Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Revisiting the Vita (and other tales)  


This week starts the countdown to getting my book edits done. Most of my time in the evenings will be going to that until it's wrapped up, so I'm going to get right down to business here and then get to work...


Games: According to the package notice left on the door of the GameCritics West studio today (how do they always manage to come when no one is in?) the next thing I'll be reviewing appears to be Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel.

Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel

Unfortunately, EA is only sending one copy, so it seems like trying to review the online co-op will be a little problematic. On the other hand, the game does offer splitscreen action, so maybe that won't be entirely terrible...

Otherwise, I'm putting the finishing touches on my Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate review tonight. 

Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate

Although I'm nowhere near the end because the games in this series are absolutely enormous, I've already got about 75 hours or so in between the solo campaign and online/local multiplayer. While I still have some quibbles with the basic formula and the graphics won't drop any jaws, Capcom has no trouble delivering an outstanding experience that's deep, rich, and satisfying. Spoiler: it's going to be a very favorable review.

In other games news, I've been tooling around with a few things randomly. 

With the wife currently in command of my 3DS (she's working on her own Monster Hunter character, of course) I’ve hopped back onto the Vita and have been trying to catch up with what I've missed during my recent 3DS binge.

Right off the bat, I found two little gems courtesy of @AshtonRaze and @Jeremy_LaMont. These fine fellows recommended Haunt the House and Aqua Kitty respectively, and their instincts were right on.

Haunt the House

Haunt the House is a cute, cartoony little thing about a ghost who can possess objects in a series of (wait for it...) houses with the goal of frightening the occupants away and freeing spirits trapped within. It's super-simple and the entire thing can be finished in an hour or two, but I love the concept and the aesthetics are awesome.

Aqua Kitty is an iteration on the 1980 classic Defender, although I suppose the majority of gamers these days are probably too young or haven't done enough research to know much about the original.

… aaaand that feels really weird to write. I may need to take a moment here.


Anyway, the gist is that the player controls a submarine that shoots back and forth in a 2D ocean with the goal of defending kitty friends hanging out at the bottom of the sea. Enemy fish will try to come and kidnap them, so it's all about blasting and dodging while collecting the occasional power up.

Aqua Kitty

It may sound a little simple, but Defender was an enormous hit back in the day, and I'm guessing that anyone who spends a few minutes with Aqua Kitty will see why.

The other big winner I discovered on the Vita was Cyberbots, a 2D fighting game made by Capcom. For whatever reason it was never localized for the US, and it's always been one of those “games that got away " until now.


It's located in the PS One Classics section of the online store, and it goes for $6 or so. It's unfortunate that the game has had no translation done on it whatsoever (all dialogue is still in Japanese) but the menus are in English and with a little help from a move list from GameFAQs, it's totally playable. 

I had a great time with that today, and it was really interesting to look back at this title from 1995 or so and see what a solid, well-developed and interesting fighter it is. Side note: sharp-eyed players will recognize a few characters here, Devilotte and Jin Saotome, both of whom have made guest appearances in other Capcom games.

Clive Barker's Undying

Speaking of "games that got away", GoG.com recently added Clive Barker’s Undying to their list of releases. This has been on my ‘gotta try this’ list for ages, so heads up that you can now get it in a legit way. Find it right here.

Finally, the wife and I have been fooling around with Resident Evil 6 (just Jake’s campaign so far) and I have to say that after hearing everyone trash the game so hard for so long, we were both surprised to find that it's actually kind of fun.

Resident Evil 6

That's not to say that the game doesn't have problems -- I am absolutely mystified as to why Capcom thought they could put a player into this virtually brand-new experience with no education or tutorials of any significance. The inventory systems are totally different, the character controls are totally different, using melee attacks is of the utmost importance, and the entire game seems like a top-to-bottom reboot of what Resident Evil is. Or was, I suppose.

It's clear to see that the developers attached the RE name to cash in on its popularity, but in all honesty, I think they would have been better off turning this into an all-new IP. It's a pretty radical departure from what I think everyone expected, and while that would have been enough of a challenge to overcome all by itself, the absolute lack of any meaningful information on how to interact with the game was a grievous error in judgment. If I hadn't read @GC_Danny’s astute review and talked to several people about it beforehand, I suspect our reaction to the game might have been quite different.


Podcast: I've had several questions via email and Twitter about the status of the podcast, so I wanted to take a minute to clear things up: the podcast is alive and well, and we’re recording a new episode this Friday.

Of course, since our former host Dylan Collins has departed to focus on other things, there are definitely some changes in the works. While our time with Dylan was great and we wish him the best of luck, we’ve got a bunch of ideas cooking and are quite also excited about the new, rebooted show to come.

Thanks very much to all of the listeners and to everyone who has expressed concern about the status of the show... it means a lot to us that people out there care! Have no worries, though. The show is in good hands and you can all look forward to a new episode next week, most likely.


Resident Evil newcomer Rachel, who made her debut in the 3DS release of Resident Evil Revelations, will be joining Hunk as a brand new playable character in Raid Mode.  Resident Evil Revelations also features two brand new enemies, including the Wall Blister and a surprise new creature that appears in Raid Mode once players have reached a certain level.

Wii U players will be able to take advantage of the unique features of that system with three different styles of play. Using the screen on the GamePad players can quickly access their map and weapons, or switch the GamePad out for a Wii U pro controller.  Alternatively, players are able to transfer all the horror to the GamePad as the title utilizes Off TV play.

The Miiverse feature will offer Wii U players further exclusives. Players can post a dying message on the Game Over screen for other players around the world to see.  The ‘Creatures Voice’ function allows players to personalize the thoughts of enemies in Raid Mode to taunt their friends. Screens of all the Wii U functions can be downloaded here.

