Monday, February 25, 2013

The 3DS is Red Effing Hot  


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Games: If you’re into strategy games or old-school RPGs, the 3DS is where the action is right now

First off, I’ve put about 25hrs or so into Fire Emblem: Awakening, and I have to say, the game definitely lives up to its reputation. Although it appears like a standard tactics RPG at first, I love the team-up/romance element that occurs between characters. In addition to the usual "stand next to me and we give each other bonuses" action, this game goes one further -- characters can actually combine into a pair and up each other's stats based on how close their relationship is. Married couples are pretty much unstoppable on the battlefield, no joke.



(Side note: It’s kind of a bummer that the most powerful relationships can only be hetero, even though I honestly I didn't expect any GLBT acceptance out of Nintendo. That said, what's the deal with bestiality being okay? Human characters can marry rabbit or dragon shapeshifters and that's totally fine, but not gay, lesbian or otherwise? Kind of hypocritical, if you ask me.)

Also, one of the hallmarks of the Fire Emblem series is that characters suffered permadeath up until Awakening. Now, the developers have included a casual mode where instead of being gone forever, teammates are just knocked out until the end of battle. 

While some people may not approve of the change, I'm of the opinion that casual mode is the best way to go. Why? Well, there are a number of reasons, but the biggest one is that the writing in the game is actually pretty damned good! Some of the exchanges between characters are priceless, and each recruitable person has their own distinct personality and traits. It would be a real shame to have even one of these stories end prematurely thanks to a goof on the battlefield.

Play casual and enjoy the writing -- the game is still plenty strategic without the permadeath!

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The next big reason to focus on the 3DS is Etrian Odyssey IV, coming from one of my favorite publishers, Atlus

Although it's not out at retail yet, I've had a review copy for the last couple of days and this game is the goods. I've always been a fan of the crazy-difficult, hardcore dungeon-crawling and do-it-yourself mapmaking that it offers, and it's one of the few titles that genuinely gets better with each new installment.



This latest iteration is just so damn smooth in every way... tons of concessions to make things more playable, super colorful graphics with cute animations and great character art, an overworld to explore via airship, and like Fire Emblem, a new casual mode which dials the difficulty back dramatically. 

Last I checked, this one hits retail tomorrow (February 26) and I'm guessing copies are going to disappear off the shelves before you even know it's out.

Eyes peeled!

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Coming on March 19 is Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, hitting 3Ds and WiiU. 

If you've ever read this blog, then you know that I'm a hardcore MH fan. It's one of my favorite series of all time, and I've probably spent over 700 hours with the various games altogether. I can't wait to jump into this new one (especially since new entries in this series are quite rare in the United States) and I'm really looking forward to some multiplayer.



If you're not a MH convert, there is a demo up on the 3DS eShop now that you can check out, but a few words of warning – Capcom has traditionally done an abysmal job of welcoming newcomers to the series, and this demo is no different. It tells players absolutely nothing about how to play the game, how to control the characters, or what players are supposed to do. On top of that, the game needs the Circle Pad Pro peripheral in order to have an effective camera system, and the second half of the demo takes place in the water, which offers a whole host of challenges separate from going after monsters on land.

Needed.

Quite honestly, this demo is pretty awful and I would imagine that it will scare off a lot of people who might be interested if they actually had a proper introduction to the game. Take a peek at it if you like, but please know that this demo does not give proper perspective on what MH3U has to offer.

If you've got questions about the series or if there's anything I can answer that might win you over for Monster Hunter, please drop me a line and let me know. Nothing would make me happier than to see the series finally take off in the states, and unfortunately, it seems as though Capcom isn't doing much to help that happen. As always, it's up to fans to keep the dream alive.

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Last but certainly not least, the good people of Atlus have great news (again!) for fans of Shin Megami Tensei --  Soul Hackers, one of the only SMT games to never get an English release, will finally make its way stateside on April 16, 2013.



It only took twelve or thirteen years, but hey, better late than never, right?

Since Soul Hackers is probably the least-familiar SMT game to English-speaking fans, Atlus sent over some character profiles and pics to give players a little taste of what's coming… You can check 'em out below.

For more information, click on over to the official website. As a heads-up, be aware that it hits retail on April 16, and pre-orders will receive an OST. Expect this one to be in very short supply, so if you miss out on the goods, don't say I didn't warn you...
  
Judah SinghA Gurkha born in Nepal.  He uses a saxophone-type COMP.  He was raised and trained to be a warrior, and takes great pride in his training and his family name.  He works as a Phantom Society summoner in order to support his rather large family.


Combat

Mayone
One of the few Devil Summoners in the Phantom Society’s stable, Mayone is quite confident and will not accept defeat.  Not much is known about her, but it’s assumed that she is from a wealthy family.  She uses a parasol with special symbols as her COMP.




Combat

Spooky (Masahiro Sakurai)
Spooky is the founding member of the hacker group Spookies and also their leader.  He’s extremely intelligent and a very skilled hacker himself.  The rest of the team respects him and trusts him implicitly.


Get excite!


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Friday, February 22, 2013

Interview with: Nathan Fouts, of Mommy's Best Games  


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Games: Indie developer and fighter of good fights Mommy’s Best Games has just released Serious Sam DD XXL on XBLA. 

