The Quest Log: May 26, 2017

There’s a three-day weekend ahead of us, Gamers (well, for many of us in the U.S., anyway). I know I’ll be spending most of my time in Overwatch and Nier: Automata. What about you? In the meantime, make sure you check out the highlights below to make certain you’re on top of the latest in gaming.

Far Cry 5 Announced, Due February, 2018

The next Far Cry game was officially announced this week via the trailer posted above. The talk of the town seems to be the game’s setting, which is a pretty dramatic departure from the past games in the series and more-than-likely a commentary on the current political landscape in the U.S. Ubisoft is promising the “largest customizable weapon and vehicle roster ever in a Far Cry game,” with which players can fight against the antagonistic religious cult featured in the trailer.

Monster Hunter XX Confirmed for Nintendo Switch

While not technically an original entry in the series, Monster Hunter XX will mark the series first appearance on Nintendo’s latest console. An “expanded version” of Monster Hunter Generations, which hit Western shelves just last year, Monster Hunter XX has already been in the hands of Japanese 3DS gamers since March. The Switch port will, however, almost undoubtedly help to push Switch units off the shelves in Japan. There’s a Monster Hunter event happening in Japan this weekend, so expect to hear more news about the port then.

The Switch is already outperforming Nintendo’s expectations, and as a result, Nintendo stocks are at a 7-year high. Here’s hoping Monster Hunter’s popularity help the system to continue to succeed.

http://nintendoeverything.com/monster-hunter-xx-coming-to-switch/

Nintendo Bans Thousands of Hacked 3DS Devices

Earlier today, a forum post at GBATemp.net revealed that 3DS systems were being barred from certain online services “en masse” with the common denominator being that affected systems have all been hacked. Console modding is a practice almost as old as gaming consoles themselves, but it’s particularly problematic now that consoles are connected to the internet.

According to the post, the Nintendo eShop is still available to afflicted users, so this restriction seems limited to online multiplayer and other services.

https://gbatemp.net/threads/regarding-the-recent-3ds-banwave.471781/

The Quest Log: April 14, 2017

Hey Gamers, and happy Friday. The biggest news of the day is certainly that sweet new teaser trailer for Episode 8, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been plenty going on in the world of gaming. Speaking of Star Wars and news…

Battlefront II Trailer Leaks

While the trailer is supposed to hit the internet officially later today, we actually got our first look at the next entry in the storied Star Wars multiplayer shooter series earlier this week when a French version of the trailer found its way onto the web. Fans of the franchise and of the earlier games in the series who may have been disappointed with the last game just might have a renewed reason to look twice at Dice’s efforts here. The trailer shows off a singleplayer campaign in addition to playable heroes from the prequel trilogy and The Force Awakens.

http://kotaku.com/star-wars-battlefront-iis-first-trailer-leaks-1794239046

Bayonetta Comes to PC

The (sexy, hairy) witch is back! The original Bayonetta, Platinum Games’ classic stylish action game, has finally come to PC with an official port now available on Steam. The release comes in the wake of a clever April Fool’s Day “joke” that we reported on last week. While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a port of the Nintendo-published Bayonetta 2, it’s great that PC gamers are finally getting a chance to play the heavily Devil May Cry inspired series. Platinum Games have since gone on to say that they’d love to bring more of their games to the platform, but that it’s not really up to them.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/460790/?snr=1_550_552&newsId=28788

Nintendo Kills the NES Classic

If you managed to get your hands on one of the uber-popular, diminutive game consoles, count yourself lucky because Nintendo has officially announced the death of the NES Classic Edition. The system, which came pre-packed with 30 classic NES titles, has been wildly successful since it launched last holiday season, and it seems it’s been next to impossible for retailers to keep them in stock. Even still–and for reasons currently unknown–Nintendo is discontinuing it, stating that it “wasn’t intended to be an ongoing, long-term product.” Remaining stocks will be shipped to retailers through April, and then that’s it.

Could Nintendo be paving the way for the virtual console’s return on the Switch? Do they just hate money? These are not easy questions to answer.

And in case you were wondering, the Japanese analogue, the Famicon Classic Edition, is also being discontinued, but just temporarily.

http://www.ign.com/articles/2017/04/13/nintendo-discontinues-the-nes-classic-edition

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I will never forget the first time that I watched the official reveal for a new Zelda project during E3 2014, when we saw Link soar through the air after leaping from his horse and launching an arrow at what we would later find out to be a “Guardian”. Although it was only a brief glimpse into what the future held for the franchise, it seemed as though Nintendo had something slightly different in mind for the forthcoming installment. While I knew that the franchise was in desperate need of a refresh, with a steady decline of fan reception, I was cautious on expecting any stellar changes since this was, after all, Nintendo we are talking about here. Hell or high water, they walk to the beat of their own drum as the rest of the world refuses to slow down. After multiple delays that seemed to indicate the likelihood of a title that could ever possibly live up to the hype seem to slowly slip away, to say I was anxious to get my hands on the title was a severe understatement. After more than 60+ hours into the experience, I can safely report that not only did Nintendo somehow deliver a game that actually lived up to the incredible hype and expectation, they actually managed to give us a game that will be discussed and praised for years to come. 