Resident Evil Revelations supports Residentevil.net with online events and in-game connectivity planned for after launch. Exclusive dioramas of the game’s characters and enemies can be collected through the online service. Earn custom parts and weapons for use in Raid Mode and items for Campaign Mode.

Resident Evil Revelations will be released on Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC and Wii U across North America on May 21 and Europe on May 24.


Today, Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announces the first DLC for SILENT HILL BOOK OF MEMORIES, the PlayStation Vita-exclusive title with all-new gameplay mechanics and a constantly-changing storyline built around the Silent Hill universe.

This debut download pack (priced at $4.99) includes refined balancing and dozens of new gameplay features, including:

10 New Playable Characters
50 New Outfits
15 New Accessories
14 New Artifacts
10 New Weapons
15 New Story Notes
2 New Enemies
4 New Trophies

SILENT HILL BOOK OF MEMORIES' downloadable content will be available on PlayStation Network beginning 3/20 for $4.99. SILENT HILL BOOK OF MEMORIES for PlayStation Vita is available now in retail stores nationwide or digitally through the PSN Store.


Kingdom Rush, beloved tower defender by Armor Games for iPhone and iPad, just released the free "Winter Storm" update with cool new content and a (frozen solid) hard mode, and I'd love you to consider covering the news. 

Blustering onto the award-winning game in this update:

Two New Wintry Stages
Terrifying Troll Enemies 
A Malicious Hard Mode 
Two Viking Heroes' Debut 
Five New Troll-thumping Achievements 


Capcom, a leading worldwide developer and publisher of video games, ended its panel at the PAX East convention today with the announcement that three titles from its revered catalogue - DuckTales ,  Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and Dungeons & Dragons:  Shadow over Mystara - are making a welcome return on multiple platforms in the coming months. Originally released in 1989 on the Nintendo Entertainment System, DuckTales was widely acknowledged as one of that generation’s seminal platform titles. Taking its cue from the Disney cartoon series of the same name, DuckTales Remastered follows the adventures of Scrooge McDuck as he explores differently themed worlds to collect their treasures and become the world’s richest duck.

DuckTales Remastered has seen the development team take the levels and layout from the original 1989 release as a foundation before expanding upon them to significantly enhance the gameplay experience but where this update truly impresses is its graphics and sound. All of the visuals from the 8-bit game have been beautifully re-created as hand-drawn and animated sprites, across a backdrop of luscious, re-envisioned level backgrounds. Furthermore, original Disney Character Voices talent, including some from the cartoon TV series, bring in-game characters to life with charm and wit, while the classic melodies of the original soundtrack are given a modern twist.

As the first modern role playing game, the Dungeons & Dragons franchise from Wizards of the Coast gave birth to numerous products including two arcade titles from Capcom, Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom and its sequel Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow over Mystara.  Both these titles are now being re-released with updated HD graphics and a wealth of other enhancements as a definitive double pack entitled Dungeons & Dragons ®: Chronicles of Mystara™. Scheduled for release digitally on PlayStation 3, Xbox LIVE Arcade for Xbox 360, Wii U and Windows PC in June, the title is being developed for Capcom by Iron Galaxy and will be priced at $14.99/€14.99/£11.99/1200 MSP.

Just as in the arcades, up to four players will select their character class before doing battle against the mythical beasts from theDungeons & Dragons’ universe with a mix of melee, range and magic attacks. But now, thanks to GGPO, there’s no need to jostle for position around a cabinet as Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara offers seamless drop-in/drop-out online gameplay in one of two modes. In addition to the classic arcade mode with its branching paths and multiple endings, players can utilize the all new House Rules feature and customize gameplay for a completely different experience.

"Rise and shine! Ah, another glorious Friday morning.

We here at MMPR and Rising Star Games have been hearing rumors that you've been thinking about taking a trip to come stay with us up here in Greenvale on April 30. We just want to tell you that we think that it's a wonderful idea!

We are certain that you'll have an absolutely delightful time. Let loose those city shackles, and come enjoy the fresh air and quiet, country life. Take a stroll through town and meet the locals - they have wonderfully interesting stories to share. Socializing not your cup of coffee? You can always enjoy a nice scenic drive through the hills, or wet a line and go fishing. And if you're feeling hungry, hop on over to the A&J Diner, or wet your whistle at the Swery65 bar and grill. Life certainly is beautiful here in Greenvale.

To show you just how beautiful it is, we've prepared a "Welcome to Greenvale" trailer just for you. Won't you come join us?"


Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Winner!  


Just a quick note for tonight: Thanks to everybody for entering the contest and for your feedback on the podcast! 

We shall put it to good use!

And now for the winner... I wish I could hook you all up, but I've only got a single copy of The Hobbit, and like Highlander teaches us: there can be only one. 

And that one is... @MJarbo!

Congrats, man! Contact me and I'll get the BluRay right out to ya.

Cheers, everyone!


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blogging For Hobbitses  


Giveaway: So, the fine people at Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment sent over a Blu-Ray copy of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (plus Ultraviolet, whatever that is...) for the purposes of a giveaway, so that is what I'm doing right now.

First off, thanks to Warner Bros. for the merch!

Secondly, be aware that copies of the film went on sale today, March 19. If you don't win, I suspect that Warner Bros. would like you to buy one. Probably.

Finally, this Blu-Ray will somehow allow you to get a sneak peek at the next Hobbit film (The Desolation of Smaug) by using a code included within the package. If you are a fan of these films the way I am a fan, then that probably sounds like a good thing.