Not only am I in love with the actual title of the game (so sexay!) it's something of a spiritual successor to one of my favorite XBLI jams ever, Weapon of Choice.  


The big cheese of MBG, Nathan Fouts, explains everything anyone needs to know about SSDDXXL, and a few other topics came up, to boot. Apart from the noogie he gave me (it still smarts!) the interview went rather well. Here's the scoop...

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Hey Nathan! Thanks for chatting with me. The best place to start, I think, would be to ask you:

What do people need to know about SSDDXXL?

I think it's important to know that it's basically a new game. It's not a sequel to the original Serious Sam DD, but you could call it a version 1.5. It's the way the game should have been if we'd had proper time initially, but we had certain time restrictions.


There's a ton of new stuff, like 2-player co-op and the gun upgrades (40 total guns now, with just 8 before). So as soon as you have all this new firepower, we worked to actually fit it into the design of the levels rather than just tack it on. It's pretty broad with all the upgrades, but we restrict your initial purchases for a while to help ease you in to all the options.

Then there's the level changes and completely new vehicle levels for the campaign. Co-op play actually spawned the 'head to head arenas' which weren't even originally planned, but once we had co-op and all these guns, it seemed only right to offer a competitive option in addition to the cooperative campaign.

That's the most important stuff... then there's the little things like a ton of customization (which is classic for a Serious Sam game) that we felt was important to maintain. Not just for the game, but to help ensure more people get to enjoy it. 


So Nathan, you announced a title called Grapple Buggy quite a while ago, but it never materialized. I recall seeing some art and unless my memory deceives me, I thought there were even brief snippets of gameplay. I was really looking forward to it back then, and was disappointed that it's still MIA.  Any Updates on that?

Basically we want to do the game right. I've had two false starts, both for many months at a time. Each time it looked great and got far, but funds were drying up and there was still a lot of game to make. We had to switch over to other, small projects to bring in income. 


And, I hope this isn't too pretentious, but my design keeps changing. As an artist I continue to change and evolve, and my interests shift. I get influenced by life, by other art. In the off-production time, the design just keeps evolving.

I want to ensure it does some interesting things that haven't been seen before. I'd definitely like to finish it, but we need to get secure enough for a long, long stretch of development.


Fair enough, and I respect that.  Otherwise, what’ve you've been doing since SSDD came out? Has working on DD XXL been taking up all of your time, or do you have anything else in the works?

Serious Sam Double D launched at the end of August in 2011. After that we spent some time promoting the game, which probably doesn't sound hard, but is surprisingly involved. After that, I took a little break visiting some relatives in the Sunshine state. 


Around November Microsoft put out the newest dashboard update which crushingly buried XBLIG and had so many new advertisements, it was a wonder you could find any games. With a purpose to effect change, I created Game Type in a few days and put it up on XBLIG. Whether or not we caused the change, MS did update the dashboard later to both XBLIG's and XBLA's benefit with more sensible arrangements and imagery.

Then in December 2011, I took the month to get SSDD running on the Xbox 360 as a test. At the end I had the game running via XNA, but man-oh-man was it slow! But it was finally running with load times around 4 minutes, and framerate something like 4 frames a second! It was an unplayable mess, but it did not actually *crash* on the Xbox, so that was a start. Thankfully now in the final versions the framerate is frequently 60.

I spent January making another small, experimental game for a cool contest held by the Experimental Gameplay Project which let players run their games with five giant floor buttons. We entered the contest (it was called Porkerpillar) and won second place!

We worked on Serious Sam from February 2012 till December. Along the way we started with "straight port", and then we added co-op, then we added 400% more *new* weapons, added vehicles, enemies and more! I knew if we had a chance with a game on XBLA, a straight port was not enough!

A different game (Serious Sam BFE) came out already on XBLA, but Devolver was happy with us making XXL as great as possible, thus the development time extension. I wanted take our little 'marketing game' and make it great all on its own terms. Even if you hadn't played a Sam game before, if you liked guns and side-scrollers, my goal was to make something really fun for you. 


Sounds like you had your hands full there! So what’s coming up for MBG now?

Serious Sam DD XXL came out February 20th on XBLA, so we're doing everything we can to let people know.

After that, we're throwing a party! 

Yup, March 1st, here in Louisville Kentucky we're organizing the first big gathering of indie game developers in the Kentucky/Indiana area, and we're showing our games to the public! It's called "Shave and Haircut, 8bit", takes place in a really hip barber shop, and will have a variety of new games for play.


From there it's off to PAX East, letting more gamers play SSDDXXL since it will have been out for a few weeks. 

As for the next game, we're currently developing a 4-player thing for the Ouya console. It's called Pig Eat Ball and is already turning out to be a blast. The controls are simple - players fly their pig around with one stick, and boost fast with a single button. That's it. The game involves them trying to eat balls to grow in size and match the goal size to win the match, but they can also boost into each other to get their friends to spit out balls. It becomes a balance of eating as fast as you can, while trying to thwart your friends.

That's our next small game, and from there, I have a few bigger projects in mind, but I'm still getting my notes together!


Excellent stuff. So, enough about your games... let's talk about games from other people! Specifically, what was topping your list last year?

Hmm, I've played several good ones, but let's seeeee.. The best ones in no order:

Escape Goat
Frog Fractions
Mark of the Ninja
Batman: Arkham Asylum

...And sorry for some of these not coming from 2012, my backlog is embarrassing!