…but instead hands over the reigns to the user and says, “go ahead, give it a try…”

While Zelda: Breath of the Wild still has its flaws, when you begin looking at the gameplay mechanics and the way that they mesh together, there is no denying the levels of greatness this game hits in several moments of the game. From magnet abilities, to bombs, and to the glorious attribute of climbing nearly every surface, Link no longer finds himself being held back by the usual tropes and barriers that have silently outlined what we have come to expect in a Zelda game- but instead hands over the reigns to the user and says, “go ahead, give it a try”. With every insane idea that I had, or combination that I was sure was going to “break” the game, I was instead rewarded in a way that I have never experienced before in a video game. The result? An experience that has literally challenged the way I think about gameplay mechanics in a sandbox that only wants to provide you with the tools to succeed the way that you want. 

From the moment you begin your journey, you find yourself in the all-too-familiar scenario in which you are woken from a deep sleep and off you go. However, this is where the familiarity ends. Following the exit of your sleeping chamber, paired with your newfound ability to climb nearly any surface, you stand atop a cliff that overlooks the vast landscape of a Hyrule without any invisible barriers and more challenges than you could imagine. This is where you begin shaping your adventure, while you get a sense for a general flow that you could follow, the fact is that you can run in the opposite direction for hours avoiding any sense of true responsibility until you are ready. This kind of freedom ensures that no two players will experience the same adventure, but can instead swap stories of how they beat the game.

…none have empowered the player to explore, bend, and twist the mechanics of the world to this degree…

Anyone that has played a previous entry in the franchise will understand the usual flow of the game: you spend some time in the first areas available to you trying to acquire some bombs, which then allows you to move a rock, and thus gives you the ability to access a water temple at some later point down the road. Essentially, while it may seem like you are given an open world, you are still guided by invisible hands that ensure you check the boxes in the order that they want. Breath of the Wild crushes this expectation, and hands you all of the tools that you will need to complete literally every aspect of the game within the first hour or two. With all of your abilities in hand, you are thrust into an open world that screams to be explored, with no area that you can’t immediately get to. While there have been games before it that offer a vast open world in which you can explore such as the Fallout or Witcher series, none have empowered the player to explore, bend, and twist the mechanics of the world to this degree, and all the while maintaining the same level of polish that you learn to expect as you scavenge every nook and cranny. BOTW does this so well, that there is no doubt in my mind that this will be game developers and analysts alike who study just how they mastered this level of gameplay experience.

Now there are a couple of small additions to the system that can and will cause some frustration: the introduction of breakable weapons and of course the stamina system. While neither are a first time for the genre, previously executed in some of the other franchises I named earlier, I can definitely understand the feeling of defeat when you lose that sword you were so excited about after a short time. There was more than one instance that I found myself cursing the makers of the game as to why I needed to lose a bow after one boss battle. However, as with everything else in the game, you learn to adapt and later understand this system is implemented to force us to try new things instead of hoarding the same 4 weapons from beginning to end. As for the stamina bar? While it will impede the distance you run or the heights you can climb, again you learn to adapt by finding higher areas to glide from, as well as the ledges you can scale to. Throughout your journey, you will have several opportunities to expand your stamina meter, not to mention the use of food ingredients you can consume that will give you a temporary buff. 

If by now you haven’t guessed, I enjoyed this game thoroughly. From the shrines and trials that you wished never ended, to the peaceful music and sound of the breeze as you ride your horse across the countryside in search of another easter egg, this game is a masterpiece in nearly every aspect and must be played. It is a game that will continue to dominate water cooler conversations, and pop up in casual conversations of the greatest of all time. This game has earned every praise and acknowledgment that it has received, and will continue to dominate the background noise of my mind. Simply put, I can’t get enough of this game — and I cannot wait to see what is next for Link and Princess Zelda. 

My Most Anticipated Games of Q1 2017

First of all, I understand this is a different take on “Most Anticipated Games…” topic that so many like to do- but the truth is that by the end of March we will already have some serious potential Game of the Year candidates. When reviewing what we already know is set to release, unless I want to create a “Top 25” then I am going to miss something crucial. So instead I am going to follow up with this list at the beginning of each quarter to help keep things into perspective. Without further ado, here are my most anticipated games set to release by the end of March 2017.

1. Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Release Date: January 24, 2017

I will be first to admit that it’s been nearly 8 years since I found myself excited to pick up a new entry in the Resident Evil franchise, but with Biohazard looking to take a big step back and re-evaluate what makes the name so special, I am once again ready to step back in the universe that haunted so much of my childhood. After the failure of titles like Umbrella Corp. or even the former Resident Evil 6, it appears that Capcom heard the outcry for less shoot em’ up action, and get back to their survival-horror roots. After having already completed the captivating demo that was originally released shortly after E3 2016, I have found myself spending more time booting up the new updates they have offered than I care to admit. Luckily, we don’t have much longer to wait in order to get our hands on the final product. The only thing left to question on this title, is if I want to try to play the game on the PSVR… *Yikes*

2. Horizon Zero Dawn

Release Date: February 28, 2017

After having spent some hands-on time with a demo build at PSX 2016, it is not difficult to see why Sony seems to be placing so much faith in the upcoming title. Horizon not only plays incredibly well, but with what looks like to be a captivating story from the mind that brought us Fallout: New Vegas, there is no doubt in my mind that we are looking at a new tentpole franchise for the PlayStation Exclusive lineup. While I only had about 10 minutes to spend with a vertical slice of the game, the skills, environment, animal AI, and Aloy herself were fleshed out and well polished. Every fight felt different depending on my approach and skill choice, which made running around looking for various elements a blast. For those of you with a PS4pro and 4k TV, this will be the game to show off to your friends- because every single moment in this world is gorgeous. 

3. Nier: Automata

Release Date: March 7, 2017

It’s definitely fair to say that there have been two different versions of Platinum Games; on one hand you have the fast paced bullet-hell style of the Bayonetta franchise that critically delivers, while on the other you have the dumpster fire that is The Legend of Korra. It’s almost incredible to think that both games came from the same studio. Needless to say, I was hesitant to test the waters with a demo for the upcoming Nier: Automata demo, however I had time to kill so I decided to see which rendition of Platinum showed up to the party. I am happy to report that not only does Nier deliver in the small portion that I have played, but I think this very well could be my favorite game to come from the studio yet. If you have not tried out the demo yet, I urge you to add it to your queue. The story looks unique, boss battles are epic, and the action is incredibly addictive when adding up your combos. Simply put: I cannot wait for this game. 

4. Mass Effect Andromeda

Release Date: March 21, 2017

What is there left to say about the greatness that is the Mass Effect franchise that has not yet already been said a hundred times over? With well more than 100 hours spent across 3 separate entries in the original trilogy, Andromeda has a lot to live up to. However, if there is one group that I have faith in to deliver, it is the folks with Bioware. From the small pieces that they have revealed and the promise of a clean slate for first timers to the series, everything looks like it’s in good hands. And let’s be honest, as long as there is a random dance club on some far off planet that you can show off your sweet moves, I will be happy. 

5. The Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Release Date: March 3, 2017

If you had told me a year ago that I would be more excited for any other game than a new Mass Effect entry, I probably would have fought you- true story. However, since the gameplay of Breath of the Wild had been show cased at E3 2016, and the incredible trailer released for the Switch conference, my need to set off through Hyrule once again has become a real problem. The gorgeous art style, captivating story, new voice overs, and furtherance into modern RPG elements– I can already see every aspect of my life about to be put on hold for a while once this title hits my system. Whether you play this on your new shiny Nintendo Switch, or you blow the dust off of your WiiU, there is no reason why you should not play this game. Now don’t mind me as I go practice my Goron Dance in my green tunic. *Turns on some drums*

Paper Mario: Color Splash

      There are few games in this world that I get so excited for that I’m willing to pay for an entirely new console just so that I can play them.  I had previously not owned a Wii U up until this weekend as I thought the whole concept of a tablet/console hybrid would lead to gimmicky gameplay.  While wandering around my local gaming store, my boyfriend and I just happened to meander on over to the Wii U section.  I noticed a simple little title called “Paper Mario: Color Splash” and after a moment’s hesitation, ended up purchasing not just this game but also a brand new deluxe version of the Wii U.  Yes, I know there will be an entirely new console coming out in March but the fact remained that there was a brand-new installment to my absolute favorite franchise of all time out NOW on the Wii U.  This need for my fix was enough to drop the money needed to buy this soon to die out console just to get this game.

       Now for a little backstory, I have been playing the Paper Mario franchise since the days of Paper Mario 64.  As a young girl, my brother and I would routinely visit the Blockbuster at the bottom of the hill that we lived on.  Normally we would go immediately to Super Smash Bros. or one of the Mario Parties on the N64.  But, it was on one of these occasions that I made the fateful decision to rent the original Paper Mario game and play it over the weekend.  I beat it in one weekend and for the following months, this was the only game that I would rent and play.  I finally ended up saving enough money to buy the same game from Blockbusters during one of their game clear outs and to this day I still have it.

      The Paper Mario franchise is unique in its gameplay, storytelling, and graphics.  You control Mario, in a 2D world with 3D elements.  The game is a weird child of the original side-scrolling puzzle platformer movements with some vertical elements thrown in depending on the areas that you go in.  The battle system is turn based and you engage in battle by either attacking or being attacked by enemies in the field.  What makes this game genre stand out from the other Mario games is the writing and storytelling in this game.  It’s very clear that from the get go, the writers were basically given free rein to create characters and dialogue for the entirety of the game.  In every game, it’s like taking a bath in a google search engine.  Characters in the world will routinely not only reference cannon from the past and present Mario games, but also will throw in references to real world problems or occurrences that we, as players, experience as well.  The whole thing sounds like a hodgepodge, but it all comes together beautifully and helps build the player/character connection that is so important for an RPG.  Finally, just the name of the franchise suggests, the concept of “Paper” is vital to the overall aesthetic of the world.  All the characters appear as if they were paper cutouts and even elements of the world react as if it were made from paper.