So, how do you win?

As you may or may not know, the @GameCritics podcast has recently undergone a change in direction. Our former host is leaving, so we are taking this opportunity to tinker with the formula and give the whole show a bit of a tune-up. To that end, I'm looking for some ideas about what listeners want to hear.

To be entered for a chance to win this Blu-Ray, post a comment below and let me know what ideas you have for the show. Want to hear a specific segment that we don't do? Want to hear less of one thing, or more of another? Should we schedule more guests, and if so, who? Or should we never have guests again?


Also, if you somehow don't listen to the show (and really, who doesn't?) then let me know what you like best about other podcasts that you listen to. I can easily steal those ideas with very little effort.

That's it. Super simple, right?

Post down below, give me your thoughts about podcasts, and then check back on Friday. I will draw the winner after 9 PM Pacific time and announce the lucky person right here.


Monday, March 18, 2013

SIFT draws nearer, Links, and MH3U  


Book: My deadline for edits on Speaking in Forked Tongues is approaching, so shit is getting real. 

It’s kind of bizarre to think it’s going to finally be published after all this time… I've been chipping away at it over the last month or so, but I'm going to crank the volume up starting next week and get it done. There might be a slight dip in my game-related productivity over the coming days, but we'll see how it goes.

More hard info to come.


Games: I was recently invited to be a guest on the @CaneAndRinse podcast to discuss one of my favorite titles in recent years, I Am Alive

That episode is now up and available for your listening pleasure here.

In a similar vein, my review for the Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC went up a few days ago, along with my review for Etrian Odyssey IV, which, if you will recall, was the sole reason I bought a 3DS.

It did not disappoint.

Oh, I also covered the Vergil’s Downfall DLC for DmC… in case you're curious, you can catch that as well. 

Finally, I'm currently working on my review of Monster Hunter 3: Ultimate.

I wasn't able to put as much time into it as I expected because the bridging software which allows players to transfer data between the WiiU and 3DS has not been available, and apparently will not be until the day of release. 

Since I'm usually able to catch a few quests here and there on a portable when I'm not in front of my TV, that was an unexpected setback. 

The Monster Hunter games are all pretty huge, and it took me something like 60-70 hours to finish Tri the first time -- and that was doing the bare minimum stuff. MH3U has added a ton more content, so there’s no way anyone will be able to review it top-to-bottom unless they've been playing it for twenty hours a day since the review copies went out.

Luckily, I'm already very familiar with the series and Tri (which MH3U is based on) so that helps a lot. Once I'm able to try the data transfer and log some solid time doing online quests, I'll probably call the review good.

So how is it???

Well so far, MH3U has been kind of mixed bag. 

Tri has never been my favorite MH game for several reasons (MHFU still owns my heart) but getting any Monster Hunter is a minor miracle these days, so I'm quite happy to have it. 

On the other hand, it's been a long time since I was at square one in a MH game, and I kinda forgot how poorly they get started… the tutorial missions are painfully boring and the lack of initial resources means that it takes several hours before you have any real options of improving your gear and getting to some exciting battles. I know it gets exciting later, but you'd never guess from how it begins.

I'm hoping that this initial slog doesn't turn potential fans off... I still think the series has a lot to offer, and I'm guessing there are a ton of people out there who would get into it if the circumstances were right. That said, it's a tough sell when the game gets off to such a dull start on top of already being pretty cryptic with explaining the systems and being limited to Nintendo hardware.

Still, fingers crossed this is the start of a good thing for more MH in the states!


As a Sorcerer in Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen, players will get to cast an array of high level magic spells as they make their way through the underground realm. Check out the latest video on our press extranet to see how the Sorcerer and his party fare against the Poisoned Undead, Banshees and the imposing Gold and Silver Knights.

Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen includes all of the content from the original Dragon’s Dogma plus a whole new underground realm for gamers to explore. Owners of the original game will be able to export their existing save data to continue their journey as the Arisen, while those new to the series can begin their Dragon’s Dogma experience afresh. Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen will be available from April 23 in North America and across Europe on April 26.


By visiting GameStopJoinTheParty.com, fans can help unlock exclusive content from Injustice: Gods Among Us, including an early premiere of the game’s opening cinematic! They can also win one of ten Battle Editions of the game and an Xbox 360.

Pre-orders at GameStop get the exclusive Red Son Pack which features bonus missions and character skins for Superman, Wonder Woman and Solomon Grundy. Complete details can be found at GameStop.com/Injustice.


"Well, good afternoon. How was your morning? Did you sleep well, Zach?

It was another beautifully brisk morning here in Greenvale. We got a much needed shower and shave in, slid into a freshly pressed suit, and we got to watch the sun break over the coniferous evergreen hills of this little country town. Ah, and can you smell that, Zach? Mmmm, freshly brewed coffee.

Oh my, this coffee...this coffee is magnificent!

Sorry, Zach, I got a little carried away. Now, back to the case at hand (we'll definitely have to talk to someone about that coffee though). It would appear that 'The Monarch' of Greenvale has supplied us with some new information that could lead to unlocking the happiness of our fans. You want that don't you, Zach? 

Good, me too. 

It looks as though the official site for Deadly Premonition: The Director's Cut is now live!
From the official site you can get detailed information  on the game, see what's happening in the news , and pre-order the game.

Did you hear that, Zach, you can even pre-order the game before its release on the PlayStation®3 entertainment system and PlayStation®Network towards the end of April.

Life sure is beautiful, isn't it, Zach?" 


Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. announced that the DLC Virtual Reality (VR) Missions is available now on the Playstation®3 Entertainment System. Free for a limited time, the DLC adds 30 all-new missions to the game, featuring the classic VR look inspired by the original METAL GEAR SOLID VR Missions. The pack is pure, uncut gameplay that introduces a host of unique new challenges that will push Raiden's skills to its limits.

Along with the VR Missions, KONAMI will release two additional METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE downloadable content packs starting this April. The first DLC pack, Jetstream, will be a side story featuring Sam as a playable character. The second pack, Blade Wolf, will allow players to control the enigmatic Blade Wolf and will showcase his side story. Both DLC packs will feature multiple hours of gameplay including unique abilities and characteristics for each character, while also expanding on each of their storylines and origins.

The VR Missions DLC is available now for free on the PlayStation Playstation®3 Entertainment System.

The Jetstream and Blade Wolf DLC will be available in April for $6.99 for the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and the Xbox 360® video game and entertainment system from Microsoft.

For more information, please visit: http://www.metalgearsolid.com


We’re pleased to announce that Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall, the second add-on pack for the critically-acclaimed first-person action game developed by Arkane Studios, will be available worldwide on April 16, 2013 for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC for $9.99 (or 800 Microsoft Points).

In The Knife of Dunwall you take on the role of Daud, the legendary assassin who killed the Empress, and access his weapons, gadgets, allies and supernatural abilities. After assassinating the Empress, and forever changing the fate of Dunwall, you embark on a search for redemption. The Outsider reveals the key to your atonement, but who—or what—is Delilah? Accompanied by the Whalers, your loyal band of mercenary assassins, your search will take you through never-before-seen districts of Dunwall as you face off against new and terrible foes. Employ a unique arsenal of new weapons and powers that enhance Dishonored’s dynamic combat, mobility and stealth systems. In the struggle to hang onto the last shred of your humanity, the choices you make will ultimately determine your fate.

Dishonored has received over 100 'Game of the Year' awards from outlets including Game Informer, PC Gamer, Yahoo!, GameSpot.com, MSNBC.com, and CNN. In addition to garnering numerous nominations from the D.I.C.E. Interactive Achievement Awards and the Game Developers Choice Awards, Dishonored received ‘Best Action/Adventure Game of the Year’ at the SPIKE TV Video Game Awards and was recently named ‘Best Game of 2012’ by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) video games awards. For more information onDishonored or The Knife of Dunwall please visit www.Dishonored.com.


Capcom and Valve are pleased to announce the Resident Evil 6 x Left 4 Dead 2 project. This crossover project between two of the interactive entertainment industry’s most respected publishers will see characters from Left 4 Dead™ 2 featured exclusively in the forthcoming PC version of Resident Evil® 6, while enemies from Resident Evil 6 will invade the PC version of Left 4 Dead 2. All content will be made available completely free for fans of either game to access and play.


Deep Silver announced that Saints Row IV, the ball-busting next chapter in the Saints Row franchise, is starting a party in your pants this Fall.

In the next open-world installment of Saints Row, Deep Silver Volition continues the story of the Third Street Saints by elevating their status to the highest level – the leaders of the free world.  In Saints Row IV, the head honcho of the Saints has been elected to the Presidency of the United States. But the Saints are just getting started. Now the larger-than-life insanity of the Saints series gets a new twist with a catastrophic alien invasion, and the aliens have transported the Saints to a bizarro-Steelport simulation. Wield gargantuan superpowers and fight to free humanity from alien granddaddy Zinyak’s mental grasp. Escape the simulation that’s trapped the Saints crew, or die trying.

Saints Row IV lets players delve into an arsenal of alien weaponry and technology that will turn each Saint into an ultimate entity of destruction. Utilize out-of-this-world superpowers to fight all the way to the top. With intensified action and enhanced customization, players can use their newfound superpowers and leap over buildings, outrun the fastest sports cars, or send enemies flying with telekinesis in the greatest, most insane installment of Saints Row yet.

Save the world, Saints Style.

Developed by Volition, Saints Row IV will launch on current-gen consoles and PC on August 20, 2013, in North America and August 23, 2013, in the rest of the world.  

For more information about the Saints Row universe, please visit  http://www.saintsrow.com


A free demo to Chasing Aurora is available in the Nintendo eShop. The demo features the multiplayer game mode Freeze Tag and four single player challenges. It is playable by 1-5 players.

Last week we've updated Chasing Aurora with new features like Wii U Pro Controller support, a more challenging single player mode, new gameplay and a much smoother framerate.

To celebrate the demo and the update we're running a sale in the eShop. Chasing Aurora is 50% off ($7.49 / €5.99 / £5.39) until 21st March.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Fire Emblem: M/Str8 > F/LGBT  


I completed Fire Emblem: Awakening earlier this afternoon. I'm a big fan of tactics games, and the thirty-five hours I spent with it were mostly fantastic, except for a small pacing problem at the very end. Still, in terms of the quality of play and how engaged I was, it gets top marks. 

It's easily one of my favorite games of the year so far, from a design perspective. No question.

However, after rolling credits I noticed a couple of things which made me raise an eyebrow, and those were already on top of a problem I had with the game even earlier on - essentially, Fire Emblem: Awakening has quite a bit to say about female characters and LGBT issues, while never overtly saying anything at all. Some may write me off as making a mountain out of a molehill, but it's little bits of innocuous commentary like this that helps to reinforce societal norms which are long past due for a change. We've got to call them out every time we see 'em. 

The first and most obvious issue is that in Fire Emblem, successful play hinges on a team-up mechanic where characters pair off and actually occupy the same space on the battlefield. One character is the primary attacker, and the other stands off in the background to offer supporting stat boosts and secondary attacks. 