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Infinite thanks to Nathan Fouts and Mommy’s Best Games for their time and attention. For more information on what these folks are doing, you can click here to check out their website, and tell them that I sent you. Otherwise, if you've got a 360 you can download Serious Sam DD XXL right this very minute and find out what the madness of gun-stacking is all about!

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Generation Why  


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Games: With buzz building around “inevitable” new console announcements (February 20th, Sony?) I started thinking about it and came to a realization:

For the first time in over thirty years of playing games, I'm honestly not excited about or even looking forward to the next generation of hardware.

Not ready for new consoles? Whaaaaa?

Just thinking that gave me pause for a moment... As a gamer to the core, it’s a bizarre, jarring way to feel. How can this be? After all, looking back it seems as though no matter what system I had, I was constantly eager for the next thing.

The Atari 2600 kept me busy for ages, but I knew that couldn't be all there was. The NES was fantastic, but I could conceive of better. The SNES and Genesis? Fantastic stuff, but the seams were showing. The PS1 was striking out in an all-new direction and things got interesting, but they also got a hell of a lot uglier. And now that we've had the 360 and PS3… well, what's next?

Real talk: I'm fairly satisfied with the consoles we have now.

Tech-heads may disagree, but in general, the graphics we're seeing these days are more than good enough. We've got decent online connectivity (for those of us who are actually online) and I've got an over-stuffed backlog of titles for 360, PS3 and Wii. If I stopped buying games this instant, I wouldn't run out of things to play for at least another two or three years.

Years.

So, for the sake of argument, let's say that both Microsoft and Sony announce new consoles this year. What would their big hooks be?

There will eventually be solid games to play (especially as support dries up for the older machines) but when comparing graphics between the current generation and the next, the improvement might be visible, but I doubt it will be stunning enough to drive consumers to the stores.

Going further, I don't think many developers are getting the most out of what they've already got. Rather than trying to get shinier skin or real-time eyelashes on in-game characters, I'd rather see people focusing on better designs, more innovative thinking, and newer types of content that are entirely possible on the current machines.

Not high-tech, but I bet you can't find a copy in stores.

For example, look at Fire Emblem: Awakening. I've happily poured twenty hours into it and will likely put in another twenty. The graphics are simple and there's nothing cutting-edge about it -- it's just a smartly-designed piece of software. The same goes for Serious Sam DD XXL on XBLA. It looks like it could run on a graphing calculator, but there are a lot of clever ideas and the gameplay delivers. The list just goes on and on. Monster Hunter, Deadly Premonition, Trials HD. Hell, I’ve never, ever heard of anyone describing it as the “system-straining Journey”, yet that thing walked away with nearly every award out there in 2012.

It's from this perspective that I question what the next generation is going to bring. 

HD graphics? Already there. 3D? It's a gimmick, and with the current state of technology, seems likely to remain that way for quite some time. Motion control? Kinect and Move failed to make their cases, and while most players seem open to a little waggle in their game diet, I don't see anyone focusing on that as the next big thing.

Always-online requirements? Used game lockouts? Publishers and developers might be keen on these things, but I'm guessing that very few gamers are looking forward to these "advancements".

Another factor in my new-box apathy is that while my 360 has seen heavy use since purchase, my PS3 and Wii have remained largely untouched except for the occasional exclusive.

Although I'm in a special position as a game reviewer and needed to have these units in-house, the smart move would have been to wait for the hardware to drop in price and then scooping up all of the worthwhile titles at deep discount. Looking at the library on my shelf, there weren't many exclusives that I would have missed out on if I had done so.

Given that multi-platform development is now the norm, buying a new set of boxes makes less sense than ever. In fact, despite being a console diehard since the beginning, it's starting to look like the smartest move is to buy a gaming-class PC, hook it up to my TV, and investing in a couple of high-quality controllers. It's not something I thought I would ever say, but the cost savings of PC games on sale is undeniable and the idea of having both big-budget blockbusters and edgy indies on the same box is incredibly appealing.

The pockets of consumers: they ain't infinite.

 With all of this in my head, I'm finding it difficult to get excited about the possibility of spending hundreds and hundreds of dollars on "inevitable" new consoles. Unless the current economics of video games goes through a radical shift or there’s some revolutionary new trend or mindblowing design concept that I'm not yet aware of, I'm feeling very inclined to get off the early-adopter bus and keep myself busy with what I've already got.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying I won't get on board if Microsoft or Sony present me with a tempting set of reasons to make the jump, but I'm not champing at the bit to empty my bank account like a sucker and hope that something compelling will come from it.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Invisible Indies: David Cage is Right  


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Games: At the recent DICE conference which just took place in Las Vegas, David Cage gave a speech which outlined nine points supporting his message that ‘the industry needs to grow up’.

For further details on what he said, there's a great summary here at Kotaku, or you can watch the entire speech here at YouTube.

Predictably, his comments angered many people and I've been seeing comments across the gaming spectrum disagreeing with him or trying to prove him wrong in various ways. The most recent was this piece from sharp writer @EthanGach, blogging over at IGN.

David Cage

Gach raises a good point in that there are certainly people within the indie/small gaming sphere creating the types of experiences that Cage suggests we’re lacking, but holding up these projects as proof is missing the point of what Cage is saying. The way I see it, it's a matter of perspective.