      It’s been unfortunate, but this franchise has been suffering from an identity crisis for the past two installments.  I call it the Nintendo Curse, and it’s when a game that has garnered popularity from out of nowhere gets drastically changed in how it plays, to accommodate some gimmicky feature that Nintendo pushes out.  Comparing Paper Mario 64 (N64) to Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (GameCube), it is very clear that the latter is a direct sequel to the first.  The artistic style, map design, turn based mechanics, characters, etc. are all very similar.  This is not a bad thing.  The first game was amazing, and the sequel basically took everything that was good about the first and brought it the next level.  I have a theory that it was because this game was released on the GameCube which did not have any potentially gimmicky add-on’s that Nintendo’s executive team could get overly excited about (except for those mini discs).  

      Then the Wii came out, and that’s when Paper Mario got Wii-erd.  We saw the release of Super Paper Mario which took the turn-based fighting mechanic and the unique world design, and effectively through it out the window.  Now fans essentially got a pure side-scrolling puzzle platform game.  Since it was on the Wii, you now had the capability to rotate your Wiimote and suddenly the world would flip and you would be able to move vertically instead of just horizontally.  Just like with the original side-scrolling Mario games, but not like with the original Paper Mario games, enemy battles were now fought live out in the field by simply attacking the enemy rather than being fought in a battle screen.  This was not widely received with fans, and although I give the creators props for attempting a new way of battling, I am happy they have since moved away from this.  The writing and story aspects were essentially the same, but the gameplay mechanics and the world design were so different that it put a bad taste in fans mouths.  Nintendo changed a game to make it “better” even though no one was asking for it.

      With the rise in popularity of the Nintendo 3DS, it was no surprise to anyone that there would be a Paper Mario game released on this console as well.  This was the first time this franchise made it to the handheld market.  Initially, a lot of fans were excited for sticker star as it looked like the game was moving back to its roots.  No longer were we forced to deal with the Wii mote gimmick of flipping your control to get to other portions of the map, instead, the maps appeared to be designed in the same manner of the first two games.  However, in true Nintendo fashion, they realized that the 3DS had two screens to utilize and decided to bring this into the game.  The battles went back to a turn based system, but this time instead of choosing your attacks and then deciding which enemy to use the attacks on, you had a sticker book.  The sticker book was essentially the screen in your palms and the stickers in the book were your attacks that you had to attack the enemies.  You would attack in consecutive order, down the line of enemies, using the stickers that you had in your book as if they were normal attacks. You also had what were called “Things” that were 3D objects you found throughout the world that could turn into stickers.  You would use these stickers to solve puzzles throughout the world as well use during boss battles.  Since most boss battles had a one-shot mechanic that could only be countered by a certain “Thing”, it was of the utmost importance that you kept track of these. Not only that, but this games story was literally thrown out the window by creator Shigeru Miyamoto.  It has come to light since Sticker Star’s lukewarm reception that Miyamoto informed writer’s and developers of this game that “story wasn’t important” to this game.  The lack of story and the gimmicky use of the 3DS dual screen capability caused this installment to be the least well received of the Paper Mario franchise.

     Needless to say, Color Splash had its work cut out for it.  At this point in time, the fans and the developers are at odds as to where this genre should go.  Developers are continuing to try and utilize the usage of their systems mechanics whereas fans just want to the games to return to their roots.  When the initial trailer for Color Splash was shown at E3, many fans were disappointed as it appeared to just be a rehash of Sticker Star in the battle system.  This was a fair disappointment, as the battle system in this game is annoying, to say the least.  To attack an enemy, you now select a “Card” from your “Hand” (IE your Wii U gamepad).  The whole concept of Color Splash is repainting the world of Prism Island, finding the missing paint stars, and defeating Bowser who has covered himself in Black Paint.  This paint concept bleeds into the battle system as well, and before you can play your card you must then “Paint” it with your stylus.  Once painted, you then flick it towards the top of the Wii U pad and then Mario attacks.  This is the only part of the game that feels remotely gimmicky, and I honestly wish they would have done away from this as it is a big part of what is holding this game back from true potential.

     Honestly, this is the only part of the game that in any way feels gimmicky. The story, though not nearly as in depth as the first two games are charming and the world feels alive.  I had an odd relationship with this game during the first little playthrough because it was still so different from what I know this game has come from.  Initially, the game appears to be another sticker star with its weird battle system and no story whatsoever.  For the first two chapters, the story is very disjointed and one can’t help but feel disconnected from the world that they are trying to ultimately save.  Around the second chapter, the writing starts to pick up and at times you feel as if you are back with the original Paper Mario games.  This is such a nice relief and I hope that with the next installment we as fans finally get the game we have been asking for. The only disappointing part of the story is the fact that the only NPC model the creators used in this game were Toads.  Yes, they give the Toads unique personalities, but all toads are the same and have the same underlying characteristics. Not only that, but frankly, no one gives a damn about Toads.