It's a fabulous idea which I enjoyed greatly, but the problem is that the amount of support between characters is ranked as C, B, A, and S. In order to reach the highest level of support, the S, the two paired characters must be married.

Although I was not surprised to see that in-game marriage is only possible between a male and female character, it was still disappointing. Doubly so, since there's no real ceremony or process that the player must go through in order to marry their characters. The only thing that happens is that the two characters in question have one extra scene of dialogue where they express feelings for each other, and then… that's it.

It's not even as if the game tries to deal with the marriage issue on a societal level, it's simply something that happens between two characters in a private way, so what the game is saying, essentially, is that it does not see any male/male or female/female match-ups as important, potent, or as valid as the traditional hetero model.

Although I was bothered by this, it wasn't an issue that I expected Nintendo to lead the charge on, so I made note of this outdated viewpoint and played on. However, at the end of the game I went into a mode called the ‘Hubba Tester’ and it was like adding insult to injury.

...aren't these...

In this extra mode, a NPC lets the player pick any two characters and then evaluates the relationship between them. It goes out of its way to say that this mode is “for amusement purposes only!” as if any other part of the game wasn't. Really, though, it was just an ass-covering disclaimer to anyone who might be offended at what's possible inside.

When picking two female characters who are mildly compatible, it's possible to get a reaction from the evaluator stating “I’m not one to judge, ladies!” clearly insinuating that there's more than friendship happening there. If you find two characters with strong mutual attraction (signified by hearts going in both directions towards the characters’ portraits) the NPC states “Hoo! It’s hotter’n Elfire in here!

That's a pretty clear statement on a same-sex connection, and similar results can be found when matching up two male characters. (In the case of a suggested gay relationship, the quote is “Whatever floats yer boat.” Interestingly, there's a noticeably less-positive emphasis on this statement than there is with the implied lesbian relationships… something to do with the writer’s viewing preference, perhaps?)

Allowing hetero relationships to reach the maximum level of bond in the campaign out of sheer ignorance might have been one thing, but the commentary and theoretical relationships in the Hubba Tester mode shows without a doubt that the development team was aware of possibilities other than male/female.


The other issue I have with the game was regarding the endings themselves. I had a good mix of male and female characters in my active roster, and some of my best fighters were females. However, the game gives a brief paragraph of text explaining what happened to each individual or pair of characters after the final battle is over, and the females (whether they were the primary attacker or support character) consistently get short shrift.

For example, Sully was a female knight who was in the primary attack role for the majority of the game, and her partner was Gaius, a candy-loving thief. The closing writeup told me all about Gaius, but only gave me a quick bit on Sully even though she was really the star of the duo. The same went for Kjelle (an armored female fighter) and Laurent, her supporting mage husband. Kjelle was one of my most powerful characters out of the entire game, yet again, the ending wrapup was all about Laurent’s personal quest and how she accompanied him on it.

In general, every matchup followed the same pattern: here’s a big chunk about the male half of this pair, and oh yes, by the way, here's what happened to his wife… if you care.   

It may seem like a subtle thing, but it happened too consistently to be an accident, and I'm fairly disturbed by the sexism on display here. There's no question that the female characters were every bit as important as the males, yet they feel tossed aside when it comes time to end the adventure.

While the gameplay mechanics and general design of Fire Emblem: Awakening are top-notch, the title would only be better if it opened itself up to a more diverse range of playersSeeing this systematic and pervasive sexism/devaluation of females/non-hetero relationships was quite disappointing.

While developer Intelligent Systems and publisher Nintendo may be trying to avoid controversy by clinging to archaic values that keep women and LGBT people down, the days when such decisions are acceptable need to end -- it's not just straight males playing videogames these days, and more inclusivity would help to not only push the medium forward, but might help push society forward as well.

Special thanks to @Shawn_i

Friday, March 8, 2013

I Am (Still) Alive, Mirror of Fate, and Damsels in Distress  


Podcast: I've been invited by the fine fellows over at the Cane & Rinse podcast to record a show with them next week on the topic of I Am Alive.

I've just started replaying the game tonight in order to refresh my memory, and just a few minutes after starting it up, I was instantly reminded of why I thought it was so brilliant in the first place.

In a nutshell, it's a post-apocalyptic story about a father who was trapped far from home when disaster struck, and is only just now returning to find his wife and daughter. 

There are a number of things that make this title unique, such as the extremely stark visuals, the dark, mature subject matter and the interesting combination of environmental traversal and highly non-standard combat which is more like lethal puzzle-solving than it is about punching dudes out.

I won't talk about it too much at the moment since I need to save some of that juice for the podcast, but if you're curious, the game comes highly recommended if you're a fan of exploring the fringe or pushing boundaries. My full review can be found here, and @RaygunBrown chose it as his personal game of the year when it was released. His words are right here.

By the way, if you've got some comments and want to hear them read on the show, head on over to the Cane & Rinse forums to leave some comments if the mood strikes you.


Games: I'm pretty stoked to start the new Tomb Raider as soon as I can get my hands on a copy, but my plate has been fairly full even without it.

If you've been following the blog recently, you'll know that I started Fire Emblem: Awakening (awesome!) but didn't finish it because I needed to start the review for Etrian Odyssey IV. (Also awesome!) The hits just keep on coming for the 3DS though, since I needed to put Etrian on hold in order to start the review for Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate.

I’m guessing I'm about a third of the way through this one, and so far it seems like a winner. It didn't blow me away from the get-go like the last few 3DS games I've played have, but it's enjoyable and this new interpretation of the Castlevania series is certainly interesting.