To players like Gach, myself, or anyone who pays even half attention to the indie scene, I have no doubt that a long list of titles could be given that show hope for the games industry. However, when viewed from outside (and please forgive the term) hardcore circles, those titles might as well not exist.

To people at large in the world, or who don't play games on a regular basis, their conception of what games are is quite a bit different than the conception held by those of us who play them daily, blog about them, or review them.

When at work or at social events, I can recall several conversations where fellow parents were coming to me as ‘that guy who makes games’ (sic) and seeking my advice whether Game X or Game Y was ‘safe’ for kids to play, or what I thought about the current level of violence in videogames. In almost every instance, the person asking me spoke about games as something dangerous, or as something that was bad for their children despite having no current personal experience themselves to base an opinion on.

Just to make sure that was still the case, I decided to do a little non-scientific research and asked several people who were not gamers what they thought of the industry. The friendliest response I got was something along the lines of ‘I don't know what those games are about, but my kids spend way too much time playing them’ to ‘they're really violent and have too much sex’. This latter theme was more popular, and it proves Cage’s point -- despite the existence of titles like Journey, Dear Esther, The Unfinished Swan, To The Moon, and many others, these experiences are utterly unknown to the outside world.

What non-gamers see.

When asked to give detail about the perceived sex and violence as viewed by these non-gamers, the most common example given was Grand Theft Auto. Every single person mentioned that the player ‘gets points’ for ‘killing cops’, ‘beating up hookers’ or ‘having sex’. In their minds, these were the main functions of gameplay in that title -- and please note, no one had any knowledge of the difference between GTA3, Vice City, San Andreas, or GTA 4, or that those titles existed. All they knew of was some persistent, generalized and monolithic version of Rockstar's biggest franchise.

Other examples of games given during my chats included Pong, Pac-Man, Super Mario (no version known),  Call of Duty (no version known), Halo (no version known) and surprisingly, I had one parent mention Minecraft although they had no idea how ‘bad’ it was or how much violence there was in the game. All they knew was that their child (age 7) ‘was addicted to it’.

Following up, when I asked these people whether they knew about ‘indie’ games or Steam, not a single one had any knowledge of either, whatsoever. Not a single one.

Interestingly, I also got several happy mentions of ‘Wii’, although it was meant in reference to Wii Sports, and not the console itself. I found this fairly telling for a few reasons, but I do give credit to Nintendo for managing to produce something which was seen as universally positive to society at large.

What non-gamers don't see.

Again, I fully grant that this was a non-scientific, anecdotal inquiry, but I think it's useful as a general indicator that only the most popular titles reach the level of cultural awareness required to penetrate the non-gaming populace, and that the overall cultural attitude towards games is that they are more negative than positive. I think it also suggests that most non-gamers have absolutely no idea of what gaming is like in the modern era.

I suspect that anyone conducting their own line of questioning would find something similar. Of course, this will likely change over time through cultural momentum as older generations die off and become replaced with younger ones, but for the moment, it is what it is.

My fellow critic @SparkyClarkson had this to say on the topic:

Imagine if the only films EVER advertised in any major way were giant action blockbusters and kids' movies. Imagine if the only way to find out that films like Lincoln EXISTED was to spend hours every day exhaustively following movie-news websites. That's gaming. Intelligent games have almost zero visibility, and even when they rise above the noise, comparatively nobody buys them. Cage's critics seem to think that he's willfully ignoring all these smart, serious games, but the reality is probably that he's just never heard of any of them. In that respect, he's like most of the gaming public.

It is from this ‘we only know the big games’ perspective that Cage’s charge to the industry makes perfect sense, and honestly, I think he's right. The points he raised in his speech ring true to me, and rather than players trying to discredit or prove him wrong, his critics might be better off trying to understand where he’s coming from, even if that doesn't reflect their own personal perspective or the entire spectrum of games development today. With all the scrutiny currently being given to games thanks to horrific acts of real-world violence, it can only be a positive thing to honestly evaluate where we’re at, how we’re seen, and where we want to go from there.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Backloggery 2013  


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Games:  With current releases still in a bit of a lull, my 2013 backlog-athon continues…

> I mentioned in the last post that I was playing Dead Space 2, but I called it quits and bumped it to my "trade in for credit" pile.

It's definitely a pretty game. There's no doubt that a lot of time and effort were put into the production values, but my general feeling was that the developers were tasked with creating a sequel to the first game and didn't really have any idea what to do next.

Hey, check out this hallway!

I got about halfway through the game, more or less, and the entire time I was doing little more than walking through beautifully-rendered hallways while shooting ugly, undead creatures. There wasn't a lot of story happening, not a lot of characterization, and precious little variety in gameplay. The zero-G environments were a nice touch, but they were just momentary novelties that served to break up the corridor blasting.

Apart from the monotony of the gameplay, I was quite surprised to see that the weapons system seemed so totally ill-conceived.

While the main character can purchase a wide variety of weapons, the "nodes" which power them up are in short supply. This means that the game was encouraging me to stick with the same weapon or two (since these are the ones which I spent all my nodes on) and discouraging experimentation with other, underpowered weapons. The system would have worked better if the nodes could have been removed and re-used, but that was not the case.

