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Street Fighter V photo
1080p beta gameplay
[Update: Capcom has provided the following statement to Destructoid: "We apologize for the ongoing issues that users have been experiencing with the SFV beta test. In order to allow us to fix the issues as quickly as po...

Review: F1 2015

Jul 23 // Brett Makedonski
F1 2015 (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One [reviewed])Developer: Codemasters BirminghamPublisher: Bandai NamcoMSRP: $54.99 (PC), $59.99 (PS4, Xbox One)Released: July 10, 2015 (Europe), July 21, 2015 (North America) Most of F1 2015's missing horsepower comes in the form of features. Only the barest of essentials are to be found, and even those feel further stripped-down. The mode that everyone will get the most mileage out of is a single season of play (either 2014 or 2015). Pick a driver from the pre-set list of real racers, practice, qualify, and race. Repeat 18 more times, and F1 2015's longest goal has been completed. There's no career mode, creation tools, or management simulator present, so season play has to carry a strong sense of progression. Unfortunately, that's almost completely absent apart from watching you and your teammate earn points after each race. There are no contracts to chase or sponsors to keep happy. Your crew assigns goals, but they are absolutely pointless. After they're achieved or failed, they're never spoken of again and they don't affect anything. There isn't even a calendar to keep track of how many races are left; I had to look it up on F1's official site. [embed]296540:59670:0[/embed] Compounding matters is the race length. The shortest possible race in season mode is 25 percent of a real race. This usually works out to about half an hour. If you add in practice and qualifying, it's upward of an hour. That's quite the time commitment to a game that doesn't adequately reward you for playing. It becomes a slog before long. Other modes offer little reprieve from the tedium. Time trial puts you on a track alone. Quick race is a better suit for seeing the different tracks than anything else. Multiplayer is plagued by a litany of bugs -- one of my first races there saw a player finish last by more than 30 seconds only for the game to award him first place by more than a minute, with a best lap time of 457 minutes. This lack of polish isn't isolated to the netcode. F1 2015 is an uninspired-looking game. Driver models are almost offensively bland. Several of the tracks are adorned by blocky, blurry backdrops. Crowds are completely static. The screen tears regularly, which thankfully isn't always easily noticed due to concentrating on racing. There are exceptions to this, though. Codemasters put in care in the most obvious spots -- where it knew players would look for it. Iconic courses in Monaco, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi are absolutely fantastic. The claustrophobic streets of Monaco almost feel like an entirely different game given the attention to detail on all the close-quarters buildings. And, like in real life, it's where F1 is at its most exciting. Strangely, for a title that's supposed to simulate the highest tier of performance racing, F1 2015's cars handle remarkably easily. There's a disconcerting disconnect to the road. The pavement offers little in the way of challenge, as simply steering in the correct direction at full throttle works flawlessly. Brake for those tight corners and then slam the gas back down. It's nowhere near as nuanced as one would expect, and it takes a lot of skill out of what should be the most skilled driving in the world. The saving grace for the driving mechanics -- and I say this without an iota of sarcasm or irony -- is the tire wear. Over the course of a race, the tires degrade to the point of being nearly useless. The turns you once took efficiently suddenly have you pointing in the wrong direction. It adds a sense of tension around the midway point and final laps. You'll know that you have to pit as you're losing time on each circuit, but when's the best time? Have your opponents pitted yet? Can you squeeze out one more lap? Similarly, rain adds a lot to the driving. While it's visually unimpressive, it certainly negates the problem of cars being too easy to steer. All of a sudden, these vehicles might as well be on ice. If it starts pouring, it's paramount to tell the crew to switch to a different style of tire and hit the pits as soon as possible. Otherwise, drivers who have already adjusted will overtake you in no time at all. One last mode in F1 2015 also takes care of the "too easy to drive" issue. Pro Season is the most simulation-like the game has to offer, and it's only for the most hardcore of players. It ramps the difficulty up to the highest degree, turns off all assists, locks the view to cockpit, and sets everything to full length. It's intense. Realistically, only a small percentage of people will care enough to attempt this, and those are the ones dedicated enough to the genre that they have much better offerings with way more options in several other games. But, it's not only those racing enthusiasts who will see F1 2015 as lacking. Everyone who tries it will. Its development was short-sighted, and its appeal is thusly short-lived. This is a game that excels in a very small handful of areas -- imagine how thrilling it is when your tires wear away in Monaco! -- but is mediocre or bad almost everywhere else. As centuries of racing have taught us, no one remembers the guy who finishes toward the back of the pack. That will be F1 2015's legacy: a forgotten one.  [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
F1 review photo
Caution's out
No matter the length of race chosen, F1 2015 mandates at least one pit stop per outing. When pulling into the pits, control of the car is seized from the player and the steering wheel displays the words "pit limiter." Th...

Rise of the Tomb Raider photo
Xbox console exclusivity lasts one year
Rise of the Tomb Raider will be shedding its Xbox exclusivity next year, coming to PC sometime in early 2016 and PlayStation 4 later on during the holidays, Square Enix just announced. The title is currently planned for a November 10, 2015 launch on Xbox One and Xbox 360, which gives Microsoft a full year before Lara Croft's latest adventure winds up on a competing console.

Nintendo Download: The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth

Jul 23 // Chris Carter
If you missed last week's edition, here it is. As for what I'm getting, Isaac on 3DS seems pretty rad. It's been a long time coming, and I use my New 3DS quite a bit, so I'll easily be up for doing a few runs every now and then on it. For those who are interested, sales are going on for both the Wii U and 3DS.
Nintendo Download photo
Also, 3D Streets of Rage 2
The time has finally come -- The Binding of Isaac is hitting Nintendo platforms, on both the Wii U and New 3DS. Also on Wii U is Dragon Fantasy: The Volumes of Westeria, Canvaleon, The Quiet Collection, DK Jungle Climber...

Deadliest Warrior photo
A confusing console release
Just as quietly and sneakily as one of its own ninjas, a new Deadliest Warrior game stealth-released on Xbox Live Arcade today. There had not even been a whisper that a follow-up was in the works. After downloading the t...

Heroes of the Storm's Leoric is another unique addition to the entire MOBA genre

Jul 21 // Chris Carter
Leroic's Q is a simple bash called Skeletal Swing, and would be extremely boring if it didn't do double damage to minions and cause a slow. Because of this, it has a lot of utility in terms of clearing waves and chasing or escaping. It also has a much longer range than I thought it would with a giant modified cone (you can spec it to reach even more distance!), and can go through gates/walls. Not to mention the fact that it's perfect for clearing out smaller creeps in the mines and garden. Drain Hope (W) is a bolt of sorts that allows him to heal, which helps his viability as a warrior class and adds some range to his kit. It only works on heroes, just like Thrall's wolves, so he can't just heal himself in any circumstance -- plus, he needs to maintain a specific distance to channel. Wraith Walk (E) is a really cool teleport, which lets Leoric become unstoppable for a few seconds and phase shift a short distance. He's much more mobile than a lot of other heroes because of this, but his body is vulnerable while he uses it. As you can see, most of his abilities can be countered. In terms of his Heroics, Entomb is a good way in theory to guarantee a single enemy death (it literally causes an impassable tomb to appear), but after extensive testing, I'm going to say that it's just straight-up not very good. It's a little tougher to aim than Butcher's Lamb to the Slaughter, and it's easily countered with a quick Bolt of the Storm or any teleport right towards the open side. His other Heroic, March of the Black King, is likely going to be the top pick by most people. In essence, Leoric whacks everything in front of him in rapid succession, which causes him to heal while he's at it. It's an amazing initiation, as most enemies will likely have to run away from its fairly big area of effect, lest they allow him to heal. [embed]296386:59624:0[/embed] Ok, so it's a fairly easy-to-grasp kit, but his trait is really where he shines -- even when he's KOed, he doesn't technically "die," and can still persist on the battlefield as a wraith. He doesn't do direct damage, but he can use his abilities to reduce his death timer, and return to the board wherever you happen to leave his ghost. Because of this, Leoric has 100% uptime. Now, rising from the dead isn't a completely new MOBA concept -- it isn't even new to Heroes (Uther) -- but since the entire character is built around it and he can do it at level one, it makes for some very interesting gameplay. I love how a lot of his traits are built to work for both variants, and you can even hearth back to base while "dead." It obviously works best with specific objectives, like the Dragon Shire shrines, where you can come right back while the enemy is low on health. Since you can clearly see his ghost as an enemy, it's easy to plan for his resurrection, but the vision his death form grants is a huge factor. When I played the Butcher the day he debuted, I could tell he was fairly balanced with only 10 or so games under my belt. He has a pretty straightforward role, and there are a multitude of counters you can use against him so long as the enemy team is working together. With Leoric, it's much harder to tell where he fits in the current meta, and whether he will need buff or nerf tweaks long term. He's not particularly bursty until later levels and his deaths do grant full kill bonuses for the enemy team, so I can see a lot of players being reckless at low-level play to balance him out in Quick Match. Additionally, he's slow in general, doesn't quite feel as sturdy as some other dedicated tanks, and all his cooldowns take a while to recharge. Right now, I'm fairly happy with where Leoric is at, but again, it's too early to tell what plans Blizzard has for him and if he'll end up being a viable hero in the future. We'll have to keep a close eye on his win rates.
Heroes of the Storm photo
What is dead may never die
Today, Blizzard dropped Leoric the Skeleton King, the newest addition to Heroes of the Storm. He's a melee Warrior with one very intriguing trait, and has a heavy amount of lore to draw upon from the Diablo series. In short, he's a perfect candidate for the game, and Blizzard has been on a roll since debuting Kael'Thas, Johanna, and Butcher respectively.