      With this latest installment of the Paper Mario franchise, I can’t help but wonder where the series will go next.  The thing is, although, at times gimmicky in true Nintendo fashion, this game is surprisingly a lot of fun to play.  I’m overall satisfied with my purchase, and although the replay value is just not there unlike its predecessors it’s a step in the right direction that this franchise has been missing for a while now.    The Switch is scheduled to come out sometime in March of 2017, and with it the death of dual screen capability and/or motion capture.  I’m hoping by making this “Switch” the Nintendo higher ups are done playing games with their fans heartstrings and begin to get serious about making their beloved franchises shine.  For Paper Mario: Color Splash, I’ll give them an 8 out of 10.  It was a genuinely good game, but I’m a little afraid of where this series will go since this is the third game in a row that has incorporated the gimmicky game mechanics.  With the Switch, I’m not seeing how they will manage it at this point in time, but Nintendo is always full of surprises…

Does the Nintendo NX Stand a Chance?

 Photo Cred: ReviewTechUSA
Photo Cred: ReviewTechUSA

Early last week, eurogamer.com released a story that according to credible sources on their end, Nintendos upcoming platform codenamed the NX, will indeed function as the handheld/console hybrid that has been rumored for a while now. Furthermore, they have also gone on to say that the console will support both downloadable games, as well as classic styled cartridges.

     Since this news broke, it has been chaos across the board amongst Nintendo fans, with those taking sides for those in favor of the concept as well as those against it. Regardless of whether or not the platform turns out to be something different than expected, or does fall in line with the classic Nintendo move of aiming at a “new way to play”, one thing is for sure: Nintendo is going to have one hell of a time trying to regain the message. With the NX having already been confirmed for March of 2017, I have to wonder when Nintendo is planning to get in front of the speculation and tell its fans what the NX actually is. With TGS around the corner, and a busy fall for triple-A titles, I can’t understand what Nintendo is waiting for since they are only risking being drowned out by market noise the further into the year that they go. 

      Nevertheless, the NX will be announced at some point, and Nintendo will attempt to fulfill our gaming wishes as they lay out the roadmap for the upcoming platform. While we have already covered the NX in previous articles in which we discuss what the console should be, we have not discussed the hurdles it will need to overcome if it turns out to indeed be the hybrid console we are now catching wind of. As expected, the Internet forums are filled with why the console will fail, however I want to offer the idea that if done right- the hybrid could actually succeed. Before you continue reading (if I haven’t already lost you), clear your mind of all previous assumptions and judgments of a console like this, and let’s consider the possibilities in front of us. 

     While many have said that they want to see Nintendo get back to “true console gaming” (whatever that means), we have to accept that after more than a decade of experiments (with some succeeding beyond expectations *cough* Wii *cough*) Nintendo obviously has no interest in trying to compete in the same space as Sony and Microsoft. I know it’s a hard pill to swallow, but life immediately gets better once you do. Now that we have all that out of the way, here are three moves that could really change the way that majority of people are looking at the forthcoming announcement, and bring back those that have lost faith in the Nintendo brand.

1.) Offer Solution to the Console/Handheld Separation

This seems the most obvious, but if you are going to give us a portably console, then make sure everything is on there. Offer the solution so that both past 3DS and DS games, along with the new games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild, are both supported on the platform day 1. No longer will we have to see the audience split on where they want to play tent pole franchises like Smash Bro’s, but instead all can exist on one platform and on one network. Now you don’t have to try and coordinate with your friends where they will buy the upcoming Mario Kart, since it will all be on the same box.

2.) Offer all the Classic Titles & Make them Affordable (Dammit!)

While the WiiU was promised to offer this feature, it has been an incredibly slow rollout of Nintendo classics- and all at a premium price. I understand that Nintendo probably organized this gradual rollout to help fill the long periods without major game releases- after all 3rd party support is almost non existent on the platform now- this cannot be an issue on the new system. If they come out saying that there is a back catalog of 150+ games with 20 more being added every month of Nintendo Classics from every era, then that will get the public’s attention. Just look at the response of the NES Classic Mini announcement- the demand is there, all they need to do is act on it.

3.) Work w/ 3rd Parties & Indie Studios alike

What is probably the most important aspect of the upcoming platform, is for Nintendo to re-establish the faith that they once had with outside developers. If it is one thing that the WiiU taught us, it was that Nintendo couldn’t succeed on their internal dev studio alone. While I think the reality of us getting a new Zelda, Mario, and Metroid in the first year of the consoles life cycle is looking more and more promising with each passing month as the WiiU is left out to die with no software- this could instead turn out to be what the PlayStation Vita had always aspired to be. Imagine being able to move from Zelda: Breath of the Wild to an indie title such as Severed in a matter of moments, and all on the bus ride to work- that is a future that I could live with.