Boring gameplay, boring story. Done.


> White Knight Chronicles. I'm pretty much done with JRPGs unless they are of the "incredibly fabulous" variety, of which this one is not. Next!


> Batman: Arkham City. While I was a huge fan of the previous game, Arkham Asylum, City rubbed me the wrong way from the start, and did nothing to endear itself to me as time went on.

When the game begins, the developers don't seem to understand what constitutes a clear, instructional tutorial. It's as if they assume I instinctively remember how to play the game after completing the last one, and rush through the familiarization process entirely too quickly.

Complicating things is the fact that Batman seems to have too many gadgets and too many moves from the start. Rather than starting small and slowly becoming acclimated, there were too many things to deal with at once, and I found it difficult to get comfortable with the controls. Even after playing for a couple of hours, at no point did the game feel natural or instinctual…

Alfred, prepare the Batwing... I'm going back to Asylum.

In terms of the story, I guess I'm not enough of a Batman fan to be drawn in by what was presented. 

Cordoning off a huge section of Gotham city and turning it into a prison is pretty absurd to start with, the Catwoman sections which were reported to be so important and integral by the developers came off as nothing more than non-essential distractions, and I didn't find myself motivated by anything that was happening... and neither did Batman. I get that he is a supreme bad-ass that stays cool under pressure, but after getting poisoned by the Joker, there wasn't any drama or any increased stakes. In fact, I forgot that he'd even been poisoned for a while.

Open-world games are fine, but they aren’t a huge draw for me in and of themselves, and I'm only a casual Batman fan to begin with. Simply combining these two elements doesn't feel like enough… Asylum drew me in immediately, but City felt like an unfocused, meandering mess that just left me cold.

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Games: It's not a backlog title, but I managed to get a copy of Fire Emblem: Awakening for 3DS, and I've been putting some time into it… it's not title I was eagerly anticipating, but I needed a portable title and word of mouth from people that I trust was almost universally positive.

I've played almost all of the previous games in the series, and while I generally liked them, I never managed to complete a single one. Maybe it's just me, but I felt that there were always massive difficulty spikes at the end of each title that bordered on cheating. Because of this, I wasn't too eager to get into Awakening, but it's been quite pleasant so far.

Toughest challenge in Fire Emblem? Leveling this kid up.

Despite containing the usual (and utterly tedious) ‘countries at war/political maneuvering’ bullshit that SRPGs can't seem to stay away from, the story has managed to keep in touch with its characters and hasn't become head-scratchingly convoluted yet. That's a huge plus in my book. 

Also, I'm becoming quite a fan of the system which builds friendship between characters... when two people feel connected, they give each other massive bonuses and can often chain attacks against enemies. Plus, it looks pretty damned cool.

Much has been made of the series’ reputation for its characters encountering perma-death if they die on the battlefield, but Awakening is the first to buck the trend by including includes a ‘casual’ mode. When selected, characters are simply knocked that of action and are ready to get back into the thick of things after the battle is over. Some may cry foul, but the original perma-death is still an option, and I've always been the kind of player who would simply re-load a save if one of my favorite characters died.

I'm long past any need to ‘prove myself’ by beating ‘hard’ games just for the sake of doing so, and in that respect, this new mode is a godsend. The game is still quite enjoyable without the uber-high punishment, and it saves me all of the hassle and stress associated with permanently losing characters.

Side note: apparently the game is becoming quite hard to find… I've heard several of my friends on Twitter report that they've been unable to locate any copies despite thorough searching, so if you are the sort of gamer (like I am) that prefers to have a hard copy, you better get cracking. 

Just FYI, the game is available on the 3DS eShop for those who swing that way. I think it's pretty crappy that the game is exactly the same price to download as it is to buy a retail copy, not to mention that Nintendo doesn't exactly have a great reputation for being flexible or fair when it comes to their download policies, but if that's the only option you have to play, then… it's an option.



********************PR/NEWS/INFO********************



Fans are Invited to Help KONAMI Launch New Action-Packed Game in
The United States, Mexico and Argentina

Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. today announced three different global events surrounding the launch of METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE. Fans of the upcoming METAL GEAR game are encouraged to attend these exciting events for a chance to meet Producers, Mr. Yuji Korekado from Kojima Productions and Mr. Atsushi Inaba from Platinum Games. Both Korekado-san and Inaba-san will be available for autographs at the times and places listed below.

United States
•       WHAT: Producers Korekado-san and Inaba-san will be available to sign autographs at GameStop. The first 150 fans will also be invited to an accompanying launch party at Hard Rock CafĂ© that evening, featuring a live performance by METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE music composer, Jamie Christopherson and orchestra.
•       WHERE: GameStop at Universal City Walk (1000 Universal Studios Blvd Universal City, CA 91608)
•       WHEN: February 18, 2013 from 8-10pm PST

Mexico
•       WHAT: Fans will have the chance to demo the game at Museum Britanico Americano. Producers Korekado-san and Inaba-san will be available for autographs.
•       WHERE: Museum Britanico Americano (#134 Colonia Centro Mexico D.F.)
•       WHEN: February 20, 2013 from 6pm-12am

Argentina
•       WHAT: Fans will have the opportunity to take METAL GEAR-themed photos, which will be printed on postcards. Producer Korekado-san will be available to sign autographs.
•       WHERE: Sony Style Cabildo (Cabildo 2070 Ciudad de Buenos Aires)
•       WHEN: February 22, 2013 from 8pm-12am

METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE will be available on February 19, 2013 for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft  at major retail stores nationwide.
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Following the recent announcement of Capcom Arcade Cabinet it’s now time to lift the lid and reveal the full list of classic 8-bit titles and how gamers will be able to transform their PlayStation3 or Xbox 360 into their very own customizable, HD 80s arcade.