Review: The Magic Circle

Jul 20 // Nic Rowen
The Magic Circle (PC)Developer: QuestionPublisher: QuestionMSRP: $19.99Released: July 9, 2015  The Magic Circle (the aforementioned meta-game inside of this real life title) is Ishmael “Starfather” Gilder's brainchild. The long awaited sequel to his beloved fantasy game 20 years in the making, mocked as vaporware by detractors and seen as the holy grail by his fans. A monochromatic fantasy world (that was a Doom-like sci-fi game for the first ten years of development) and probably the worst game ever made. Until you come along that is. Inserted into the game as a nameless play-tester, you see the drama play out in front of you. A world made of patchwork fixes and temporary assets while the developers, represented as giant floating eyes, loom overhead, changing things by whim. If the project wasn't already doomed by constant redesigns, oversized egos, and feature-creep, things take a surreal turn when something reaches out to you. Something that lives inside the game. Something that seems vaguely sinister, with its own agenda, an axe to grind against “the gods” as he calls the developers. What is it? A rampant A.I. that's somehow grown deep inside the mess of code? A machine spirit? You don't find out its exact nature until fairly deep into the game, and even then there is room for interpretation. What's important is what it shows you, how to get elbow deep into the guts of the code and rewrite it to your liking. How to use a simple but powerful editor to take the legs off one creature and stick them onto another. How to turn an enemy into a friend into an enemy of your other enemies. How to remake the world to your design. Then he sets you loose, a poltergeist in the programming, hacking in features, resurrecting cut content. Sometimes you play the part of a technological necromancer, finding content in the limbo of vaporware and dragging it back into the game. More often, you're Dr. Frankenstein, ripping bits and pieces off of creatures and stitching them back together to make your own beautiful little monster babies. The result has a pleasing effect, satellite dishes and broken bits of star ships poking out of the cliched castle walls of Ishmeal's would-be opus, an army of weaponized mushroom men following at your heel. Once the tutorials are over and the rather unorthodox premise established, the middle chunk of the game opens up into a sandbox that has you solving puzzles and indirectly slaying monsters by breaking all the rules. The flexibility of the editor, what you can do with a few swapped abilities here, a slight behavioral shift there, is astounding. Many of the puzzles (such as they are) can be solved in so many ways that I was almost always unsure if I did it the “right” way, or if I just bent and broke things until the pieces all fell where I hoped they would. I love that feeling, it's beautiful when games that are confident enough in themselves to not only let that happen, but applaud the player for doing so. There is a light tone to the whole affair. The various developers are chatty, with some great performances turned in from James Urbaniak (better known as Dr. Venture from the Venture Bros.), Ashley Burch, and others. There are audio diaries to discover, developer commentaries from a defunct version of the game to collect, and change logs detailing the carnage of the development process scattered around, all of which reveal not only what a comedy of errors The Magic Circle has become, but also the various neurosis and flaws of the team members. The comedic tone of the writing and performances feed right back into the gameplay. Silly decisions abound, like the developers (the real ones) always went with the fun idea rather than the easy or clear one. For example, there is no upper limit on how many creatures you can have following around you at once, so things can, and likely will, easily devolve into chaos as you walk around with a fire-spewing zoo trailing behind you. Similarly, there are no limits on how you can swap abilities so it's easy to make truly ridiculous creatures, like a flying demon puppy with a railgun mouth. But aside from the obvious circus-show of zaniness, there are tons of small jokes and clever winks. Little details like picking up copies of your own avatar to increase your health (represented by placeholder art that looks like a cylinder with arms). Being able to re-name every creature you hack so you can make your own fun. At one point I ended up changing the name of the game to “Duke Nukem Presents The Magic Circle” and I giggled at my handiwork off and on for the rest of the night. It's just fun to tinker around in. The objectives of the game are purposely vague -- you need to wrest control of the title away from its current creators, how you're supposed to accomplish that as a disembodied phantom inside the game isn't clearly laid out – but they don't have to be. Exploring the half-built world of The Magic Circle, this pitiful thing, marked with the visible scars of development notes, vestigial remains of deleted content still clinging to it, concept art hastily plastered over the seams, is the meat of the experience. One you wouldn't want to rush through even if you knew exactly what you were supposed to do. And one, that even with a healthy amount of goofing around and experimentation, is over too soon. The sandbox is tiny, and once the game enters its final chapters there is no coming back to it. While The Magic Circle has a compelling third act and some neat surprises to throw at the player (sometimes with the intent of harm), it's hard not to feel like the game is a little thin on the whole. While the central conceit is fun, you don't spend as much time playing with it as you'd hope. The runtime is already short, and a good chunk of it is taken up with monologues that occasionally veer into full on lectures as well as multiple epilogues. For a game that is about grand ideas betrayed by shaky execution, it's tempting to explain the lack of substantive content as more sneaky meta-commentary, but while the idea makes me smirk, I don't think it's good enough to give the game a free-pass. But The Magic Circle isn't just about the gameplay, it has a message. A whole lot to say about what it's like to make games in the modern video game industry. The stresses it places on people, the incorrect assumptions creators have about their work, and the untamed expectations of a judgmental audience. Despite being a commentary on the industry, The Magic Circle isn't gauche enough to single out a specific target. Ishmeal is a composite of several flawed, egotistical developers who are big on hype, hazy on details, and always ready to blame someone else for their shortcomings. There are shades of Molyneux in the mix, flickers of Cage, a sprinkling of Garriot, and a heady musk of Romero to round it out. Coda, an ardent fan of Ishmeal's former works who worms her way onto the team, represents the new era of the participant fan; The streamer, the wiki editor, the super-secret pre-beta fan tester, and all the good and ill that's come along with that shift. Her passion and reverence for the virtual worlds she's dedicated her life to is engaging and even a little familiar -- we're all enthusiasts around here. But, her obsessiveness and the sheer gall of her skewed priorities quickly become unsettling. Beneath all the fan-girl glee is a shrewd, nasty sense of undeserved entitlement and ownership, the sort of overly-invested fan that will send shamelessly ego-stroking love letters to a developer one day and thinly veiled death threats the next. Less well defined is Evelyn Maze, a former eSports celebrity who is unwillingly tied to Ishmeal's sinking boat through contractual chains (a clumsy way of explaining her combativeness while dodging the question of “why doesn't she just quit?”). She represents the “games are for playing” kind of gamer who has no patience for cut-scenes and a thirst for competition. A philosophy which directly collides with the “Starfather's” vision of a story-heavy RPG yarn with no combat. As Maze is the unofficial second-in-command of the studio's disorganized hierarchy (that seems to work like a hippie-commune as run by Joseph Stalin) her and Ishmeal's constant bickering results in a lot of flushed efforts and confusion on the part of the team, right in line with some of the horror stories we've heard about the industry the real world. And somewhere in there is you, simultaneously gawking at the car crash while pouring more gasoline on it. Are you just another player in this world? A different sort of creator? Are you sabotaging this whole thing, or just giving it the sharp kick it needs? The problem with talking about a game that aims to surprise is it's hard to get specific without ruining the experience. But I guarantee, in the near future a lot of ink is going to be spilled about The Magic Circle. The final third of the game goes to some weird places that demand to be dissected. The message is a little muddled, with so many accusing fingers thrust in so many directions that I'm sure different people will come to radically different conclusions of what it all means. But it's a message worth hearing, and a world worth exploring, if you care about video games and the people that make them. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Magic Circle Review photo
The medium is the message
The Magic Circle is a game set inside of a game, where you bend and break the rules to make it another game entirely. This is all in service of makings a meta-contextual statement about the game making industry and the tension between the creator and the audience. Still with me after that? Then you're probably The Magic Circle's target audience.

