I admit, that’s stretching it too far).  Mario, a beloved icon of Nintendo and the video game industry in general, is portrayed as angry and/or aggressive in PETA’s website.  The usually-jolly plumber sports a blood-soaked tanooki suit and holds the head of a deceased tanooki dog.

No official word from Nintendo yet.