Starting February 19 until early May, a total of 15 titles from 1984-1988 will be released on a staggered schedule available to purchase digitally either as a series of packs or individually, allowing players to choose what they want to buy. By purchasing all 15 titles, either separately or together, players will gain access to two bonus games absolutely free.

Downloading an individual title or pack will also give access to the Capcom Arcade Cabinet ‘platform’ which provides additional features including DIP switch functionality, a music player, and the ability to capture and share screenshots or video. When playing in standard mode, players will be able to access DIP switch-like settings to adjust their number of lives and difficulty, including a Casual Mode which tones down the difficulty level and makes it more attainable to see the end credits. Further features include 2 player online play for certain titles; a global leaderboard; a training mode with infinite lives to hone your strategy and an option to select either the Japanese or international versions of the individual titles.

In order to share their experiences with friends, PlayStation 3 users will be able to capture video of gameplay to post on YouTube, while Xbox 360 users will be able to upload screenshots to Facebook. Further additions include a sound gallery that allows players to listen to the background music of any of the games in their cabinet, and an art gallery which fills with new pieces as players progress through the games.

Game Pack 1 and the first individual title, Black Tiger, will be available on February 19. Xbox 360 owners will be able to play through the game with a single credit before restarting. On the PlayStation 3, players will have unlimited credits effectively giving them the full game for free.

Please see below for a full list of all the games and when they are available.

BUNDLE PACKS/INDIVIDUAL TITLES
NORTH AMERICAN SCHEDULE
PRICING
Black Tiger demo
February 19 (PSN)
February 20 (XBLA)
Free
GAME PACK 1
Titles: Black Tiger, Avengers, 1943: The Battle of Midway
February 19 (PSN)
February 20 (XBLA)
$4.99/400MSP
GAME PACK 2
Titles: Ghosts n Goblins, Gun.Smoke, Section Z
March 5 (PSN/XBLA)
$9.99/800MSP
Avengers
March 5 (PSN)*
$3.99
1943: The Battle of Midway
March 5 (PSN)*
$3.99
GAME PACK 3
Side Arms, Legendary Wings, Trojan
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
$9.99/800MSP
Ghosts n Goblins
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Gun.Smoke
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Section Z
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
GAME PACK 4
Titles: Commando, The Speed Rumbler, Exed Exes (Savage Bees)
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
$9.99/800MSP
Side Arms
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Legendary Wings
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Trojan
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
GAME PACK 5
Titles: 1942, SonSon, Pirate Ship Higemaru
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
$9.99/800MSP
Commando
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
The Speed Rumbler
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Exed Exes (Savage Bees)
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
1942
April 30 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
SonSon
April 30 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Pirate Ship Higemaru
April 30 (PSN/XBLA)
$3.99/320MSP
Bonus Pack (for those who have purchased all five game packs or all 15 individual titles
Titles: Two titles (names to be confirmed)
TBC
Free for those who have purchased all previously released packs or individual titles
All-in-one-pack
Titles: All 17 games
May 21 (PSN/XBLA)
$29.99/2000MSP

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Thursday, February 7, 2013

An Overdue Update Of Stuff!  


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Podcast: We’re recording the next @GameCritics Podcast this Friday (2/8) and our topic is: 

What three games are you going to dig out of your backlog and play in 2013 –and why? 

If you want to play along with us, send us your three picks and we’ll read ‘em on the air.
ALSO, we’re taking general questions – any and ALL questions. Game-related or otherwise, ask us anything and we’ll answer it on our pod!

(BTW, we ran really long last time and had to cut out two segments… We still have the Qs from that session and will be getting to them this time. Sorry ‘bout the delay!)

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Games: So, what have I been playing?

Believe it or not, I had never tried Cave Story before, and GameFly sent me the 3D version, which was pretty, uh, awful. I was quite confused by how poor it was after hearing it praised by so many for so long, but @Dezm0nd and @Duckols came to my rescue by telling me to ditch the 3D version and go oldschool 2D with the version on the 3DS e-Shop. 

Cave Story

That was the best advice anyone could have given me, because this older version clicked with me immediately and I ended up thinking it was pretty fantastic. It's rare that something so celebrated turns out to live up to its reputation, but in the case of Cave Story, all of the happy talk was true. The 2D version is totally, totally recommended.

Interestingly, another game released by the same developer hit the e-Shop the day after I completed Cave Story
Ikachan

I jumped right into that, and although it wasn't nearly as deep or as polished, it was still enjoyable. Ikachan takes place in one huge level, and tells the story of a squid who rescues sea urchins in a space ship because... well, I'm honestly not sure why, but it's a thing that happens in the game and it ends up being a good time. It was a quick play, somewhere in the neighborhood of two hours or so, and a thumbs up.