EVO 2015 is over, here's how it ended

Jul 20 // Ben Pack
Ultra Street Fighter IV Juri, Decapre, Adon, Rolento, and Abel were just five of the 12 different characters represented in the top eight for Ultra Street Fighter IV. The huge character variety was surpassed only by the quality of play demonstrated by this international forum of competitors. Infiltration going into winners showed off an amazing roster of characters, but it ultimately did not mean much as he would lose to Momochi. Meanwhile, GamerBee managed to claw through losers bracket, beating Infiltration in losers finals. Grand finals came down to a reset, and eventually in the last game a technical mishap lead to each of the contenders having one round each with Momochi clutching it out in the end. Top 8 1. EG|Momochi [Ken/ Evil Ryu]2. AvM|GamerBee [Elena / Adon]3. Infiltration [Evil Ryu / Chun-Li / Abel / Decapre / Elena / Juri]4. BE|Nemo (Rolento)5. /r/Kappa|AiAi [Juri]5. MCZ|Tokido [Akuma]7. EG|PR Balrog [Balrog]7. Liquid|NuckleDu [Decapre, Guile] Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 Marvel has always been considered America's game. Since MvC 3's EVO debut in 2011, there have only ever been two non-Americans in top eight. That's why it was such a shocker to have only three Americans in the competition today. Favorites including Justin Wong, Chris G, Filipino Champ, and Flocker were nowhere to be seen as the foreign legion attempted to lay waste to America three characters at a time. It came down to grand finals between Chile's own BE|KaneBlueRiver [Hulk / Haggar / Sentinel] versus New York native CTRL|RayRay [Magneto / Dr. Doom / Sentinel], with KBR taking it. Top 8 1. BE|KaneBlueRiver [Hulk / Sentinel / Haggar]2. CTRL|RayRay [Magneto / Dr. Doom / Sentinel]3. ApologyMan [Firebrand / Dr. Doom / Super-Skrull4. TA|Frutsy [M.O.D.O.K., / Captain America / Dr. Doom]5. YKWIS|GoldenBoyNeo [Magneto / Dr. Doom / Phoenix]5. TMP|Cross [Zero / Dr. Strange / Dante]7. T3|Dizzy [Zero / Dr. Doom, Vergil[7. R.F. [Morrigan / Dr. Doom, Vergil] Super Smash Bros. Melee Some dreams were born while others were dashed in the Melee top eight. C9 Mang0 failed to take his third EVO trophy home, but the real shocker was Florida's PG|Plup claiming fourth, beating TSM|Leffen, the possible favorite to win the entire competition. The always-solid Alliance|Armada managed to take home the gold pretty convincingly, dropping almost no sets throughout the entire tournament. Top 8 1. Alliance|Armada [Fox / Peach]2. Liquid|Hungrybox [Jigglypuff]3. EG|PPMD [Marth / Falco]4. PG|Plup [Sheik / Samus]5. TSM|Leffen [Fox]5. C9|Mango [Fox / Falco]7. Tempo|Axe [Pikachu]7. MH|ChuDat [Ice Climbers] Mortal Kombat X Even though several upsets preceded the top eight for Mortal Kombat, spirits were generally high. While ninjas were crushing each others skulls on the screen, players were hugging it out on stage. cR|SonicFox managed to pull an amazing run through the losers bracket with Erron Black and Kitana and managed to reset grand finals against Foxy Grandpa's dominant Kung Lao, leading to a victory for the 17-year-old Sonic. Top 8 1. cR|SonicFox [Erron Black / Kitana]2. PND|A Foxy Grandpa [Kung Lao]3. cR|HoneyBee [D'Vorah]4. YOMI|MIT [Tanya, Sonya Blade]5. PND|Ketchup [Quan Chi]5. YOMI|DJT [Kung Lao]7. JLA|MilkySituation [Reptile]7. YOMI|Zyphox [Liu Kang] Guilty Gear: Xrd -SIGN- Starting at the designated anime time slot of 9am, Guilty Gear had a very important job of hyping up any attending early-birds. It did not disappoint, and while there were plenty of heartbreaks, there was some serious competition the entire way through. Ogawa managed to show off why people consider Zato to be the best character by taking the tournament over ODG|Nage's Faust.  Top 8 1. Ogawa [Zato]2. ODG|Nage [Faust]3. Woshige [Millia]4. Nakamura [Millia]5. Dogura [Sin]5. Rion [Ky]7. Syuuto [Axl]7. Zidane [Leo] EVO 2015 day 1 wrap up EVO 2015 day 2 wrap up Street Fighter V new character announcement Guilty Gear Xrd player stands up too early, loses Jamie Lee Curtis cosplayed as Vega at EVO Street Fighter V DLC can be unlocked for free EVO attendee steals PS Vita dev kit from Atlus 
EVO recap photo
Street Fighter, Marvel, Melee, and more
The final day of Evolution 2015 has concluded, and we are left with a slew of new champions. There were upsets and heart-breakers, but most importantly hundreds of hours of the highest-level fighting games. Games featured today were Ultra Street Fighter IV, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mortal Kombat X, and Guilty Gear: Xrd -SIGN-.

Capcom reveals first new Street Fighter V character

Jul 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296312:59602:0[/embed] Here's the full rundown on Capcom's latest creation, straight from the horse's mouth: "Possessing a wide variety of savage and close range attacks, all of Necalli’s moves have been forged through the heat of battle to ensure he’s inflicting maximum pain upon his opponents.  "Making full use of the Battle System mechanics, Necalli’s V-Skill allows him to pound the ground with both fists, creating an explosion that damages the enemy whereas the powerful V-Trigger allows him to channel a mysterious energy that changes his hair colour and alters his personality for a short period of time." Capcom says to expect more information on Necalli's origin and storyline in the coming months. Street Fighter V is coming to PlayStation 4 and PC next spring. The first beta is taking place later this week exclusively on PlayStation Network. You can find more details regarding that right here.
Street Fighter V photo
Meet Necalli
Today at EVO 2015, just before kicking off the final round of Ultra Street Fighter IV competitions, Capcom unveiled the first of four new fighters joining the roster of Street Fighter V. His name is Necalli, a wild-looking grappler who -- Aw hell, just watch the damn trailer.

Guilty Gear Xrd player stands up too early, loses

Jul 19 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]296294:59596:0[/embed] Ogawa eventually went on to win the tournament, while Woshige advanced to the losers bracket and ultimately wound up in placing third overall. He's still number one in my heart, though. [Video via RoBoT SheKeiB -- Thanks, Southsing]
Woshige photo
Best moment of EVO so far?
Today's top story from EVO came from a Guilty Gear Xrd match between Woshige and Ogawa. After pulling off a comeback victory in the second round, Woshige mistakenly thought he'd won the match in its entirety. He stood up and ...

Street Fighter V photo
Or pay to get it faster
During a Street Fighter V panel at EVO today, Capcom announced a shift in strategy for the series. The publisher is moving away from its long-standing pattern of releasing a major disc-based update to the latest version of th...