Regardless of what the (hopefully near) future brings, Nintendo has got a lot of speculation and hype to live up to now. It’s time to get out in front of it all, and let the fans know why they should be excited for the upcoming platform. I have every ounce of faith in the house that Mario built, and their ability to stir things up and blindside us with some great announcements- all they need to do now is remind us why Nintendo is a household name.

Dear Nintendo: This is your time to shine…

Dear Nintendo,

This year’s E3 was a blast. A month later, and still the multitude of games being released in the near future have me scrambling to figure out how I’m going to make enough time for everything I want to play. But there’s also something else that has been keeping my attention, and it’s not so much what was announced, but rather, what wasn’t announced. While Microsoft and Sony had strong showings this year, announcing new titles left and right; you showed up with The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Now, while I enjoyed and am thoroughly excited about this release, I couldn’t help but feel your effort was underwhelming this year. And with the looming threat of Sony and Microsoft’s new console iterations set to contend with your upcoming console, the NX; I was expecting more of a presence from you. And yet, I believe Nintendo is in the best position to surprise everyone and become a contender in the console war once again.

Now before I go into what my hopes are on what you have planned, I must confess I rarely play Nintendo games. I’ve repeatedly bought, played, and sold multiple 3DS’s and my WiiU is put away in the box in which it came. While you will always be synonymous with home console gaming, to me, you have become background noise to the loud progressions of Sony and Microsoft. Now, you’ve responded to these competitors in the past by introducing new ways for the public to enjoy games; being the first to fully utilize motion controls. But rather than finding a different avenue than Sony and Microsoft, maybe it’s time to learn from your competitors to improve your overall product. Not saying they are better! But rather I think you can take bits and pieces from them and improve yourself for the better old friend. That’s perhaps the whole reason I’m writing you. To tell you the truth, we need to catch up with the rest of the gaming community and it needs to start with your hardware.

The major reason my WiiU remains in its box is due to the lack of third party support by game developers. More often than not, triple-A titles are released on your competitor’s consoles and you’re left high and dry. Simply, all of this comes down to your hardware not being able to run the same games as your counterparts. The WiiU wasn’t built to support what third party developers are making, and therefore you were left in the dust. But now, you have a great opportunity to finally come out swinging and provide the power that gamers and developers are used to at this point. By securing this vital aspect of your new console, you can begin to rely on what has always been your strength throughout your lifetime, your first party games. 

The major reason I still own my WiiU is because of the unique experiences that only Nintendo can offer. With the release of the NX, we have the potential to see modern iterations of some of the most beloved franchises in gaming. We’ve already glimpsed at the new Zelda game, but that is only one of the many series you have at your disposal. You have to capitalize on these and pump out some new content to feed our nostalgia. Modern updates to these classic franchises with current gen visuals is enough to have fans reinvigorated in the Nintendo brand. While I understand you have to protect these brands, that doesn’t mean we can’t see new versions of Metroid or Mario. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel- but instead polish and install new features, so I want to buy the wheel again.

I believe with the support of third party developers as well as your genre defining first party games, the NX can be the perfect place where a gamer’s nostalgia and wonder can coexist harmoniously. You have the experience. You have the opportunity. I know the majority of buzz is surrounding the PS NEO and Project Scorpio, but that just means you will take your potential fans by surprise. Take solace in the fact that everyone wants to see you succeed, and we will be celebrating when you do. But to reach that success again, you must catch up with our needs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                                Joe Fatani

Can the ‘Nintendo NX’ Keep Up With Neo & Scorpio?

 Photo Cred: Pocket-lint.com
Photo Cred: Pocket-lint.com

     Winter is coming friends… With the fallout finally clearing from the E32016 conference, we have a mostly clear vision of what the console market has in store for us as gamers. From the not-officially-announced-but-everyone-keeps-talking-about-it PSneo from Sony, to the busy 18 month period Microsoft has in store in launch not one but two consoles: Xbox One S & Project Scorpio. If it were not for the incredible showing that Zelda:Breath of the Wild gave us, most people would call that list complete and move on. However, we still have the forthcoming announcement of the Nintendo NX expected to launch March of 2017. With the official reveal imminent, one can only wonder if Nintendo still has what it takes to remain competitive in a market that seems so overwhelmed with Sony Microsoft products. After all if it is one thing that the WiiU taught us, it is that this is not the Nintendo of old.

     While there is still a ton that we don’t know about the NX, there are a few small facts that we do know. Late last year there were reports going around saying that the upcoming console will boast “industry leading chips” that should rival the power of current generation technology. However, this is was in reference to the PS4 Xbox One, not the upcoming Neo and Scorpio. If it is one thing that has been true about Nintendo platforms since the days of the N64, it is that they have trailed behind their competitors in platform capability and power. While they have found success in obvious ones like the original Wii, in today’s market where everyone is now looking at quicker platform iteration turnover just to keep up with changing technology, I can only hope that Nintendo sees similar success. 

