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Will any game ever live up to the vast beauty and nostalgically phenomenal success of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island? No, no it just won't. However, that doesn't mean that the formula hasn't proven itself to be a winner, and Yoshi's 'New' Island does everything that we see from the Snes classic and then some. Is it an improvement? I would say no. Is it good clean fun that will take you back to the glory days? Well it does for me anyway. Let's look at the things that this new 3DS title did right:

First and foremost, I'm going to cast in my 2 cents about the graphical overhaul; which is easily the most controversial aspect of the game. I like it. There ya go. In all seriousness, I've found the new art design and graphics to be a plus for the game - I truly enjoy the new models, and the colors are as bright and vivid as ever. Everything about the layout of the game is going to instantly look familiar to fans of Yoshi's Island, and I simply can't complain about that. There is a lack of cute enemy pictures depicting the theme of a level before you click on it in the menus.....but let me tell you how many hours of sleep I've lost over that (ahem, 0). The 3D doesn't add too much to the game, though it certainly provides depth. All in all, the game looks very nice in my opinion. 

Level designs and enemies will feel familiar too. This can be a good thing....or a bad thing, depending on what you are looking for. Personally, I felt like I was practically playing a continuation of Yoshi's Island. In many ways, the new level design and layout are very similar to the classic game with hidden stars, red coins and flower tabs to collect. It isn't 'easy' either, as many critics have claimed. A true Yoshi's Island completionist will have their hands full for quite some time finding all of the little goodies in every level, and they will be pleasantly rewarded for their efforts as well (sorry, no spoilers but it does pay off to put in the extra effort). As for the aforementioned enemies...well there isn't a lot to tell you. You'll see a lot of familiar faces, but not a lot of new ones. This isn't really a deal breaker by any means, but I would have liked to have seen more creative new enemies. Boss fights feature all new enemies, which I have found to be pretty engaging fun to play. 

New features of the game?......ummmmm.....not much to say. The game does utilize the 3DS for it's 3D capabilities and gyroscopic controls. I personally have found the gyroscopic vehicle games to be fun, and I'm the kind of gamer who actually likes to see features of my technology used. There are a couple new concepts, such as the giant egg. The giant egg is a fun new feature, but it isn't something you'll be utilizing regularly. Other than that....there really isn't much more to say. Again, if you loved Yoshi's Island for the Snes, then you won't think much of it. If you were looking for something new and drastically innovative, then you will probably be letting out a few heavy sighs. 

The one thing that absolutely bothers me about this game is the soundtrack. The soundtrack is horribly repetitive, tinny, and just flat out scored horribly. I don't know where Nintendo dropped the ball on this one, but I honestly have had a few occasions where I simply had to turn it off. Sound effects and Yoshi noises aside, the music is just not very good. As a musically oriented person, I found this incredibly disappointing, and as a big fan of the original soundtrack from Super Mario World 2, this was indeed a let down for me. 



Everything being said, I am a pretty big fan of Yoshi's New....ish....no not really, Island. It brings back all of the elements of a proven winner, and tries to implement some new ones to keep things feeling fresh. While it doesn't entirely succeed at this in my opinion, it's still a fine game at it's core. On a random side note, I still get excited for levels that feature the original green Yoshi more than any other color....how about you??

Scuba Steve's rating: 8/10










It really didn't take long for me to cave in and purchase Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. Initially I wanted to let it sit and maybe give it a play through this summer, however my inner child wouldn't stop kicking and screaming. I was well aware that this game would be nothing more than a short end taste test of what The Phantom Pain would be....however, now that I've put my 1 hour of gameplay in and have seen the results of it all, I have a few gripes to make. 