Experience Points .19: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance

Jul 18 // Ben Davis
When it rains, it pours Metal Gear Rising is full of insane, high-energy boss fights. Sometimes Raiden will be up against gigantic war machines which he can climb all over, and sometimes he'll be in one-on-one duels against villains roughly his size. But no matter what, the fights themselves are always impressive. My personal favorite boss is Monsoon. He's a cyborg ninja with distinctive red and black armor and a helmet covering most of his face save for his creepy grin. His weapon of choice is a pair of sais, which he's quite deadly with. And true to his name, his boss fight takes place in the pouring rain. His most unique feature, however, is the fact that his body is actually made up of a bunch of smaller segments held together by electromagnetic forces. This allows him to separate his body at will, which he does quite often in order to attack from great distances and to easily dodge incoming attacks. If Raiden tries to attack normally, he won't be able to land a single hit with Monsoon's body constantly shifting, separating, and reconnecting at high speeds to avoid injury. Patience and clever tactics are required to even scratch this guy. After a while, Monsoon will begin demonstrating another ability which allows him to lift and hurl enormous objects. He starts chucking tanks and aircraft at Raiden like it's nothing, even going so far as to meld a bunch of them together into one giant Katamari-like ball of metal. Things get pretty crazy! This fight in particular forces the player to master parrying, a skill which quickly becomes essential for survival. If Raiden is unable to parry effectively in the fight against Monsoon, he'll be taking far too many punches, kicks, and sais to the face to survive for very long. It's one hell of a fight, complete with an excellent heavy metal-ish theme song, and it perfectly encapsulates the frantic, over-the-top combat of Metal Gear Rising. The incredible backflipping feline There is possibly no greater character in Metal Gear Rising than the cat. What cat, you ask? You know, the ninja cat! It can be found walking around the beach in R-01. It's kind of hard to spot sometimes, so the player has to really be looking for it, but it's totally worth it to seek the animal out. What's so great about this small white cat? It doesn't really do much of anything, just wanders around the beach lazily. That is, unless Raiden tries to attack the poor, defenseless kitty. Don't worry though, there is no way Raiden is going to land a hit on this cat. When attacked, the cat will perform a killer backflip and dodge out of the way. Every single time! No matter what attack Raiden throws at this ninja cat, it will demonstrate its impressive evasive skills and come away unscathed. I spent so much time on the beach just watching this awesome cat backflip out of the way of every move Raiden attempted. Had the cat decided to go on the offensive and scratch back, Raiden surely would have been defeated by this nigh invincible feline. The ninja cat also makes another appearance later in the game, during a long cutscene where Monsoon is having a chat with a weakened Raiden. The camera can be controlled during this scene, and if Raiden looks to his right, he'll see the cat walk right up to one of the cyborg soldiers. The soldier gets really excited, getting down on the ground on all fours to pet the kitty before it leaves him in disinterest. Then the soldier gets back up and sadly waves goodbye. It's really adorable and goofy, and it completely turns Monsoon's serious monologue into a bit of a joke. ¡Muy guapo! Early on in the game, Raiden has to swing by Mexico to infiltrate a cybernetics lab. He was apparently told to wear a disguise so as not to draw too much attention to himself in this foreign country, so of course he goes the full stereotypical route and decides to wear a poncho and a ridiculously large mariachi hat. Excellent choice! Immediately after stepping out of his car, everyone around notices his strange appearance and starts freaking out, commenting on his outfit and wondering if he's actually a mariachi player or rather a cyborg in disguise. He quickly descends into a sewer, ditching the outfit and saying, "Adios, amigos," as he disappears. It's pretty much the best cutscene. Then mission R-02 begins with Raiden back to his normal suit (lame!). I was pretty disappointed, as I was really hoping I would get to play the entire level as Mariachi Raiden. Fortunately for me, the mariachi outfit becomes unlocked as an alternate skin after completing R-02, meaning I could play the remainder of the game in a totally absurd costume. Obviously, I only played as Mariachi Raiden from that point on. I mean, how could I not? Cyborg's best friend Raiden's mechanical canine companion, Blade Wolf, is such a joy to have around. He may not be useful for combat (his AI apparently lacks brutality), but he is very helpful for scouting purposes, and he's a surprisingly entertaining conversationalist as well. He may be a robot, but he has quite a unique personality since his AI was created to be similar to a human brain. He's especially noble, often questions why killing is necessary, and is always yearning for freedom. I particularly enjoy Wolf's dry sense of humor. He always takes notice of Raiden's jokes and likes to point out that he doesn't think Raiden is very funny. He's also quick to pick up on puns and expressions, such as when Raiden said they should "throw him a bone" and Wolf quickly noted that his choice of words was amusing on two levels, since his body is modeled after a canine and canines like bones. Wolf was even popular enough to get his own DLC chapter where he was featured as a playable character. It's a pretty neat side chapter which requires the player to be extra sneaky to get stealth kills, since Wolf himself is not that great at fighting (even though he has a giant chainsaw which he can fling around with his tail). I'm glad he got so much recognition as an excellent character, worthy of being playable even though he's not humanoid. Honestly though, who wouldn't want to play as a badass robotic wolf? The perfect hiding spot Ah, cardboard boxes. A classic staple of the Metal Gear franchise. They're back once again in Metal Gear Rising. Raiden can of course find cardboard boxes scattered around which he can hide under and walk around in a most (in)conspicuous manner. And not just cardboard boxes, but metal drum cans as well. Plus, if he's wearing the mariachi outfit, the boxes and drums he hides under will be decorated with his festive hat. Totally not suspicious-looking at all! My favorite thing to do is to have Raiden hide inside a drum can while wearing the mariachi outfit and then go into a ninja run. This causes him to fall over and start rolling around sideways inside of the drum can, with the hat somehow remaining firmly fastened to the top. This move can actually hurt enemies and destroy parts of the environment, but eventually Raiden gets sick and has to stop rolling to vomit. Metal Gear Rising even went a step further with the cardboard boxes by including enemy soldiers which hid inside boxes themselves and could be found and killed for an achievement. There are a total of five of these MIBs (Men In Boxes) to find, and locating all of them unlocks a special wooden sword. The first one I found made me laugh pretty hard, because I honestly wasn't expecting anyone else to be using the cardboard box tactic. Apparently, it's becoming quite a popular technique! A million little pieces It may sound twisted, but slicing enemies up into tiny bits in Metal Gear Rising feels incredibly satisfying. It probably helps that most of the enemies are machines, and even the humanoid enemies are riddled with cybernetic enhancements, so slicing them up doesn't really result in a bloodbath of internal organs and icky stuff. It's mostly mechanical body parts, with a bit of blood splatter thrown in for color. But still, it feels amazing. Raiden has a special ability which allows him to essentially slow down time in what's known as "Blade Mode," so that he can hack and slash enemies with quickness and precision. With Blade Mode activated, a single cyborg soldier can become hundreds of sliced up pieces of cyborg soldier within a matter of seconds, as Raiden unleashes a flurry of sword swipes in every direction. It's almost hypnotizing to watch it happen. And it's not just the enemies Raiden can obliterate. Most of the environments are fully destructible, so even when he's not in combat, Raiden can enter Blade Mode and slice things up to his heart's content. I spent a lot of time running around the levels trying to see what all I could destroy, slicing up trees, tearing through cars, turning crates into splinters, bringing down entire staircases. It just felt so satisfying to watch the world crumble at my hands. Mwahahaha! Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier.18: Chrono Trigger
Metal Gear Rising photo
Nanomachines, son
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

Shenmue 3 Kickstarter photo
Most funded video game in site's history
The crowdfunding campaign for Shenmue 3 has drawn to a close, raising a total of $6,333,295. That sum makes the project the most funded video game campaign in the history of Kickstarter, beating out the previous record holder...

EVO 2015 is underway, catch all the action here

Jul 17 // Kyle MacGregor
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EVO 2015 photo
Day one is a go!
EVO 2015, the largest fighting game tournament of the year, has begun. Get hype! Kicking off today's competitions are pools for Ultra Street Fighter IV, Super Smash Bros. (both Melee and Wii U), Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, and T...

What the hell was Rocksteady thinking with Batman: Arkham Knight's Riddler?

Jul 17 // Chris Carter
The good First, let's take a brief look at the other games in the series to see how it measures up. It was slightly annoying to have "Catwoman only" trophies in Arkham City, but that game never took it to this level -- plus, Riddler was still relatively fresh at that point. Asylum also had just the right amount on a smaller map to encourage nearly everyone to go for them, and I like how Origins had a little extortion story weaved into the activity, making it a bit less tedious. Arkham Knight just goes overboard. Thankfully, there's a little bit of brilliance peppered in that shows what might have been. Most notably, the riddles that feel like actual riddles are great. I love how the game leads you towards horizons where you can find Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, and Wayne Manor in the distance. It's a great way to link the series, and the Knightfall ending gives it a nice conclusion. You'll also find a lot of really cool stories that tie up loose ends for characters like Bane and Calendar Man. This is how all of the riddles should have been presented. The bad and the terrible Instead, there's over 300 miniature quests to complete, carved out by way of trophies, riddles, "Riddler bombs," and breakable objects. While the trophies are generally par for the course for the series, the riddles (as mentioned previously) are often good, and the bombs are few and far between, it's the objects that broke my soul. And here's the worse news -- to get any locations without consulting a guide, you'll have to "interrogate" Riddler cronies. To find them, you'll wander around the town with detective vision on and locate green cars or green men, isolate them in combat, and press a button to have a few icons appear on the map. It's a painfully slow process, and come to find out, some thugs don't even give you information after tracking them down (this seems to be a glitch, as this has happened a few times, even on thugs I used counter on)! Divebombing from the sky and sending a Riddler car careening for information was cool the first time, but on the 50th occasion, it gets unbearable. While patrolling the streets, I must have heard Steve Blum (who still plays every thug with Nolan North, like WB can't afford a thug budget) say "who is Robin anyway?" approximately 10,000 times. How did they think this was a good idea? For the broken object "riddles," you'll often need to find at least 10 emblems to finish one entry, and cronies only give you a select few of them at a time. The entire affair, for the most part, consists of jumping in the Batmobile, aiming at a target, and shooting it. These aren't "riddles," and have no business being in the game, full stop. The worst part? They're all required for the true ending You know what? The actual Riddler questline in Arkham Knight with Catwoman was bearable, and featured some neat uses of the Batmobile (for once) -- even if driving on walls is still horrible thanks to the wonky camera angles. But to complete said lengthy questline, fight a Mecha-Riddler for 10 seconds, and have him say "LOL! Actually you need all 250 trophies to fight me for real!" is a kick in the teeth. It gets worse than that, as the true ending is tied to said riddles, clearly to pad out the game. At launch, a lot of fans even speculated that it was a bug, and that you couldn't possibly be required to slowly gather every trophy to nab Riddler -- nope, you actually have to do it. It would have been a lot cooler if taking Riddler in (after the quest) triggered Knightfall, but if you wanted to get more audio tidbits you could go after the trophies, as he taunted you from lockup. Now sometimes, I'm playing Arkham Knight and I'm wondering "how is this level of detail even possible?" Rocksteady has truly crafted an amazing open world that feels like a true current-gen experience, and that should be commended. But of course, a budget of multi-millions doesn't preclude criticism (Michael Bay) -- so many facets of Arkham Knight could have been done better. So don't wait up, Alfred -- I'll just be aimlessly flying through the streets of Gotham, looking for green dots for an ending I already looked up on YouTube. I think it's about time to hang up the cowl.
Batman Arkham Riddler photo
Holy tedium, Batman
If there's two things Batman: Arkham Knight does too much of, it's the Batmobile and The Riddler. For the purposes of an upcoming project, I'm working towards a 100% completion rate in Knight, and I'm running into a wall...