The rest of my plays on the 3DS haven't been as successful. I gave Vampire Blood a try since it looked like it might be a neat kind of action/item-heavy game, but it turned out to be total crap

I also got sick of the poor controls and generally rough design in Tokyo Crash Mobs as well. I like the crazy FMV style that has, but the actual gameplay barely holds together. It's more frustrating than fun, and I don't need that in my life.

NightSky is a physics puzzler that started out well, but turned me off with the way the developers kept changing the rules and powers available to the player without any rhyme or reason. The whole experience felt very inconsistent and haphazard, and those are two qualities I don't like in my games.

Apart from the handheld stuff, I'm still cruising through my backlog and selected Dead Space 2 as my next "catch-up". I won't be doing the review for DS3 at @GameCritics, but with everyone talking about the newly-released third installment, I figured it was time that I got around to the second. 

Dead Space 2

I'm still early in the game, maybe three hours or so, but it's going alright. It does basically what I expected it to and that's fine since I'm in the mood, but there haven't been any big surprises or interesting twists yet. I'm guessing this will probably be one of those that I push through and finish, and then completely forget about a day or two later.

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Monster Hunter: A bunch of MH-related things here. 

First off, another plug for @Kotowari’s MH Beginner’s Guide. MH3 Ultimate hits the 3DS and WiiU in March, and I'm hoping that a lot of you out there who haven't tried the game yet will decide to jump aboard. If you do, be aware that MH has always been utterly terrible at welcoming newcomers. Even though it eventually became one of my favorite games of all time, I fully admit that my first few experiences with the series were nothing short of awful. Avoid all that headache by checking out this beginner guide... I've looked through it myself, and the information inside there will be absolutely invaluable to any first-time hunters. Seriously recommended.

For even more MH info, one of the best places on the Internet is the Teamwork Podcast. There are a whole series of videos showing the group taking on monsters of every level from every game in the series, and they engage in some great chat while they do it. I was lucky enough to be on two separate episodes, and questing with these guys is serious good times. Apart from the videos, they have a new system where people can meet up for online questing, and they're always happy to answer questions of any kind. These guys are good stuff.
The 3DS XL case.

While I'm on the subject, you may be interested in hearing that there are special MH-themed cases made to fit both the 3DS and 3DS XL. These things are pretty sweet-looking, and you can check them out right here. I was doing some searching myself, and surprisingly, there really aren't that many custom pieces available for handhelds… if this sort of thing tickles your fancy, you might want to jump on it.

Finally (hey @Nightdreamer, are you sick of hearing about this yet?) my awesome, awesome wife @Ginagallaway made me a custom Tigrex coffee sleeve that I can take with me anywhere I go. Getting caffeinated while showing off my love of MH has never been so easy or stylish! 

This crappy Starbucks coffee NOW TASTES BETTER!

In case you're wondering how she came up with it, I first looked at a picture of the Tigrex symbol (easily Googled) and made an analog with perler beads. I had to eyeball it myself, but I think I came pretty damn close. I had to make a few adjustments here and there, but hey. Once I had the pattern, each individual bead equated to one stitch on the coffee sleeve, so all she had to do was copy it one-for-one and it came out exactly right. 
The perler bead template.

I'm over the moon about this thing, and currently thinking about having her do another one for me... I haven't decided on the next monster, though.

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Links: Some of this stuff might be old news if you follow me on Twitter, but just in case you haven't seen it yet...

>Brandon Bales did a fantastic interview with @Swery65 on his upcoming Deadly Premonition Director’s Cut, exclusive to PS3.

>@SparkyClarkson did a neat little interactive write-upon Hotline Miami and its choices.

>Nathan Fouts over at @MommysBestGames has a new video up detailing the new Serious Sam DD XXL that will be hitting XBLA in two weeks or so. Nathan hasn't made a game that wasn't good, and even though I'm not a Serous Sam fan, I'm definitely looking forward to this one.

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Music: I don't cover music too often, but DuckDuckPunch reached out to me from Minnesota, wanting to spread the word about their new video and their first album, and I could hardly say no to that. If you like Electronic-ish-type stuff, you might want to check ‘em out.

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Jerky: Apropos of nothing, I wanted to mention that my wife recently made salmon jerky for the first time, and not only was it ridiculously delicious, it was a hell of a lot cheaper than buying it. 

Can't... Stop... Eating...

Cleaning the fish and stripping the meat was kind of a process, but SO worth it. It didn’t take nearly as long to cook as I expected, either… Just about one whole day, so not too bad. Homemade jerky: recommended.


********************PR/NEWS/INFO********************


Seattle Retro Gaming Expo is back and bigger than ever at the Seattle Center. July 13-14 video game collectors, retailers, and enthusiasts will descend upon the Emerald City to come together for SRGE 2013.

Sponsored by Game Gurus (www.seattlegamegurus.com), SRGE 2013 will focus on the main components of what makes retro gaming fun: collecting and trading games, playing your favorite games with friends, multiplayer tournaments where everyone is in the same room, and meeting new people who share a passion for the classics. SRGE 2013 has all of these aspects covered and more.

We will feature over 11,000 square feet of vendors, game rooms, tournaments and panels in the Seattle Center’s Northwest Rooms. The 2013 vendor hall will be twice as big as last year! Our vendor hall features local game stores and sellers, artists, products and best of all; it will be filled with collectors and video game fans of all ages.