As a teacher I've learned well that any and all criticisms must start with the positives, so that's where we will begin. I really appreciate the graphical details that Kojima's team has put into this game; it looks very good. Me being picky, I definitely spotted a few bland textures in walls and surfaces that certainly didn't feel like they fit in with the rest of the atmosphere, but again that's a picky observation. I feel that the voice acting was done pretty well too, however I must say it didn't quite feel like the experience that I have had in the past with the franchise. The loss of David Hayter is a bit of a let down, but as many fans will recall the voice of Big Boss was not done by Hayter in MGS 4 (that was Richard Doyle) so a transitional phase is certainly acceptable for this point in time. The controls are pretty tight for the most part, and will feel familiar to most series fans. There are a lot of new tabs and features to sort through in the menus now, however; the map is a very different aspect to the series, and you can also check your tapes and recordings at any point in time through your menu system. Again, different but not overwhelming. 

That all being said, there were many instances where I felt that Ground Zeroes was literally built to be nothing more than a test drive than an actual game. In Kojima's mind it was, but as a consumer I have to say I'm a little disappointed. With the lightning fast experiences you will have in Ground Zeroes, you will definitely become immersed and emotionally connected with the same old Metal Gear Solid twists and turns. The thing is, every thing will only feel half as satisfying. To me, it feels as though Kojima's team wasn't trying very hard to make this game a lasting experience, and while I respect that I can't help but feel disappointed. The game is lacking in depth (other than the few small nuggets of story that go along with it) and hardly feels unique or original by any means. 

An open world Metal Gear Solid sounds very promising on paper, but in this case I don't feel that it is very efficient. While I appreciate how challenging the game is, the enemy AI is VERY sharp. This provides for a realistic experience, however it takes away from the whole 'open world' pitch. At no point in time while playing MGS V: Ground Zeroes did I ever feel safe moving around in the open, rather I was in a constant state of paranoia. Even crawling and sneaking will only get you so far. A 'guns blazing' approach might sound fun to some, however it won't last you long. Enemies will quickly overwhelm you and you'll find yourself restarting time and time again. For a game that was meant to give you a touch and feel of the new system, it certainly isn't very user friendly in the grand scheme of things, and I hope this will have been modified a little bit before the next installment. 

I'm a little confused by the advanced technology that Snake now wields as well. Holographic projectors in the 1970's? Sounds amazing in a world of fantasy, but it does detract a little from the experience in my mind. One thing I have always admired about the Metal Gear titles in the franchise is that they have really done well to embrace the time frame they portray, give or take a few quirky scenarios. I didn't really feel that way with Ground Zeros whatsoever....rather, I felt that the game didn't know when it was supposed to be taking place at all. Again, these could be minor gripes in the grand scheme of things, but they do leave me with a few question marks in my head. 

My only final gripe will be the retail pricing of this game (as many people have griped about). I've listed quite a few 'little' gripes that seem uncharacteristic of a MGS game, and for a teaser demo I wouldn't think anything of it. That being said, I spent $30 for a game that has even been made into physical disc copies and retailed as it's own entity. I certainly don't regret my purchase as a die hard fan of the series, but I do feel as though I was ripped off a little. For $30, I would expect to have a little bit more content than a generic sandbox built on a new engine with Metal Gear slapped on the title. The game would have done best to go as a digital download, and would have been priced more fairly at $15 or so. I will always love Metal Gear Solid and support the franchise, however this is the first time with the series that I can honestly say I feel I've been taken advantage of. It would be lovely if we could see some DLC in the near future that would at least add on a few more missions (or God forbid a new play area). I suppose I can always look forward to the bonus items that are unlocked for Phantom Pain....that is, whenever it see's the light of day. 

All in all, Ground Zeroes is a neat concept that brings some fun new elements to the series, but also brings a few flaws as well. As a consumer, I would advise you NOT to purchase this game for $30, or else you may likely end up as disappointed as I feel. If you do approach this game with the mentality that it's nothing more than a pilot that is lacking the depth, detail and precision of most Metal Gear Solid games, you should enjoy yourself quite a bit. However, if you are expecting Ground Zeroes to really set the bar for a new entry in the series, you'll honestly end up feeling a little let down. 

Scuba Steve's rating: 6/10










The Legend of Zelda has long been favorable series for me, and I've especially been fond of the handheld titles. Actually, the very first Zelda game I ever completed was Links Awakening DX for the Gameboy Color, and if that game didn't set the bar high for expectations then I don't know what would. So how exactly is A Link Between Worlds fairing for me so far? Read along and you'll find out!