In terms of design, it feels like a halfway point between a straight brawler and the sort of backtracking action that was found in Symphony of the Night. I'm not sure that it entirely works, but the developers get enough right in other areas that it's not too hard to look past some of the oddness.

My full review will be coming as soon as I can finish it, but in the meantime, just a quick heads up - I never spent much time with the original Lords of Shadow, but the ending to that game is spoiled in the opening cutscene of Mirror of Fate. If that sort of thing matters to you (and it does to me, actually...) then be aware that the spoiler is there and act accordingly.

By the way, I forgot to mention it earlier, but here's a QR code for a bonus quest in Etrian Odyssey IV’s “Cramped Nest” dungeon, straight from the good people at Atlus.

Finally, the Tropes vs Women video series Kickstarted by Anita Sarkeesian is now up on YouTube, and it's a great piece. It's definitely Nintendo-heavy, but I think that's as fine a place to start as any, and it makes sense that this series would begin there given how much influence and history the company has. 

I watched it earlier this evening with my wife, and we both found it to be very educational and a good conversation starter. Definitely looking forward to the second installment.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Playing Catch-Up  


Misc:  The last week or so has been off-the-charts crazy here at GameCritics West -- tons of stuff going on and all of it equally important, capped off with the left front tire of my car literally falling off as I was in the middle of a busy intersection in Seattle. I don't like to go so long between Coffeecola updates, but there you go.

As a result, I'm going to catch up for my extended downtime and go rapid-fire through a list of random stuff that's accumulated on my desk here… Hang tight!


Games: I traded in a big stack of stuff for credit and paid the difference for a WiiU a couple of days ago in anticipation of Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate launching this month. I didn't pick up any other games at the time, so I've only set up my account and messed around a little bit with the minigame compilation that came packed in. I don't have a lot to say about it yet other than it seems to load really slowly and that the friends system was horrifically unintuitive and confusing.

Oh, one other Monster Hunter-related thing… Capcom recently announced that they are changing plans to region-lock online play. In a fantastic turn of events, players in the United States will now be able to play with those in Europe when a patch launches about one month after the game hits retail. There was no mention made of the Japanese market, which leads me to believe that there are no plans to integrate there. 

That's a bit disappointing considering how hard-core Japan loves its Monster Hunter, but being able to connect with friends overseas for some quests is fantastic news. Cheers to Capcom for listening to the outcry from fans and giving them what they want.

In terms of what I'm reviewing, I’m spending time with Etrian Odyssey IV, and I'm quite happy to report that it's every bit as good as I expected it to be. I am definitely a fan of the series (played and finished the first three) and this newest installment is definitely the most polished and player-friendly.

I doubt that I'll be able to finish it for the review with the other deadlines that I'm currently juggling (it's huge!) but I've got absolutely nothing bad to say about it after the twenty or thirty hours I’ve put into it so far. It looks great, it sounds great, it's got tons of complexity without ever being overwhelming, the casual mode makes it incredibly approachable to newcomers, and the classic ‘holy sh*t this is HARD’ mode is still there for series vets. 

For people who are fans of the dungeon-crawl gameplay it offers, they just don't come better than this.

Aside from that, I just played through the new DmC DLC, Vergil’s Downfall. The embargo is still up so I can't say anything about it, but look for that review to come this week as soon as we are clear to publish it.

Finally, the PR people representing Coaster Creator 3D (3DS) sent over a QR codes that can be redeemed in-game for a special coaster.

The game is currently available through the eShop, so if you pick that up, snap a picture of this code with your 3DS and enjoy! For further info on this game, scroll down to the PR section below.


Clothing: Recently, an online T-shirt company reached out to me about doing a review of their products. I can't say that I do a lot of clothing reviews, but several of their offerings were videogame-related, so why not? I mean, I do have experience wearing shirts, after all.

The company is called Design By Humans, and they’ve got an interesting spin as something of an artist collective. For those interested in such things, they've got interviews with the image creators and various bits of information on who they are and what they're about.

So, the shirts.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was sent three shirts at no cost for an evaluation. I've worn and washed them each a couple of times, and used them in a normal way -- I didn't put one on and then roll myself down a mountainside, or dip them in sulfuric acid, or anything crazy like that.

Although the material felt a little thin to me at first, it’s very soft and comfortable. It's got a good strength to it, and seems like it will hold up for long-term use. The print quality of the images on the cloth is actually surprisingly nice -- I've bought plenty of shirts at conventions that didn't look as nice or as smooth as these did. I've seen no fading or wear on the designs, and they look just as new as they did when I took them out of the package.

I was very satisfied with the shirts they sent and I would order from them in the future next time I'm up for a few more T-shirts. Looking through their offerings, I don't even know how many shirts they have, but it's a hell of a lot, and many of the designs are quite cool.

Click on over to their site if you're of a mind to, and tell them I sent you.


TV: Community was one of my favorite must-see shows for its first three seasons, but now that the man behind it has left and control has switched to some new people, the magic is gone. It just isn't as funny, it doesn't crack as sharp as it should, and I'm definitely not enjoying it anywhere near as much as I have in the past. Although I do think that the first three seasons will hold up to repeated viewings, I'm going to present like season four doesn't exist and call this show done.


Money: This video has been making the rounds on Twitter and other social media sites, and it's easy to see why: it breaks down the grossly disproportionate distribution of wealth in the United States, and it's pretty shameful. To no one's surprise, the rich keep getting richer while the poor keep getting poorer. What might be a surprise, is to what degree that holds true.