Nintendo Download: Blaster Master

Jul 16 // Chris Carter
If you missed last week's edition, here it is. As for what I'm getting, I can't resist the call of Blaster Master. For those who are interested, sales are going on for both the Wii U and 3DS.
Nintendo Download photo
Also, Tiny Galaxy
Although this week's downloads are pretty boring, Blaster Master is headlining the Wii U releases. It already existed in Virtual Console form, but now you can play it without going to the poopy Wii emulation mode. Also o...

Mistakes were made with the Shenmue 3 Kickstarter

Jul 16 // Chris Carter
Lack of transparency When Shenmue 3 was announced during E3, the whole world (myself included) went crazy. Series creator Yu Suzuki was teasing it a day before, but no one really could have expected it given how long the series had been on hiatus. Then the questions starting coming, and things got a little more complicated. It came out the day after the announcement that even though the team was asking for money on Kickstarter, Sony would be funding the game. I kind of feel bad for Suzuki as he had to apologize for "misleading" people, but the entire "Sony is funding some of it, but we're not actually going to tell you how much" business was a bit weird. That's definitely something that should have been explained at E3. If there's one thing we learned about backers over the years, it's that they want an idea of what they're contributing to, and where their money is going. With Shenmue 3, there are still some doubts though in terms of the latter point Yu Suzuki has confirmed that all of the campaign proceeds are going directly to the game, and not Sony. Stretch goal wackiness Yes, one of their stretch goals, one they haven't reached yet, is actually a "new Kickstarter [cash] record." I'm speechless. While the campaign runners did end up catching on to the concept of stretch goals, it took them days to scramble to come up with ideas. At first, the campaign only had a mere few mentions of what they'd do if they surpassed their funding amount. The days of "let's just see how much we get on Kickstarter and be surprised later!" are over. Campaigns need to think about the big picture and keep the train running with constant engagement and new goals and activities. IGA's Bloodstained campaign did this impressively, with multiple social media metagames and daily stretch goal updates. Maybe the Shenmue team can up their funding with a good post-Kickstarter PayPal campaign and reach that lofty $10 million mark. Of course, a lot of future Kickstarter success is going to be contingent on luck and timing. Having Sony announce Shenmue 3 during its E3 press conference did wonders for the campaign, yet Inafune is struggling to have lightning strike twice with Red Ash -- his unofficial Mega Man Legends project, announced at Anime Expo. The Shenmue 3 team has your money -- now we just wait for the finished product. As for myself, I backed it at the $29 level. Shenmue means a lot to me as a series, and it got me through some really tough times. If the campaign was handled a bit better and was more focused, I may have upped my pledge.
Shenmue 3 photo
But everyone loves Shenmue so it's okay
The Shenmue 3 Kickstarter has surpassed five million in funding with just under a day and a half to go, but creator Yu Suzuki has insisted that they need roughly $10 million to have a fully realized open world. It's shooting for the stars for sure, but a number of different choices could have been made to bump the campaign up significantly.

PlayStation Mobile photo
It's now or never
In case you ever considered purchasing a PlayStation Mobile game, the time to act is now. Sony is shutting down the service tomorrow, July 15, after which point consumers will no longer be able to purchase any new content. Th...

Review: The Fall

Jul 14 // Mike Cosimano
The Fall (Linux, Mac, PC, PS4 [reviewed], Wii U, Xbox One)Developer: Over the MoonPublisher: Over the MoonMSRP: $9.99Released: May 30, 2014 (PC) / July 14, 2015 (PS4) The Fall opens with style, as gravity slowly kicks in for a mysterious suited figure entering the dusky atmosphere of an alien world. This figure is Colonel Josephs, a soldier in a generic future army. But the good Colonel is in critical condition, leaving his life in the hands of ARID, the AI controlling Josephs' suit. Unfortunately, she's trapped in a decrepit android repair facility, packed with hostile security drones and run by a fantastically creepy caretaker. Her one ally is the facility's mainframe, who is understandably happy to see a friend after decades of loneliness. The character writing is fantastic. ARID doesn't know it, but every attempt to save the meatsack trapped inside her suit brings her closer to escaping her restrictive programming. At first, her determination appears to be a result of coding, but as Josephs comes ever closer to expiring, genuine emotion begins to push through her automated facade. Rogue artificial intelligence hasn't been this compelling since the Portal games. The same goes for the other characters. The caretaker's job is to designate malfunctioning units, but nothing is safe from its critical eye. Both malfunctioning robots and innocent humans are killed and literally crucified by its hand -- a result of overly rigid programming. The character is brought to life by some delightfully creepy animation and a holographic disguise gone horribly wrong. The mainframe, on the other hand, wants to be closer to humanity in the hopes of being treated fairly. ARID exists in a space between these characters; between rigid adherence to the rules (the caretaker) and simulated humanity (the mainframe). Without spoiling the game's killer ending, ARID does make something of a decision between the two. [embed]295646:59464:0[/embed] It's also worth noting that The Fall is not technically over, with two more parts supposedly on the way. The ending of Part One brings closure to the game's themes and ARID's character arc, so it's difficult to guess where the game could end. There's certainly something to be said for exploring characters after a major revelation, so I have faith in the future of The Fall. As long as the writing stays at this level, we'll be in good hands. If there's one area where the game could improve, it's the puzzles. ARID's suit has a series of abilities that can only be activated if her human pilot is in danger. In order to get through the facility and make it to the medical center, ARID has to find a way to manipulate both her environment and her programming. This leads to clever scenarios, where you transform a harmless security door into a death trap, all in the hopes of activating your cloaking mechanism. Unfortunately, most of the puzzles can be reduced to "use item on other item." In retrospect, they seem well-telegraphed, but they're frustrating in the moment. The bulk of the item-based puzzles take place in a domestic droid training center, which makes up for the frustration with atmosphere and some clever jokes. I imagine pumping up the game's brightness would also help a lot with finding interactive objects. Like a fool, I went with the default. Don't be like me. There's also combat, made more tactical by ARID's weak shields. Although the health bar is fairly sizable, both the shields and life support regenerate more slowly than a dead turtle. The real penalty for poor performance is having to sit around and wait. Or you could take a page out of my book -- I was able to make a quick sandwich, eat it, and clean up in the time it took for ARID to come back to full health. This doesn't matter after a certain point; once you get a certain gun upgrade, you can pop headshots like nobody's business. When you nail The Fall's combat, you feel like a badass. The Fall Part One's minor gameplay shortcomings don't even begin to tarnish the sheen on everything else. It's a seductive old-school sci-fi yarn, with characters that somehow manage to represent greater ideas and exist as fully-formed beings. Even though two more episodes have been confirmed, the game ends on an exciting conclusion that could function either as a cliffhanger or a definitive finale. If you're into books like The Martian Chronicles, there's no reason to let some potential head-scratchers keep you from a great experience. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
The Fall photo
Fallen angel
The Fall's opening act is something out of a collection of Ray Bradbury short stories, where hard science leads to deeper questions of morality puzzled over by engaging characters. It's the right sort of science fiction,...