A couple things you should know about my Zelda background. I absolutely loved Link's Awakening. I also enjoyed Oracle of Ages and Oracle of Seasons, which my buddy and I swapped back in the day so that we could complete the whole story (very cool experience btw). That being said, this game serves as 'sequel' (in some ways) to A Link to the Past, which I have never beaten. I'm very familiar with the game itself, including music and the general storyline. That being said, this game oozes with nostalgia and charisma from the old Snes classic, and fuses in elements of more modern Zelda titles to help create a very fun, engrossing and overall enjoyable experience even for newcomers to the series. The game can very much be played by it's own merits, and I really admire that Nintendo has made that possible. 

From the very start, you're immersed into a scenario very similar to A Link to the Past, where Link is lazily sleeping in (as has been the case in many games). From there on, you're out and about, and the plot immediately dives into action. I'm going to try my best NOT to give out any big spoilers here, but just know that if you are familiar with A Link to the Past at all, then you'll be familiar with your surroundings immediately. One thing I can definitely say about A Link Between Worlds is that it is visually impressive. The game looks stunning, and at 60fps plays as smooth as a hot knife through butter. There is a fine balance between 3D visuals and the traditional downward view that gives this game a fine aesthetic presentation. It can really only be justified by seeing it for yourself in action, so don't pass judgement based on blown up images online. 



See this guy ^ he's a dick. Not only that, but he's a bit of a pushover. Again, I don't want to give any spoilers, but you'll quickly learn to dislike him. His name is Yuga, and he will serve as one of the leading antagonist in this story. His theme music is strangely likable though - I actually grew to enjoy my encounters with the creepy clown just to hear it. Those of you who are familiar with Ganondorf will notice that he has somewhat of a similar resemblance, but of course there are reasons for that. One big premise of this game is that there are two different worlds with characters of similar, yet different backgrounds. Hyrule is of course the land we all know and love, however you'll come to discover Lorule (little cliche, but oh well), which is Hyrule's virtual opposite in many ways. I've enjoyed exploring both worlds in their own merits, and I think that the balance between exploration in both worlds is divided up very well. Did I mention that the remix music for Lorules domain is also very catchy? If you enjoyed your trips to the Dark World in A Link to the Past, then you'll enjoy Lorule just as much. 

This game actually carries resemblance to Ocarina of Time as well. The 7 sages play a large role in this story, and I think that most fans of the series will enjoy seeing how their roles affect the overall game. I can appreciate that there are many ideas 'borrowed' from previous titles to help sculpt this game, and while it might come across to some gamers as 'lazy' it has all been crafted and intertwined into an all new story so well that it really doesn't bother me in the least bit. 



Ah Ravio....the peddling rabbit man. Ravio is the merchant character in this game that will rent/sell you ALL of your necessary equipment right away, isn't that nifty? Bombs, Staffs, Bows, Boomerangs, you name it, he has it! You can rent all of your equipment, and keep it so long as you can stay alive. Want to keep it for good? It will cost you a pretty penny, but you may purchase all of these items from him is you so choose. I've yet to beat the game, so I myself am not aware of what all secrets this character has in store for us, but I know it will be interesting to see just how he intertwines with the plot. For now, all you need to know is that he basically steals your house and turns it into his shop, seems like the right neighborly thing to do, right? **minor spoiler alert** it should go on the record that I'm VERY curious as to why Majora's Mask lays creepishly on your wall from the moment the game starts. For some reason, I have the gut feeling telling me that Ravio may have something to do with it later on. RANDOM hunch. 



So far, I'm VERY pleased with this handheld Zelda game. This is the kind of handheld title Zelda fans have been waiting for, and I've yet to feel disappointment in the slightest bit! I've still much work left ahead of me before I beat this title, but I'm as hooked on a Zelda game as I've been in a very, VERY long time. Chris and Jim may not have exactly 'loved' this title, but I honestly think any other fan of the series would. Forget about how frustrating Phantom Hour Glass or Spirit Tracks were, A Link Between Worlds seems to be exactly what the medicine witch ordered (get it? No? Well damn).