     The WiiU was a clear indicator that Nintendo has to offer a system that appeals to not only the consumer, but to the 3rd party developers as well- without this, they will fail. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore the consoles that Nintendo has given us and I have owned a WiiU since day one (although it is definitely covered in an inch of dust right now). Before you take this as a Nintendo bash, I just merely want to see the publisher succeed. I grew up on their systems and developed friendships with most of the characters in their robust library of titles. The thing that I want to stress is that Nintendo cannot expect or afford to come out and have another half baked system launch with no 3rd party support. Nintendo is wealthy, but money does not last forever and businesses have overhead, they need to succeed with this upcoming console.

     Now I want to pass the question to you, the reader. What do you think it would take to win over the gaming community and court the 3rd parties once more? Are you already planning on buying the console? Or have you moved on from the platform, just waiting for their software to arrive on other consoles one day? Let me know in the comments below.

Release Dates No Longer Matter

There was a time not so long ago that we as gamers, could look at the release date several months out and know that regardless of what school brought our way, family drama arose, or any other of life challenges found you, that you could count on getting your hands on the game the day you were promised. While obvious that this is no longer the case with delays being announced every other day, it is important to come to grips with this pattern now for sake of your expectations and overall gaming happiness

      Video game release dates no longer mean what they once did.  Accept that. But this is not always a bad thing, and more often than not- this is actually a very good thing.  Now before you start penning your “How dare you!” email, let’s find some common ground so you can understand where I am coming from. If it is one thing that I have learned ignites a fire in the gaming community more than most things (outside of the word micro transactions), it is telling a gamer that they are not going to play a game as soon as they had originally anticipated. Trust me, I have been burned time and time again on game delays. Hell, anyone that has a PlayStation this generation should be completely used to it by now. From games like The Order: 1886Uncharted 4, and don’t even get me started on DriveClub… So yes, I feel your pain.

     We have gotten to a point in games however, that we must begin to revert our expectation of solid release dates and begin to look at them more as Release Windows. Logically, it does not make sense to announce a game release date a year in advance, and expect to hit the deadline every single time. That is just not the way that game development works nowadays. However this does not give game developers or publishers a pass in all scenarios. Games like Batman: Arkham Knight being announced for an October release date then being pushed to nearly 8 months only a few short weeks later, is more than a mere oversight. 

     Here is what I propose for all parties involved: as gamers, lets ease up on the developer that wants to take another few weeks to help realize their final product. However, as developers and publishers, try to stay away from giving release dates several months in advance. I understand that you need to build hype for your game, but there are better ways to go about that. Besides, delays will many time hurt a games reputation with the community, does Watchdogs ring a bell?

     This reasoning in itself is probably why Sony didn’t go out this past week during their E32016 showcase and hit us with a bunch of release dates. It wasn’t a mistake, they didn’t just forget to add them at the end of the demo. While I believe most of the games shown were 2017 releases (with the exception of Death Stranding- 2019 at the earliest for that game, promise), why crush the hype they have built later down the road with a delay, when they can announce it when they are ready and give the gamers something to look forward to and believe in.

     Before I hop down from my soapbox, let me leave you with one final thought on the matter. Support the developers that have the courage to step up and ask for more time; these people know what this does to us and the kinds of reactions they will inevitably receive. Our complaining doesn’t help the situation, nor does it benefit the end product. Which is why we are all here, right? Developers take your time (not talking about you The Last Guardian). Build the game that you wanted to. The gaming community is better for it.

E32016: Who Won the Conference Battle this Year?

Wow… what an incredible few days for the gaming industry. Between every showcase, conference, game announcement, bad joke made, and awesome kimono wearing game developer on stage, it is needless to say that E32016 will be one to remember. That goes for all consoles, developers, and publishers involved: from us at The Gamer HUD, we say well done on another exceptional year.

Now down to business. Let me begin by saying, that this is solely my opinion and those that write for The Gamer HUD could have differing opinions. In other words, direct the hatred directly at me *Wink*. Since I think most can say that the argument will come down to either Microsoft or Sony, let’s address the others. To note: I have bolded each conference if you waned to skip sections.

EA kicked off the entire thing Sunday, with a one hour presentation showing us what CEO Andrew Wilson prefaced as “a quick glimpse into what we have in development”, truer words have never been spoken. In their 60 minutes, they managed to cover all known titles in development such as Battlefield1 and Madden NFL 2017. But the thing that made me a little frustrated with the conference, as I am sure it did to many of you reading this as well, they glossed over Mass Effect: Andromeda. Yes they showed someone drawing concept art of characters with small glimpses into the universe, with a short trailer at the end, but I can’t wrap my head around why they wouldn’t start the whole thing with a 5 minute gameplay demo; or something of that nature. Anything more on that front would have been welcomed. Instead they kept it high level and gave us a solid 10 minute “Making Of” look at Fifa 17 powered by the beloved Frostbite engine… Needless to say, there was some sadness in that conference for me.