Until Dawn still hasn't wowed me, but I'm intrigued

Jul 13 // Chris Carter
Until Dawn (PS4)Developer: Supermassive GamesPublisher: SonyRelease: August 25, 2015 This is largely the same experienced that's been teased for the past few years or so -- a horror movie simulator with stars like Hayden Panettiere, Rami Malek, Brett Dalton, and Nichole Bloom lending their likenesses and performances to the experience. As previously stated I played the first four episodes, which is roughly three hours, and enough time to ramp up the "horror" bit of the plot after three episodes of table-setting. Yes, this is very much an adventure experience similar to Indigo Prophecy and Shenmue, complete with mild exploration and plenty of quick-time events, so you can show yourself out if that's still not your thing. Until Dawn started its life as a Move game, but thankfully Sony has retreated on that device over the years, and it's now possible to play it with a traditional controller scheme or controller-based motion. After a cheesy intro explaining the butterfly effect (like no one saw the Ashton Kutcher movie here), Until Dawn places you a year before the current storyline, in a snowy isolated cabin in the woods. You'll learn of the tragedy that happened there through the eyes of the victims, which sets up the ensuing (and illogical) return to a year later, where all of the remaining friends attempt to move on with their lives. The key plot point here is that they don't know the deaths were actually murders, and they're setting themselves up for the same possible fate -- I mean, they should know, but this is a horror work after all. [embed]295431:59461:0[/embed] Visually, I actually dig the move to the PlayStation 4, and there are very little remnants of it being a PS3 game. I feel like with Arkham Knight we've finally started to move on in terms of fidelity, and I'm noticing the generational gap with each passing month. The setting is also sufficiently gloomy and impressive, but sadly, I experienced severe slowdown during some action sequences -- as in, sub-30 FPS -- something I hope is fixed in the final version. Gameplay mostly consists of walking around, picking up and manipulating items (like Resident Evil), and making choices that can either modify short-term conversations and actions, or long-term decisions that will drastically change the narrative, and perhaps even kill off major characters. Although I haven't gotten the full taste of this mechanic in just four episodes, it already feels far more impactful than any recent Telltale game. Telltale is great at telling its story, but that's just it -- it's its story for the most part. Until Dawn gives me hope that multiple playthroughs will be worth it. It's all very linear though, which I'm sure will scare some people away. There's very little in the way of exploration, to the point where at most, there's only one stray path (and it's usually obvious) to take beyond the other road that continues the story. QTEs, Until Dawn has 'em, and they're here in spades. Personally I still don't mind them, even if they're a cheap device when overused, so your mileage may vary here. As for myself, I found them to be entertaining and helped fuel the endearing cheese-factor of the package. And I mean that with sincerity -- this doesn't feel like a cash-in, but a proper love letter to horror in general, complete with a great atmosphere and creepy, ingenious camera angles. Cheesy it may be, but I actually wanted to find out more about the game's world, and that's where Until Dawn excels -- lore building. You can find totems that show tiny visions of the future (good or bad, but mostly bad), which eventually complete a little meta-narrative on the history of the surrounding area, and a possible curse that dates back hundreds of years. I also wanted to find out exactly who the assailants were and what their motivations are -- and I won't even spoil the insanely interesting meta-narrative with the always talented Peter Stormare. My gut is telling me that Until Dawn is going to turn out far better than the lackluster Heavy Rain or Beyond: Two Souls, and having grown up with the adventure genre, I'm excited to see what it can dish out. I suspect like many horror movie staples, this one is going to be pretty polarizing upon release regardless of your opinion on these types of games though.
Until Dawn photo
Murder at Teen Mountain
I'm a sucker for horror, even if it dips in "B," heck, "C" territory. While I can turn off my brain and enjoy slasher and gore flicks like the Saw series (they walk the line of "so bad it's good" so well), more often tha...

Sup Holmes photo
Sup Holmes every Sunday at 4pm EST!
[Sup Holmes is a weekly talk show for people that make great videogames. It airs live every Sunday at 4pm EST on YouTube, and can be found in Podcast form on Libsyn and iTunes.] [Update: Thanks for watchi...

Sights from Japanese indie festival BitSummit

Jul 12 // Kyle MacGregor
BitSummit takes place at Miyako Messe, located in Kyoto's museum district. Thousands of people attend annually. Here, the crowds pour into the show day one. [Image: Indie Megabooth] Koji Igarashi, Inti Creates CEO Takuya Aizu, and Keiji Inafune among a star-studded panel lineup. [Image: Shuhei Yoshida] Kyoto's mascot Mayumaro poses with D4 director Hidetaka "Swery" Suehiro and Playism staff. [Image: Kyoto Prefecture PR] Pixeljunk Eden composer Baiyon performs for a live crowd. [Image: James Mielke] Western-developed projects Octodad and Fez on display at the PlayStation booth. [Image: Shuhei Yoshida] Any Japanese video game expo worth its salt has at least a samurai or two. [Image: Inside Games] Tetsuya Mizuguchi (Lumines, Rez, Space Channel 5) and Kazutoshi Iida (Doshin the Giant). [Image: James Mielke] Please remember to take your shoes off before entering the Unity game space. [Image: Playism] Mayumaro finds Chulip and Little King's Story director Yoshiro Kimura's new crew Onion Games. [Image: Kyoto Prefecture PR] More crowds! [Image: James Mielke] Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida with La-Mulana 2 designer Takumi Naramura. [Image: Shuhei Yoshida] BitSummit founder James Mielke enjoying the show with his daughter. [Image: James Mielke] *** P.S. This past week, Yatagarasu Attack on Catacylsm, a doujin fighting game developed by a trio of former King of Fighters veterans, launched on Steam. If you're interested in checking out some of the latest and greatest indie games from Japan, this would be a good place to start.
BitSummit photo
Snapshots from Kyoto
Doujin Dojo is a weekly column dedicated to spotlighting independent games from Japan and the people that make them. This weekend, Kyoto played host to BitSummit, Japan's top independent games festival. Now in its third year,...