One of the things that I find hilariously obnoxious is the fact that gamers, well...human beings, are impatient. I've read countless post from D-toid, to IGN, to Kotaku to even The Escapist (hi Jimmy!) having users riddle them with raw hatred for the next gen consoles because they don't have good launch lineups! A real travesty, right?

Except....they're wrong. I'll never understand at what point we've become so preconceit with games that unless a website gives it a perfect 10 out of 10, there's no way we can bring it into our homes. I understand that money is tight, and that gaming isn't a cheap pastime, however I've said it before and I'll say it again that reviews aren't everything, and that one should never judge a book by it's cover. In this little blog, I'm going to give some insight on some launch title games across the PS4 AND Xbox One (no hatin' in hurr) that ARE perfect for a launch lineup and WILL keep you satisfied and entertained for a long time. 

Let's look at your multi-platforms!

Call of Duty: Ghosts/Battlefield 4 - Two very different games, but I put them side by side because they generally serve the same purposes. They are both well designed fps titles that tend to have a large fanbase and solid mechanics, making them strangely addictive (I don't know how, but they do). Both of these titles look very, VERY good on the PS4 and Xbox One, better than on either systems older siblings. If you're a gamer who has already divulged in them before the launch of next gen consoles, then you might want to pass up on them due to the fact that you are going to receive an almost identical experience, however if you're looking for a sharper image and just really want to put that new system to work, you won't be disappointed with either game. The multiplayer in both titles will keep your average gamer busy for hours on hours. 

Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag - Many critics have praised Assassin's Creed 4 for giving the gamers everything they wanted from Assassin's Creed 3, and then building a more fun loving atmosphere for them to enjoy. Assassin's Creed games are also very addictive in their stealthy style of gameplay, and one can spend many hours just exploring the open world atmosphere. I've yet to play the game myself, but as a HUGE fan of ACIII, you can bet that this game is going to be on my Christmas list this year. Again, this game is multi-platform and has a 360/PS3 release as well, but looks absolutely gorgeous on the Xbox One and PS4. 

Madden 25/NBA 2K14 - Obviously not EVERY gamer on the market is into sports games, however those that are will be kept pretty busy with these two titles. Madden 25 and NBA 2K14 both feature stunning visuals on the Xbox One and PS4, and give fans of the NFL and NBA a chance to make their favorite franchises a winner (yes, even the Chiefs....wait, they have 9 wins???). As a gamer of all genres, I've put many, many, many hours into building a franchise with my favorite teams, and while the gameplay is repetitive, it always keeps me coming back for more. 



PS4 Exclusives?

Killzone: Shadow Fall - Possibly the MOST standout game on the PS4 in terms of it's graphical capabilities. Did I mention I'd really like to own this game? While Battlefield and Call of Duty are both very solid fps titles, Killzone (Sony's flagship fps title) stands to offer PS4 owners something unique. Fans of the series won't be disappointed with this installment, and should be kept busy playing through the campaign and multiplayer features. This one will likely be the IP launch title that will be remembered for years. 

Knack - Knack is a simple and innovative title that seems perfect for a launch lineup. Every open minded gamer should own a platformer or two, and Knack serves that purpose well by all means. Critics have hampered Knack for not being the mind blowing experience that games like Rayman or Super Mario have been, but that doesn't mean you should simply blow it off. There is a certain charm to the game that I personally find very appealing. Knack is the kind of game that was made to catch on with younger audiences, as well as gamers who still have that fun loving innocent side in them, and hey, why shouldn't your girlfriend/wife have a fun game to share on the PS4 as well?

Warframe - This game is actually a multi-platform as well between PC and PS4, but I figured it was DEFINITELY worth mentioning. I have probably put more time into this PS4 title than any other game so far, and best of all - IT'S FREE TO PLAY! Warframe looks gorgeous on the PS4, and as a mission based 3rd person shooter, I find it incredibly fun and addictive. The gameplay leans heavily on cooperative teamwork, which I like about it a lot. More of a lone wolf? That's fine too, as there is a solo setting allowing for users to go into missions on their own (though by the time you get to a survival or defense mission, you'll regret it). You can customize your 'tenno' in terms of weapon sets, mods, accessories and colors. If you're into parkour, guns and slicing things with swords, you'll find yourself getting hooked to this game as well. 