Sony Online Entertainment LLC (SOE) today announced that it is now accepting applications and submissions for its 2013 Gamers in Real Life (G.I.R.L.) Game Design Competition. Now in its sixth year, the G.I.R.L. Scholarship prides itself as being an active catalyst for inspiring women's involvement in the video game industry, as well as for providing an open gateway for those pursuing careers in the field of creative and applied arts.

SOE will award one winner of the 2013 G.I.R.L. Game Design Competition with a scholarship in the amount of $10,000 to be applied towards tuition and other educational expenses at the winner's school of enrollment. Winners will also be given the opportunity to participate in a paid internship of up to 10 weeks at SOE's headquarters in San Diego for hands-on experience working on one or more of the company's games.

"At SOE, we believe that diversity is one of our keys to success and it is truly woven into the fabric of who we are as a company," said Laura Naviaux, Senior Vice President of Global Sales & Marketing, Sony Online Entertainment. "We want to help make the games industry even that much more approachable and our goal with the G.I.R.L. Scholarship is to provide an easy way to usher even more women into the industry."

Submissions for the 2013 G.I.R.L. Game Design Competition will close on March 29, 2013. To apply, applicants must register with Scholarship America®, SOE's scholarship administrator, and submit their application for evaluation, as directed here:  https://www.scholarshipamerica.org/gamersinreallife/

Since its inception in 2008, the G.I.R.L. program has granted scholarships to five winners through its annual "Game Design Competition," with each winner making an impact within the gaming and art industries.

For more information about G.I.R.L., please visit girl.soe.com. To follow G.I.R.L. on Twitter, go tohttps://twitter.com/SOE_GIRL or to join G.I.R.L. on Facebook, go to http://tinyurl.com/SOE-GIRL.

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.

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.

Black Tiger demo
February 19 (PSN)
February 20 (XBLA)
Titles: Black Tiger, Avengers, 1943: The Battle of Midway
February 19 (PSN)
February 20 (XBLA)
Titles: Ghosts n Goblins, Gun.Smoke, Section Z
March 5 (PSN/XBLA)
March 5 (PSN)*
1943: The Battle of Midway
March 5 (PSN)*
Side Arms, Legendary Wings, Trojan
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
Ghosts n Goblins
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
Section Z
March 19 (PSN/XBLA)
Titles: Commando, The Speed Rumbler, Exed Exes (Savage Bees)
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
Side Arms
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
Legendary Wings
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
April 2 (PSN/XBLA)
Titles: 1942, SonSon, Pirate Ship Higemaru
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
The Speed Rumbler
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
Exed Exes (Savage Bees)
April 16 (PSN/XBLA)
April 30 (PSN/XBLA)
April 30 (PSN/XBLA)
Pirate Ship Higemaru
April 30 (PSN/XBLA)
Bonus Pack (for those who have purchased all five game packs or all 15 individual titles
Titles: Two titles (names to be confirmed)
Free for those who have purchased all previously released packs or individual titles
Titles: All 17 games
May 21 (PSN/XBLA)
* Not available as an individual title on XBLA


Aksys Games is pleased to announce a new visual novel adventure title, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side, a heart-felt blend of bomb-defusing action and death-defying romance for the PlayStation®Portable. Developed by the Idea Factory Otomate Studio, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is the newest addition to a growing catalog of adventure titles published by Aksys Games. Featuring an eccentric cast, engaging puzzle mechanics, and numerous unique story segments, Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is your ticket to a wild and explosive adventure.

Story Summary
Saki Inafune, niece to legendary game developer Keiji Inafune, can’t wait to visit her uncle’s new theme park. She’s been invited to the opening day ceremonies, and is looking forward to a day of fun and excitement when suddenly Count Hogstein—a villain as corpulent and cliché as he is evil—blows up the Ferris wheel, takes the park management hostage, and declares the beginning of a deadly series of games.
Desperate to save her uncle, Saki volunteers to be one of the participants in Hogstein’s games, and finds herself thrust into the midst of excitement very different from what she’d expected when she woke up that morning. She’ll need all of her cunning, determination, and exceptional insight to get herself and her fellow participants—all available bachelors—out alive and maybe, with a little luck, find love along the way.

Sweet Fuse: At Your Side Features
Vast, Diverging Story – 14 different endings and a host of unexpected twists and turns allow for over 30 hours of compelling gameplay.
Stylish Art – Sweet Fuse: At Your Side is an experience that is stylish and easy on the eyes, with complex, eye-catching character designs.
Disarm Perilous Puzzles – Reach an epiphany and solve dangerous puzzles; the fate of you and your companions depends on your insight.
Unique Characters and Interactions – Blow your fuse or stay completely cool, the choice is yours when dealing with this crazy cast of characters.


From the team that brought you Rainbow Moon comes Rainbow Skies, a brand new fantasy role-playing game. Eastasiasoft—the Hong Kong-based developer and publisher of interactive entertainment—announced that they have once again teamed up with their trusted indie developer SideQuest Studios to work on Rainbow Skies.

“Built on Rainbow Moon’s system, Rainbow Skies is a completely new game that is set in a new world with new characters and a new story,” said Marcus Pukropski, CEO of SideQuest Studios. “A lot of feedback has been taken into consideration and we are confident that Rainbow Skies will offer an even deeper and more versatile gameplay experience, while staying absolutely true to its roots. We can’t wait to show more of Rainbow Skies to our fans.”