Experience Points .18: Chrono Trigger

Jul 11 // Ben Davis
It's not easy being green I absolutely love when games give us unconventional heroes. Chrono Trigger is full of them; apart from the three main protagonists, the party also recruits a humanoid frog, a robot, a cave woman, and even a villainous mage. But let's face it, the best character by far has got to be Frog. Frog is a very mysterious character at first. He sort of appears out of nowhere to help Crono and Lucca out of a jam, and doesn't really explain who he is, where he came from, or why he is a bipedal talking frog. But the party just sort of accepts this strange fellow and welcomes him into their midst without question. He is really good with a sword, after all! Later, it's revealed that Frog's real name is actually Glenn, and he used to be a human before Magus killed his friend Cyrus and transformed him into an amphibian. He has since dedicated his life to tracking down and defeating Magus to get revenge for the death of Cyrus, and probably to try and get his old body back as well. Frog is just all around cool, though. I love everything about him: his triumphant theme song, his victory animation where he flexes his surprisingly huge muscles, his fancy Old English accent, the way he hops around instead of walking, and simply the basic fact that he's a walking, talking frog wearing clothes and wielding a large sword. He's just the greatest! Moral dilemmas at the Millennial Fair Chrono Trigger is one of those games that makes the player very aware of their actions. Almost as soon as the game begins, the player is being judged, even when they're just trying to enjoy a lighthearted festival. Of course, they won't be aware of this until later on. At a certain point during Crono's adventure, he is apprehended by the chancellor of Guardia Castle for allegedly kidnapping the princess, Marle, and is swiftly put on trial. As the trial progresses, the player may quickly become overcome with dread when they realize their seemingly simple gameplay choices are in question. Remember that man's lunch you stole at the fair? Or the girl with the lost cat who you failed to help? Or the moment you bumped into Marle and then went to pick up the pendant she dropped? The player may not have thought much about these things at the time, but now these simple actions are being used as evidence against their character in a life or death situation. Now, in reality the choices don't actually affect much. Crono will still be thrown in prison and given the death penalty whether or not he's found guilty. Of course, I had no idea of this at the time. I figured I had completely screwed myself over by stealing lunches and grabbing dropped pendants, and I was starting to feel really bad about the way I had been playing. I was so used to being able to do whatever I wanted in games, without repercussion. Going into other people's houses and smashing all their pots? No problem! Taking money and items from their cabinets without their consent? Go right ahead! But now, in Chrono Trigger, I'm suddenly being judged, and I look like a complete jerk. Later, Crono finds out that the chancellor is, in fact, a fake and that the trial was a set-up. But even so, it still got me to think twice about every action I took in Chrono Trigger from that point on. You never know when some seemingly insignificant choice could have major consequences! [embed]295724:59448:0[/embed] Yearnings of the wind Chrono Trigger has an excellent soundtrack in general, but there's one song in particular that I love more than the rest. "Wind Scene" plays on the overworld map in 600 AD. I'm honestly not entirely sure what it is about this song that makes me love it so much, but hearing it always leaves me feeling peaceful and happy. Whenever I play Chrono Trigger, as soon as I get to the Middle Ages, I just sit around on the overworld and listen to this song play on a loop. It's just so lovely and mystical, I can't get enough of it. A few other songs come close, including the heroic "Frog's Theme" and the mysterious "Schala's Theme" (which was bizarrely sampled in a rap song by Wiz Khalifa... anyone remember that?), but "Wind Scene" is my comfort song. It never fails to lift my spirits. All life begins with Nu and ends with Nu If Chrono Trigger had a mascot, it would probably be the Nu. Nus are odd, round creatures found throughout the game. They exist in all eras, from 65,000,000 BC all the way up to 2300 AD. They can be merchants, enemies, assistants, and regular old NPCs. But what exactly is a Nu, anyway? The one found in 2300 AD is actually a robot built by Belthasar, programmed with his memories and left in charge of the time-traveling ship, the Epoch. So are all of the Nus robots? It's not really clear, although some of the other Nus the player can come across behave more like living creatures than machines. One example is my very favorite Nu. He can be found walking around the Zeal Palace, behaving very strangely and sidling sideways across a platform. He politely asks Crono to scratch his back for him. After a nice, satisfying scratch, a message pops up which says, "You discovered the Nu's scratch-point!" while a little victory tune plays (Oh good, I've been wondering where their scratch-point was the entire game!). This doesn't actually do anything significant, but it's still pretty much the best NPC interaction I've ever had. God I love those Nus! [embed]295724:59449:0[/embed] Screams internally This is the first time I've featured a sound effect as a noteworthy Experience Points memory, but this one definitely deserves praise. The sound of Lavos screaming is something that has stuck firmly in my mind whenever I think about Chrono Trigger. It's a truly terrifying noise; a high-pitched, bloodcurdling roar which lasts just a bit longer than one might expect. It's got this otherworldly quality to it, and it definitely does the job of making Lavos seem like a frightening, formidable foe. In terms of classic villainous sound effects, I'd put Lavos's scream just about at the top of the list, well above Kefka's laugh, Sinistar's evil taunting, and even the horrifying ambient noises of Giygas. It's a scream that says, "I will destroy you and everything you love," and that's exactly what he'll do should Crono and friends fail in their mission. The kingdom in the clouds The world of Chrono Trigger is relatively small compared to most RPGs, but the game makes up for that by having the player explore through several unique eras, each with its own distinct theme and alterations to the world. Starting in the present day, players can travel all the way back to prehistoric times in a land roaming with dinosaurs and cavemen, and up through the ages to the future world, a desolate wasteland of machinery and food shortages. But the most intriguing time period is the Age of Antiquity in 12,000 BC. When Crono and the gang first arrive in Antiquity, the world appears to be even worse off than the post-apocalyptic future. It's essentially an Ice Age, with a powerful blizzard covering everything with snow and ice and only a few scattered caves are present for shelter. That is until the party comes across a strange building known as the Skyway, which teleports them up into the clouds to the floating island kingdom of Zeal. Zeal is a kingdom created by magic as a way to escape the harsh winter climate. Only the Enlightened Ones, people who can use magic, are allowed in the kingdom, with normal folk cast away to live on the frozen continent underneath. Not only is Zeal a beautiful place, bright and sunny with a waterfall flowing down into the eternal blizzard below, but it's also full of secrets and strange occurrences. The kingdom is home to many strange individuals, books overflowing with magical power, and all sorts of neat stuff (not to mention an excellent theme song). A few buildings even have hidden passages which can only be found by players clever enough to solve a certain riddle. I bet it would be really fun to live in a place like Zeal, even though many of its denizens are rather snobbish, and in some cases, total assholes (I'm looking at you, Dalton!). Luckily, there are other much nicer people like Schala and Janus to balance out the snobbery. I'll just chill with them instead. The nature of machinery Chrono Trigger has a ton of lengthy, rewarding side quests, my favorite of which begins in the Middle Ages (and actually turns out to be two side quests in one!). A woman named Fiona lives in a barren desert wasteland, which used to be a thriving forest before enemies appeared and destroyed it. After defeating the fiend lurking in the desert, the party returns to Fiona, who is eager to start planting trees to restore the forest. Unfortunately, Fiona fears it will take ages to plant enough trees for the forest to return to its former glory. She certainly would not be able to finish the task in her lifetime, as it could take centuries. Overhearing this, the party's mechanical friend, Robo, kindly offers his services to help Fiona plant trees. Robo bids farewell to Crono and friends, and tells them to look for him in the future. Outside in the desert, Robo can be seen working diligently by plowing the land, sowing seeds, and even acting as a scarecrow (adorable!). 400 years later, the party arrives to find a huge, lush forest in place of the desert. In the center of the forest is a shrine dedicated to its robotic creator. Lucca reactivates Robo, who is pleased to see everyone again after hundreds of years, and proposes a party to celebrate their reunion. During their celebratory campfire in the forest, a second side quest begins. A casual remark from Marle leaves Lucca dwelling on her memories. Late at night, after everyone else has fallen asleep, Lucca steps out to open up a portal back to a moment from her past. It's a deeply personal, tragic moment where Lucca's mother gets caught in a machine, resulting in an injury that leaves her paralyzed. A young Lucca, powerless, must stand by and watch it all happen. But this time, future Lucca can intervene! Well, possibly. If the player is very quick and careful, there is a password to discover which can shut off the machine, saving Lucca's mother from a life without walking. This is actually very difficult to do correctly, though, so most players will unfortunately fail, leaving Lucca to watch her mother's accident all over again. Afterwards, Lucca returns to the present to find Robo waiting for her. If the past remains unchanged, the two have a touching conversation where Robo offers to donate his legs to Lucca's mother so she can walk again. Now, this may sound cold of me, but I actually prefer to leave the past as is and not rescue Lucca's mother, just because the cutscene between Lucca and Robo afterwards is so much better. It shows a funny, caring side of Robo where he offers to help make Lucca happier, and Lucca calls him a friend which he seems to be pleasantly surprised by. It's such a heartwarming exchange, even though it comes at a cost. Past Experience Points .01: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.02: Shadow of the Colossus.03: EarthBound.04: Catherine.05: Demon's Souls.06: No More Heroes.07: Paper Mario.08: Persona 4.09: Final Fantasy IX.10: Mega Man Legends.11: Rayman Origins.12: Metal Slug 3.13: Animal Crossing.14: Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King.15: Super Mario Sunshine.16: Final Fantasy VII.17: Nier
Chrono Trigger photo
But... the future refused to change
Experience Points is a series in which I highlight some of the most memorable things about a particular game. These can include anything from a specific scene or moment, a character, a weapon or item, a level or location, a p...

League of Legend's Tahm Kench is hard to play, but rewarding

Jul 10 // Chris Carter
First off, his overall design is brilliant. He's billed as a southern gentleman with an acquired taste, which works perfectly juxtaposed to his horrid visage. The character is hilarious, spouting out quotes like "I refuse to resign to culinary degradation" while devouring enemies whole, and his standard getup (as well as his chef skin) just work. It's a good balance between absurdity and fitting within the confines of the League universe. While a lot of depth lies under the surface, Kench is fairly easy to pick up, as he sports a skillshot tongue lash (Q), close-range devour (W), a passive/shield (E), and a straightforward (R) ultimate. By hitting an enemy with auto-attacks you can apply "acquired taste," which buffs tongue lash (giving it a stun) or devour. Devour specifically requires you to apply three tacks of taste before gobbling an enemy Champion, forcing Tahm Kench to be more aggressive than most people may like. It's also limited, as his movement speed is severely slowed while carrying an enemy -- so you can't instantly dive back to your own tower unless they're really aggressive. Stacks of acquired taste are shown very clearly with a fish-icon overlay, and applying a slowing debuff with tongue lash while chasing is a great way to gradually earn said stacks while an enemy is running away. Devouring enemy Champions doesn't feel cheap, as it requires a bit of finesse to pull off, and again, you're slowed as a result. His grey health regeneration passive can also be activated as a shield to deceptively increase his tankiness.  Kench's ultimate allows for a certain degree of map control since he can instantly become a "hub," so to speak, for another ally to click on. Reactivating said ultimate employs a swift means of transport to a target location in a large radial area. It's really fun to find an enemy teleporting in plain sight on the map, ult over, and tongue lash them to prevent them from running off. Likewise, you can easily set up ganks at early levels by transporting carries in and allowing them to get a kill. It's not instantaneous, though -- it takes a few seconds to channel and you have a second or so of a delay after arrival. One thing to note is that devour is a bit buggy at the moment. You're supposed to be able to tongue lash into a devour, but it doesn't work a good deal of the time. This (presumably temporary) limitation highlights the fact that if you want to play Tahm Kench at a high level, you need to work for it. Since he doesn't do much damage, you need to complement your team more than a lot of other supports. With the right amount of communication, he can shine. [embed]295757:59457:0[/embed] Playing Tahm Kench is probably the most fun I've had with League of Legends in months. He's unique from a gameplay perspective, with a personality to boot, and I think that once people start getting the hang of him, he'll be a viable pick in ranked play.
League of Legends photo
A real southern gentleman
Despite its tenacity in the past, Riot Games hasn't added a lot of Champions to League of Legends' roster this year. You have Bard in March, Ekko in June, and now, Tahm Kench this month -- that's it. Having said all that, all three have been great additions overall, and the fishy Kench is no exception.