Xbox One Exclusives?

Dead Rising 3 - Zombies. Zombies everywhere. You can smash them, crash them, throw them, shoot them, bop them, zap them, fry them.....I mean they're frickin' zombies! Dead Rising 3 is a vast open world zombie masher. Like it's previous two titles, one can spend hours on hours just letting loose their inner rage on the undead. Did I mention it looks gorgeous? If this game is any indication of what the Xbox One is capable of, then I'm sure fans can look forward to a long eventful future. 

Ryse: Son of Rome - Another title that has been hampered by critics, however there is much more to Ryse than meets the eye. Visually, the game looks stunning and features very fun battle mechanics and scenarios. Ever wanted to fight in the front lines of the Roman Empire? Here's your chance. The game does have some sequential patterns (Hit X....Hit A.....Hit B), however these normally transfer into some gruesome battle scenes that many gamers will find entertaining. Ryse should keep the casual and hardcore gamer alike entertained for all it's worth. 

Killer Instinct - One thing the Xbox One definitely has over the PS4 is Killer Instinct, a great online fighter game that is even free to play....that is until you get bored with Jago. Even that set back aside, it's an incredibly fun game that carries much of the nostalgic charisma that the Super Nintendo predecessor carried. If gamers choose to purchase them, there is a wide variety of unique characters to choose from, each with their own unique moves and advantages. Fighter titles like this don't exactly come around every year, and Xbox One fans are lucky to have it right at their fingertips exclusively. All Xbox One owners should at least give it a download. 



So guys, stop the whining and complaining about how there's 'no games to play' on the new consoles....because quite frankly that's a flat out lie. There is PLENTY of fun to keep gamers occupied into next year, and then some....unless you're one of those gamers that HAS to have something new every other week, in which all I can say is share the wealth man.
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As some of you know, I'm a small school music teacher/avid gamer. Today was another fine rehearsal for the band, and I had released everyone to go to lunch but my 10th-12th grade students who eat lunch during an earlier shift. During our downtime, I brought up the fact that I had recently purchased a PS4, and that I was thoroughly enjoying the system (you'd be surprised how well video games can help you build a relationship with your students). That's when my one lone senior said the saddest thing I had heard all day. "I asked my parents if they'd consider buying me a PS4 for Christmas, but they say that since I'm turning 18 I'm too old for video games". 

18 years old. Too old for video games. Pardon my language everyone, but I call bullshit.

I too have contemplated this notion before, especially as a teacher. I've asked myself the question "Am I getting too old for video games?" "Does it make me look immature to be playing video games at the age of 24?" etc. The well rounded conclusion I've come up with is obviously, NO. 

I've been a video game enthusiast since I was just a kid. I've ALWAYS loved video games, from the early Sega Master System (my first ever console), to the Nes, Genesis, Snes, N64, PS1, Dreamcast, Xbox, 360, and now PS4. I still have a hidden infatuation with Sonic The Hedgehog (The official poster from Sonic 2 currently hangs proudly in my office), and I've marched the Mario Bros. through every adventure to date. I grew up playing video games for fun, but I've found that my experience playing video games has also helped me to mature as I have aged. Games like Final Fantasy tore at my heart, Madden, NCAA Football/Basketball and MLB The Show further helped me understand the sports that I've long adored. Grand Theft Auto taught me what NOT to do as I got older. Guitar Hero further expanded my love and passion for music to a whole new level. In many ways, video games helped me to grow up every bit as much as my family and social experiences. 

So where does it end? When should one draw the line that says "I'm too old" for video games? I say never. Gaming is a hobby, it is a cultural phenomenon. It sparks magic in the eyes of children, and invokes thought and emotion in older audience members. I feel like as technology and video games evolve, we can further promote gaming and fun experiences across all age groups. Should I feel bad for playing Pokemon X and having a blast, or shouting out in excitement and joy as I hold up my brand new PS4? 