Grade: C+

Bethesda had a solid conference, even though a good amount of it had been leaked before the show. Still managing to surprise and impress, they showed revivals like Prey, the highly anticipated Dishonored 2, and even managed to throw in an easter egg or two with the Wolfenstein: New Colossus imageI am glad that Bethesda decided to keep their conference this year at E3, even though many thought that it would be unlikely. But announcements such as Skyrim Remasters and Quake Champions, made for a solid showing. Well done Bethesda

Grade: B+

Ubisoft… if there is one thing that you cannot say about this conference, is that it was too short. Clocking in at almost 2 hours long, I can’t possibly imagine how anxious the audience was to get the hell out of there by the time Aisha Tyler closed out the show with some closing thoughts. On that note, we saw plenty. From promising games such as Ghost Recon Wildlands, to the highly anticipated South Park: Fractured But Whole, they had more than enough to keep us entertained. In a way I felt like Ubisoft suffered the exact opposite of what EA did, way too much content over a long (seriously, can’t hit this one home hard enough) period of time. If Ubisoft had packed that down into 1 hour, with no on stage interviews, dance performances, developer personalities, VR Exercises, and movie documentaries (did I mention that this conference was long?), this could have been an excellent show. They had all the right games there, just went overboard with it. Next year, just trim the fat and you will be set.

Grade: B-

Nintendo held their (now) annual Treehouse Live Event, headlining Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With the exception of a 45 minute Pokemon: Sun & Moon demo, Zelda was the only game that Nintendo felt the need to show off. Trust me, if you have been living under a rock for the last 48 hour hours, they made the right choice. Extensive play throughs from the beginning of the game, closer looks at the new game mechanics, a new beautiful world to explore (seriously, stop reading this and go watch a video of this- it’s that damn good), and the reveal of Voice Acting for the first time in the franchise, made for a solid showing. Although we didn’t receive any info on the upcoming Nintendo NX, this was expected since they had prefaced that the console would be revealed and detailed in a separate event. All around, Nintendo handled the situation well. They doubled down on Zelda and man did it payoff… Several Game of the Show awards will be going to that one. 

Grade: A-

Microsoft had once again, another phenomenal show. Ever since Phil Spencer took over the Xbox division, the companies dedication to serving the “Player” with games and community desired console features, never fails to amaze me. Coming out swinging for the fences with the announcement of the XboxOneS model, then immediately following up with games like Gears of War 4 taking the stage for a live gameplay demo, it was clear in just the first 15 minutes of the conference that Microsoft was not messing around. Announcements like Xbox Music Playlist feature, customizable controllers, and Looking For Group made it clear that they had been listening to player and community feedback. In the game lineup area, revealing Dead Rising 4, showing us more of Sea of Thieves, and giving us the reveal date for Inside (June 29th), Microsoft gave us 90 minutes of entertainment. You would be hard pressed to not see at least 3 announcements that make you excited for the future of this platform. And of course, ending the conference with the long rumored Project Scorpio announcement, would help make sure that everyone would be buzzing about next years official reveal. Although they didn’t go too far into detail of the console specs, they gave us a solid 2 minute video reiterating that the current iteration would not be replaced by this one and would actually boast to be the most powerful gaming console on the market. That is a huge promise to make, but one that I know that this Phil Spencer lead Xbox can fulfill. 

Grade: A

Sony… What a conference. To say that this conference was great, would be underselling it. Instead of leading the whole Horse and Pony Show out on stage and gave us buzz phrases like “Greatness Awaits” and all that jazz, they decided to let their games do the talking. And that made all the difference. With a short introduction from Shawn Layden and tribute the victims over the past weekend, we were greeted with a live orchestra and the reveal of God of War. A game that has been rumored for a while now, they walked us through a 10 minute gameplay demo of a different style of Kratos, leading many in the auditorium to applause. What followed was several more exclusive titles to the PlayStation Platform. Titles like The Last Guardian and its release date, a full gameplay demo of Horizon: Zero Dawn, a choice filled trailer for Detroit: Become Human, and Sony Bend’s Days Gone reveal. Nor did it stop there, Resident Evil VII, Spiderman from Insomniac, a Crash Bandicoot Remaster announcement, and of course walking Hideo Kojima on stage to show off the teaser trailer for the Sony exclusive Death Stranding. Yep, Sony delivered one punch after another, with no signs of slowing. Instead of overstaying their welcome (at this point in the show, I don’t think a single person would have minded another hour worth of content at this rate), they finished off with a final look at the gameplay for Days Gone, and filled that The Last of Us 2 post apocalyptic void in our hearts. PlayStation 4 has sold over 40 mill units to date, and Sony just gave a whole lot more people reason(s) to invest in the system. Well Done.

Grade: A+

Conclusion… You still with me? Good. Like I said before, this was a summary of my thoughts and opinions on the conference. Now before anyone goes calling me a fan boy of this or that, let me challenge you to keep one thing in mind. Every show gave us something to be excited for. Every single one. With the competition between industry giants like Xbox & Sony being as heated as it is right now- WE are the ones that win. So tonight as I boot up any one of my consoles, whether it be the Xbox One, the PS4, or have to wipe piles of dust off of my WiiU (Sorry, I had to), I will be smiling with anticipation for the things to come.