New for SRGE 2013 is the panel room, a space dedicated to providing panels, guests, and informational presentations. SRGE will release more information as the show approaches via http://www.facebook.com/SeattleRetro and http://www.twitter.com/SeattleRetro.

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Bethesda is pleased to announce that the official soundtracks for seven of their most popular games are now available for purchase on iTunes.

Dishonored Original Game Soundtrack – (Daniel Licht) -- $9.99
RAGE Original Game Soundtrack (Rod Abernethy) -- $9.99
To purchase these soundtracks, just click on the album names above and you’ll be taken directly to iTunes.  

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XSEED Games, an independent-minded publisher, is celebrating the new year by announcing a robust lineup of action and RPG titles scheduled for North American release in 2013. 

The full lineup of XSEED Games titles includes:

KILLER IS DEAD PS3™/Xbox 360®, Summer 2013 – Created by game legend SUDA51, this highly anticipated original game is set in a not-so-distant future similar to (but not the same as) the world we know now. The player takes control of an executioner named Mondo Zappa who wields a Japanese sword in his right hand and brandishes interchangeable weapons in his left artificial arm. His ultimate goal is to execute various heinous criminals scattered around the world and beyond.

Rune Factory 4 Nintendo 3DS, Summer 2013 – The first game in the Rune Factory simulation/role-playing series to be released on the Nintendo 3DS,Rune Factory 4 adds new romance options, the ability to select a male or female character at the game’s start, and has endless crafting, farming and cooking opportunities. The player becomes Selphia’s prince or princess and can manage the village, explore the countryside with townsfolk, or tame monsters in the wild to aid them in battle or help out in the fields.

Valhalla Knights 3 PS Vita, Fall 2013 – The fourth title published by XSEED Games in the popular Valhalla Knights action RPG series, Valhalla Knights 3features a robust character creation system and brings intense seven-on-seven party-based combat to the PS Vita. Players can select from one of seven races and one of twenty job classes such as Fighter, Mage, Thief, Priest, Akatoki or Archer, while also equipping two sub-jobs. Players can adventure with a party of their own making or brave the wilds alone and seamlessly engage in real-time combat to earn skill points for upgrading and unlocking abilities unique to each job class.

Ys: Memories of Celceta PS Vita, Fall 2013 – An extensive reimagining of (and pseudo-sequel to) Ys IV, one of the only Ys games never before released in the west, this title puts more enemies on screen than ever before and features the largest, most non-linear overworld in Ys history, boasting superlative graphics and a triumphant evolution of the fast-paced gameplay that has made this series a timeless action RPG mainstay. As the game opens, long-time protagonist Adol Christin finds himself alone, dazed and confused in a strange land, and must piece together his memories of how he got here and why, all the while struggling to determine whom he can trust.

Ys I & II Chronicles+ Windows PC (Steam), February  – XSEED Games has delighted RPG fans for years by publishing multiple Ys titles from legendary RPG developer Nihon Falcom for handheld platforms and Windows PC, and now Ys fans can celebrate once more as an enhanced remake of the classic first two games in the Ys franchise comes to Steam for the first time. Including both Ancient Ys Vanished: Omenand Ancient Ys Vanished: The Final Chapter, this action RPG tells of red-haired swordsman Adol Christin’s inaugural adventure to defeat the evil forces blighting the isle of Esteria and uncover the mysteries of the eponymous lost land of Ys.

 Additionally, XSEED Games recently announced that the company will be publishing the highly anticipated action RPG title, Pandora’s Tower, on Wii™ this spring. More information on each of the upcoming products will be announced in the coming weeks and months. For more information on XSEED Games products, visit www.xseedgames.com. Fans can also follow XSEED Games on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/XSEEDGames and Twitter at www.twitter.com/XSEEDGames.
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CD Projekt RED has officially announced the title of their next upcoming game: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Further, they've announced that this, the ultimate game in the series, will also be the final Witcher game from the studio. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt combines CD Projekt RED’s trademark decision-based storytelling flair with a living open world larger than any other in modern RPG history.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the final episode of the award-winning RPG series and the last part of the legend of Geralt of Rivia. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the most robust and breathtaking game ever created by CD Projekt RED. Open-world, free-roaming exploration is an adventure in itself as the player will gallop through war-ravaged lands, sail misty waters and track down dangerous beasts for money. An improved combat system will allow players to feel like a real monster-hunter, a witcher who uses his superior senses and fighting skills to survive in a dark fantasy world--while he embarks on a quest to save his loved ones. The new core mechanics of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt immerse the player in the experience completely, with no Quick Time Events, only intuitive RPG gameplay.

The game will be released in 2014 simultaneously on all high-end platforms. Making use of the same remarkable art direction from The Witcher 2 combined with the support of in-house technology--the recently-announced RPG-oriented REDengine 3--The Witcher 3 will take full advantage of the technical capabilities of modern hardware and will set a new standard for RPG visuals.
CD Projekt RED has added a whole new section to their website. If you want to find more information, please go to www.thewitcher.com.

To be informed about the start of official CD Projekt RED pre-orders for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and to receive the latest Witcher news please subscribe here: thewitcher.com/preorder
and be sure to follow our social media: Facebook | Twitter | Youtube

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