Review: Duck Game

Jul 10 // Steven Hansen
Duck Game (PC)Developer: Landon PodbielskiPublisher: Adult Swim GamesMSRP: $12.99Released: June 4, 2015 Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack. Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack. Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack. [embed]295748:59453:0[/embed] Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack. Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack. ...Ok, fine. Duck Game has a quack button. The feeling of impatiently tapping at an elevator to make it come faster has been turned to song and that song is the cacophony of up to four players mashing quack at the start of stages and, often, during combat. As much as the impish coquette in me would have delighted in leaving this review quacks in its entirety, I have a lot I want to say about Duck Game. Things that go beyond pure amusement -- the quack button, the ragdoll button, the tongue-hanging "Frog?" mask, the fucking name "Duck Game." There is an amusing set of solo challenge modes accessed through arcade cabinets. Success in these yields tickets which can be traded for gameplay modifiers, if you're stupid, or more funny hats, if you're smart. But the fatty meat of Duck Game is its multiplayer (online and local). While it could easily draw comparisons to a number of recently successful 2D multiplayer games like Samurai Gunn and TowerFall, I see a mix of randomness and pace from the likes of WarioWare and Super Crate Box. Matches can be over in seconds -- some stages seem designed that way. A victor is crowned, and it's off to the next fight. Breaking this whirlwind pace are intermissions where the ducks will toss their hats/masks across a field en route to 10 wins for ultimate victory.  They all look very mad and I love it. If the "Crazy Ass Goose!" video was not explicitly about a goose, I would say it was about these ducks. These ducks are the "Crazy Ass Goose!" of video games. Most interesting, though, is not that Duck Game has been energizing my living room of late, but how it does so. Part of it has to do with fast deaths and crazy weapons (riding chainsaws, magnet guns, Bionic Commando-claws, net guns, sledgehammers, trumpets). A lot of it boils down to an interesting take on what would otherwise be simple controls. In Samurai Gunn, you jump, slash, or shoot. In Duck Game, you jump, pick up/throw, and use. Along with the indispensable quack and its lesser relative, the ragdoll.  But Duck Game changes your interaction with the huge assortment of weapons that are scattered throughout maps. Everything needs to be picked up with a button press. With most guns, you can press pick up, then start pressing "use" (shoot, in this case), and it works as expected. But when you "pick up" a grenade, pressing "use" pulls the pin, and then you have to press "throw" (formerly "pick up") to toss it. It's not the assortment of weapons that is fun, it's the quick reflexes -- and their funny failures -- needed to remember how they all work, despite the simple two button layout. Shotguns are shot, then racked before they can be shot a again. Armor is picked up, then put on. Muskets are slowly, slowly reloaded. There are a litany of handguns, all with different properties. In the frantic panic, will you remember you were holding a derringer with one shot? I can't describe the amount of hollering coming from my living room after the tension-snapping slapstick of two ducks with shotguns meticulously coming up to the other before unleashing a barrage of empty-chamber clicks. They're both out of ammo and the calm, self-assured demeanor they came with dissolves into two panicked ducks jumping around looking for weapons. Quack. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Quack photo
Quack
Quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack quack qua...

Review: Spy Chameleon

Jul 10 // Steven Hansen
Spy Chameleon (Xbox One [reviewed], Wii U, PC)Developer: Unfinished PixelPublisher: Unfinished PixelMSRP: $4.99Released: May 22, 2015 (Xbox One) Spy Chameleon is a puzzle game with stealth flavorings that does one thing right. Its chameleon character changes colors in accordance with the four face buttons on an average Xbox 360 controller. To that end, I have no idea how it made it to Wii U before Xbox One. The palette swap ability is used for hiding in plain sight from both sweeping and stationary enemy vision cones. The cute mascot character works well with the colored rugs that adorn the first set of missions. Collectible flies lead you towards the best path for completing a level and you're rewarded for nabbing them all and coming in under time. A third chore is added once you've completed a level; you can go back and collect all the newly added ladybugs, too. In this retreading for things to do is Spy Chameleon's obvious flaw, which is that it is slight and tries to hide it. But it's not a good enough stealth game for that. [embed]294985:59452:0[/embed] The consistent aesthetic, albeit somewhat bare and not as lovingly detailed as the lead character, of the first mission gives way to repetitive, steel lab environments with mouse enemies and light-up floors that work against the jaunty Dreamworks lead. After those segments drag on, it tries to pick up, hurriedly introducing a few new mechanics (file cabinets to move and hide behind, paint cans to knock over, patrolling enemies you can eat from behind) and it just feels unfocused. The Metal Gear Solid cardboard box doesn't feel like an earned homage, just a disconnected reference. Spy Chameleon is a short game that feels too long. It's one good idea not fully realized and a reptilian mascot who deserves another shot. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Spy Chameleon review photo
Complacent Bond
Did the Gex 3 ad with a grinning Gex cupping a human woman's bare breasts kill green lizards in games? I'm pretty sure that horny-teen embodiment of '90s edge ended the Croc series, cost King K. Rool chief villain spots in Do...

Resident Evil 0 N64 prototype shows how far remaster has come

Jul 10 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]295730:59450:0[/embed]
Resident Evil 0 prototype photo
A long, long way
Today, Capcom took a trip down memory lane, reanimating some old footage of a Nintendo 64-era Resident Evil 0 prototype originally shown at Tokyo Game Show in 1999. The following year, the publisher reworked the project for n...

Elder Scrolls Online feels fine on consoles, but it doesn't fix the core game

Jul 09 // Chris Carter
In my time testing the PS4 version I noticed a lot of dead areas, likely due to the lower install-base, compared to all of the MMO players out there who already had a PC version and didn't feel like buying the game all over again. Dungeons are still fun (and far more active with a controller), but open world exploration hasn't really been addressed. At times leveling can be a crawl, and most world events fall flat. The next bit of content coming to ESO is Cyrodiil and Orsinium (Imperial City and the city of Orcs respectively), which will launch later this year. Also, the Dark Brotherhood is being teased. which is likely enough to pull me back in to complete their questline. In the meantime, I'm going to be playing other MMOs instead.
Elder Scrolls Online photo
Waiting for an overhaul
To my surprise, The Elder Scrolls Online works pretty well on a console. In fact, it feels almost identical to my experiences with Morrowind and Skyrim on the Xbox and Xbox 360 respectively (first-person mode h...

Nintendo Download: Mario Tennis

Jul 09 // Chris Carter
If you missed last week's edition, here it is. As for what I'm getting, nothing for me this week. For those who are interested, sales are going on for both the Wii U and 3DS.  
Nintendo Download photo
Also, Asteroid Quarry
Wow, this is one of the most barren Nintendo Downloads I've seen in some time! The Wii U's heavy hitter today is Mario Tennis, a Virtual Console rendition of the original Nintendo 64 game. The Wii U is also getting Asteroid Q...

Review: Sunset

Jul 08 // Steven Hansen
Sunset (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: Tale of TalesPublisher: Tale of TalesMSRP: $19.99Released: May 21, 2015 Ortega's home starts out empty and austere as Angela's early duties, directed by scribbled notes Ortega leaves, revolve around unpacking boxes and slowly making a home out of the place. This is done by wandering around to find what needs to be done (a pile of dirty dishes, papers in disarray) and clicking on it, at which point Sunset cuts to a shot of the city's skyline and time ticks away on the clock until you're returned to first-person control with the task at hand completed. That chores are done in a cutaway feels like I'm being robbed of the physical connection to Ortega's apartment. The apartment itself becomes an evolving character going from home, to art sanctuary, to rebellion plot house, but boiling housework down to a single click makes Angela feel more like Ortega's executor than hired hand. This conflicts with the pitting of Angela against Ortega as far as class and social standing. With the same minimal effort he writes her a reminder to paint an accent wall, she does it. Just a click and time ticking off the clock, as if someone else is doing the work. Angela and Ortega communicate almost solely through notes scattered throughout the house. Angela can respond with one of two canned responses: warm responses trend towards romance, cool leave the relationship professional. I found Ortega's early flirtation off-putting and insulting, preferring to dutifully work, but things are complicated as the city becomes more volatile and Ortega seems to be leaving out intel Angela could pass along to the resistance. Gunfire in the streets turns to explosions, a stray bullet shatters a window. [embed]295633:59422:0[/embed] Craving more interaction, I found myself at one point glibly playing in Mass Effect style, that is going the warm route for chore execution and note correspondence for the sake of (or expectation of) sex. This was in part out of curiosity and to spice things up, but also, in a truer role-playing sense, I began to feel the familiar weight of Angela's poverty and the allure of easy escape into the arms of the wealthy, connected artist. This does clash, though, with Angela's fiery, sometimes too on-the-nose monologues upon entering the apartment week after week, criticizing Ortega's wealth, naivety, and concern over art. Most of Sunset's choices, like whether or not to push a romance or where to put away fresh-folded clothes, are small relative to what's going on externally, but the most interesting on a personal level. That I didn't even explore one possible choice, to not do my work, is interesting. But I only engaged Ortega for a lack of things to do -- I didn't respond to his notes at all at first -- as the chores themselves are handled for you. This leaves the notes and choosing responses as the main interaction; otherwise, it's less roleplay, more listening to Angela's elevator monologues and diary entries while sitting in a particular chair in the apartment. Sunset struggles with pacing, technical performance (movement is a tad wonky and it can run sluggish), and a disconnect between how its lead is written and, occasionally, what she does, player depending. The reduction of work to single click means the year's worth of date title cards, going up the elevator, and going down at sunset feels more monotonous than housekeeping. The music and colors are effective at setting mood, though, and there are instances of emotional resonance, strong writing and voice acting. Shorter, more tightly strung, Sunset's character study set against the revolutionary backdrop would've shone brighter, but as is it still leaves you enough to consider and a calendar to change. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Sunset review photo
Half moon
I like doing dishes. There is catharsis in cleaning, in being able to exert tangible control over your surroundings. Many things are out of my control, but I can keep my kitchen tidy. Sunset takes what most video games would ...


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