These are just some of the new features that players can expect from Rainbow Skies:
Monsters can be caught, upgraded, and become part of the player’s party
An advanced battle system with new combo attacks
New treasure-hunt quests and an improved side quest system
Various buildings can be entered and explored
A lot of new and exciting dungeon elements
New mini games
Tons of new and exciting content that will keep gamers hooked

Rainbow Skies is currently in an early development stage and expected to launch for consoles and handhelds in late 2014. More information, including confirmed target platforms, will be announced in the near future.
For first work-in-progress screenshots, and frequently updated game information, visit Rainbow Skies' official website at www.rainbow-skies.com and its dedicated Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RainbowSkiesGame.


Independent developer Dennaton Games and rogue game publisher Devolver Digital have announced that the award-winning Hotline Miami will arrive on the PlayStation®3 (PS3™) and PlayStation®Vita (PS Vita)  this coming spring. Crashing onto the scene last fall, Hotline Miami grabbed the attention of gamers all over the world with stylish sights and sounds, tough as nails gameplay, and a perplexing narrative that garnered Dennaton Games’ debut effort awards and nominations from nearly every video game media outlet. Hotline Miami has gone on to sell over 300,000 units on PC and solidified its place amongst the best releases of 2012.

 Dutch developer Abstraction Games has been appointed to deliver Hotline Miami’s trademark style and gameplay to both PS3 and PS Vita via PlayStation®Network under the guidance of Dennaton Games. Hotline Miami will also launch with Cross-Buy allowing gamers to play Hotline MIami on both PS3 and PS Vita with a single purchase. Boom.

Follow Hotline Miami on Twitter via @HotlineMiami and become a fan on Facebook at facebook.com/hotlinemiami for more information on the game’s progress. For more news on Devolver Digital hotness follow them on @DevolverDigital and facebook.com/DevolverDigitalGames.


In a new direction for the mecha genre, Heavy Gear Assault will combine over-the-top combat with the pageantry and spectacle of gladiatorial games, delivering a  AAA world-class sporting and gaming event for fans.  Stompy Bot Productions, Inc. is publishing and MekTek Studios, Inc. is developing this online, multiplayer title for the PC.

The core of the game features Duelists -- who pilot war machines known as Gears -- battling for fame and fortune in the highly competitive, action packed sporting arenas on the interstellar planet Terra Nova.  Pilots can use their winnings to invest in more advanced Gears, weapons and equipment that allow them to participate in more dangerous, hence more profitable, events.  Gears are also extremely customizable from their weapon loadouts to their paint schemes. 

The game utilizes a dynamic destruction engine that shows visible, physical damage to Gears and the environment.  Damage to specific body parts affects performance which creates tactical options.  One pilot might choose to target an opponent’s leg to slow them down.  Another player could blow off an enemy’s arm to force them to drop their main weapon. Even the arena can become a weapon for cunning players that use firepower to level obstacles or create their own cover.   

Additional information can be found on the new Heavy Gear Assault’s website www.heavygear.com.


February 19, 2013– The AbleGamers Foundation is proud to announce a new partnership with Paradox Interactive to help bring accessibility to the Penny Arcade Expo East (PAX-E) in Boston, Massachusetts. Each year, the AbleGamers Accessibility Arcade displays the latest and greatest assistive technology for gamers with disabilities to play today’s hottest games with just a little help.

“Paradox has been a longtime supporter of the AbleGamers Foundation and our work to make video games as inclusive as possible,” said Mark Barlet, President and Founder of the AbleGamers Foundation. “We cannot thank them enough for their continued support of the disability community. By committing to be an annual sponsor, Paradox has guaranteed the AbleGamers Foundation will be able to attend PAX-E each year, where we will continue our work of enabling all gamers no matter their abilities.”

“What we love the most with AbleGamers is their hands-on and all-encompassing approach to making games more accessible to gamers,” said Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive. “Their formula includes a few easy steps publishers and developers can adopt to open up their games to gamers with disabilities, and combined with their relentless dedication their organization has changed the lives of thousands of people through the medium we are all so passionate about: games.  We are proud to stand by AbleGamers in this important cause and invite others to do the same.”

The AbleGamers Accessibility Arcade will be featured on the main level of PAX-E directly in front of the showroom floor. Everyone attending the event is welcome to stop by for hands-on demonstrations of the coolest gaming technology found anywhere in the world. AbleGamers staff will be on hand all three days to answer your questions about accessibility, gamers with disabilities and assistive technology.


Coaster Creator 3D from Big John Games and Gamers Digital will release on February 28th, 2013 in the Nintendo eShop for the Nintendo 3DSTM gaming console for $9.99.
Build your own roller coasters using fast and intuitive touch screen drawing and editing controls, and share roller coaster creations with friends and online communities through the use of QR Code® graphics. Make sure to check out your favorite Nintendo news sites for pre-built Coaster content.

Learn the ropes of roller coaster design in career mode from Gill McGee, the owner of Classic Coasters. He'll guide players through 20 Career Challenges with each player starting as a coaster design apprentice and working their way up to expert level. Along the way you will unlock new theme park locations, cart models, decals, and more!

As you learn new skills, you can put them into practice in the coaster sandbox, where it's possible to design and ride almost any roller coaster you can dream up. There are five exotic theme park locations to choose from. You’ll be able to select a steel, wooden, or inverted track type, and then draw the basic track design on the touch screen. Coaster Creator 3D will turn this design into a completed roller coaster in full 3D in just seconds.

Coaster Creator 3D is rated E for everyone and will be available for download February 28th, 2013 from the Nintendo eShop for the Nintendo 3DS for $9.99. Be sure to check out upcoming Coaster Creator 3D screenshots, videos, and news as they become available, and watch for new coasters available via QR Codes from bigjohngames.com after the February 28th release date. Also, make sure you visit your favorite Nintendo news sites for more pre-built Coaster Creator 3D content.