Video games make me happy. They remind me of my youth, in a positive way. They help me to remember a time of innocence and pure bliss through the magic of a controller and tv screen. That feeling doesn't have to die, and I certainly hope that most people realize this. I sure hope that that student of mine doesn't get the impression that he's "getting too old for gaming", because to me, that excuse is nothing more than a sad reason to save money, or a crude way of killing off any creativity or innocence left in that boys mind. 

And when I have my own child, I will be damn proud when the time comes to put a controller in his/her hands and share the same passion and excitement that I have long embraced throughout my life (starting with the Snes, of course).
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Hey hey hey, how's your PS4 today? Don't have one yet? That's fine, don't be in a huge rush. 

I'm one of the lucky ones who has been able to collect my PS4 early, and I will say I'm quite pleased with the investment. From the earliest moments of installation, it becomes obvious the PS4 works fast. You'll quickly breeze through your setup, and be able to navigate the menus and PS Store. Of course there will be updates ready and waiting for you, however it won't take long for them to load either. I was pleased with how quickly I was able to download Netflix (it literally took seconds). My next big move was to download Warframe (I'd highly recommend other users take this action, it's free to play and quite frankly, the early launch library can use all the help it can get). 

The user interface is pretty easy and straight forward. You can join party conversations with friends, or you may simply resort to messaging friends via chat or text (nothing too new). The Dualshock 4 however makes this even easier with it's very clear built in microphone. I must say, the Dualshock 4 has modified the Dualshock 3, almost improving it in every way. I will say that the controller is spaced out a bit farther than the Dualshock 3, which took me some getting use to. The analog sticks are comfortable though, and the left and right trigger buttons (L2 and R2) are every bit as comfortable as an Xbox controller. If you are use to playing fps games with the Dualshock 3, you'll have to re-train yourself to use the controller more like a 360/One controller. Other then that, I'm quite pleased with the Dualshock 4's sleek design and all around handling. 

The share and option buttons still function quite similarly to the select and start buttons of old. Actually, the share button is very unique, and very convenient. The PS4 is constantly recording your gameplay, and the share button allows you to share videos and screen shots at any given time. You may even sync up to your facebook account and post these videos and images directly to facebook. It sounds kinda silly now, but I can see it becoming very big in the future. It brings the concept of gaming and social media one step closer. 

The PS4 itself is a pretty unique little design, very different from it's older sibling PS3. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the design honestly - it is attractive and still very compact, yet the rhombus shaping still catches me a little off guard. It is a sturdy brick though, easy to set up and easy to place (either flat or vertically). The system itself is a little noisy, but not too bad. The fans are pretty audible, but honestly they've got their work cut out for them cooling such a powerful computer. The glowing controller/system lights are also a neat little feature, they tell you how well your controller or system is functioning (watching The Hunger Games right now on Netflix, it's got a nice white strip across the front). 

For gaming comparison, I will be using the example of CoD Ghosts for the PS3/PS4. I recently beat Ghosts on the PS3, and rather enjoyed myself. I decided to kick the difficulty up a notch (for funsies) and just observe the unique differences between the visuals of the two consoles. Drum roll please.......no?...alright. There isn't much difference to be seen between the two. The PS4 definitely has crisper textures, and the lighting seems a bit more efficient, but you're not going to be dropping your jaw. Honestly, a casual gamer will hardly be able to tell the difference at all. The truth is, your experience will be just as good on the current gen as this 'next' gen, so don't sweat the details. 

That being said, the PS4 has soooo much potential. Much like many of the reviews you may (or may not) have read, this system is all about potential. Killzone Shadow Fall might be your thing if you've played through the series, however other launch titles will likely leave you wondering why you upgraded so soon in the first place. However, if you are still into CoD, Assassin's Creed, or maybe even want to dive into Knack for a platformer, there is enough content here to keep you satisfied (as the gaming is every bit as tight as it is on the PS3/360). 

Ultimately, I'm very excited and feeling quite optimistic about the PS4. It will be fun to see how it and the Xbox One grow and develop over the next generation!
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