On the wings of death, by the hands of doom;
By the darkest light from the darkest moon;
On the wings of life, by the hands of hope;
By the brightest light from the brightest sun.
And vice versa.
I'm a Dutch law student who loves to play the vidya. I'm a Nintendo-fanboy at heart, but I don't feel that I'm blinded by that, at least not very often. I am also currently on the Cblog Recaps team for Thursdays, so if for some voyeuristic reason you want to know more about me, check out my weekly Shadeisms.
I'm obsessed with the Monolith Soft RPGs Xenoblade Chronicles and the Baten Kaitos series. I will not pass up the opportunity to mention them, ever, and I consider myself Baten Kaitos: Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean's biggest fan. Finally, as is to be expected I'm super excited for the new WiiU "Xeno-" game!
The Wii is one of my favorite systems of all time, and my favorite games on this system include, but are most certainly not limited to;
Xenoblade Chronicles (see also: Baten Kaitos - Eternal Wings and the Lost Ocean for GC)
Zelda: Twilight Princess / Skyward Sword
Super Mario Galaxy 2
Muramasa - The Demon Blade
Wario Land: Shake it!
and Metroid Prime Trilogy.
I love my WiiU as well, and even though the library still needs expanding, I had tons of fun with:
New Super Mario Bros. U
Mighty Switch Force: Hyper Drive Edition
Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
Super Mario 3D World
Apart from Nintendo, I'm a huge indie game enthousiast. Give me a game like Trine, VVVVVV, Sequence or Recettear, and you've made me a happy camper for sure. You can keep your shooters to yourself.
Favorite indie game round-up:
Trine (+ Trine 2)
Super Meat Boy
The Binding of Isaac
Dungeons of Dredmor
Thomas Was Alone
Mark of the Ninja
Cthulhu Saves the World
Recettear - An Item Shop's Tale
To The Moon
Orcs Must Die! 2
The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom
and many, many more!
Besides gaming itself, I like reading up on gaming-related news on my favorite website in the whole wide world: Destructoid. I love all the people here, and I'm glad that I get to be a part of this. Wouldn't know what to do without you!
So here's a little update about me outside of my usual Thursday Shadeisms (because I like to pretend that people care). I just felt like sharing the good news without having to wait for my "turn". Also, random thought: this is the third blog I've written in a row which title starts with my name. I dunno what that says about me. That I still like my internet-name, I guess.
Ever since I started law school in the Netherlands I wanted to participate in one of my university-wide exchange programs. Basically, our university has official relations with a number of universities abroad (ranging from Japan to Canada to everything in between) and they will help us get a placement abroad, funding, housing and the like. Everything to make it easier for us to actually go somewhere. Myself, I was even luckier than most: because I finished at the top of my class in my very first year of law school, I received €500 extra to study abroad.
However, between my first year and now, I hadn't been able to participate in one of these exchange programs. Every year something would come up that prevented me from going. Some of it was my fault, some of it was not, but at the end of the day I was still stuck in boring old Holland. But since this year right now was the last time I could possibly go anywhere, it was now or never. I made extra sure that my application was in order, that my grades were up to stuff and that I took an English as a Foreign Language Test (which I aced, by the way).
Well shit paid off, because after all these years I finally got in.
I get to go to the United States!
Specifically, I get to go to the George Washington University in Washington DC.
I'm going from about the start of September to somewhere in January, so one full semester. During that time, I'm going to be brushing up on my American Law and I'm going to further pursue my own interest in Human Rights Law and in ICT Law. US Human Rights Law in particular sounds fascinating to me because of how different you peeps approach basic human rights compared to how we do in Europe. Whereas your First Amendment is almost sacred, us Europeans are of the view that there's definitely a certain limit to fee speech and that you can't just say any ol' bullshit and get away with it. But on the other hand, gay rights are far more developed in Europe than the US, and we've seen last year that if there's anyone we shouldn't trust to respect our privacy, it's the US government.
It's all so strikingly different that I'd love to get some first-hand experience in the one city where it all happens. That city, of course, being DC.
But as we video gamers understand better than anyone, all work and no play doesn't make for a very exciting trip. So during those months I'm going to be in the US, I'd love to go see things, do things. So if you've got any tips on what to do when in DC, by all means share them. Or any tips on which video games to bring on the plane or anything else you can think of. Just shoot!
But perhaps more than anything, I want to meet you!
- Yes, you.
Even though I'm far from the only "foreigner" on this little internet-home of ours, the vast majority of us are still American. So I figured, what if some faithful Dtoid visitors were located in the DC area? I could totally go say hi when I'm there!
And that's what this blog is for, really. I've been on Destructoid for years, but never really had the chance to meet the people behind that avatars that have come to mean so much to me. With my upcoming half-year trip to the States, now would seem like a better time than ever to do exactly that.
So, do any people here live in the Washington DC area? Of course in the city would be best (that way I wouldn't have to pay for a tour guide, duh), but if you think you're worth driving a couple of hours for, I'm sure I can squeeze you in (although that may or may not depend on your willingness to play Super Smash Bros. with me). For example, I definitely plan to visit New York during my stay; that's a kind of distance I could easily deal with. Note that I'm not asking for housing or funds or whatever, I can manage that on my own just fine. Still, it would be nice to have a friendly face in unfamiliar territory, to hang out with sometime or just to show me around once and then deny any connection.
So if you're in the area and want to meet a 'toider from the legendary land of hookers and blow, that'd be awesome! I want to take the time to see all that I can, and that includes you!
(I'm probably also posting this on the forums later, but the Cblogs feel like my eHome more than any other part of the site, so it's only fair to post here first.
Finally, on an unrelated note: I'm sorry for being so absent from the site lately. I'm going to try getting back in the game here. Reading and commenting on you Cblogs is on the top of the list. You guys so deserve it. Tell you what: if I forget I want you to come to my house and punch me in the face. Or watch me sleep, if you're into that. That'll teach me!)
As we approach the end of the year, we must obey the ancient video game law of coming up with our GOTY awards or risk spending an eternity in gamer hell (which I'm pretty sure is just a room with only a Virtualboy and a CD-i in it). However, whereas other people will tell you dirty lies like that The Last of Us had the best story this year, or that The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds was the best portable game, I am here to dump a bucket on TRUTH over all of you. You see, none of those games deserve to win. There is only one GOTY this year, and it should win in every single category.
That's why I'm here, the only objectively objective award awarder on the internet. So let's get started with the first award!
Spoilers for Super Mario 3D World. Yes, seriously. I'm putting a spoiler warning up for a Mario game. I have my reasons. Long story short, if you have not yet beaten the final boss FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEATEN THIS BRILLIANT GAME YET?! Do you actively hate having fun or what!? But other than that, please do skip past "Best New Character". Trust me. __________________________________________________________________________________
- Best Platformer There were a lot of great platformers this year. Rayman Legends is a very notable one, and even New Super Luigi U might deserve a shot at the title. However, there was another game this year that simply ran away with this award. Not only that, it put on a catsuit and played with the award like a ragdoll.
And that game is Super Mario 3D World!
I can't remember the last time I had such fun with a game. The level design is spot on, there are a ton of cool mechanics to play with and Mario's cat suit arguably adds more to the platforming genre than it has any right to. Moreover; multiplayer in a 3D platformer! Surely, no other game this year was able to compete.
- Best FPS Okay, so you're going to have to help me out with this one, because I wouldn't know a good shooter if it slapped me in the face and then teabagged me.
Anyway, I think people liked Bioshock Infinite this year. That was a good one, right? Does The Last of Us count as a shooter? Because I guess then it might have a shot as well.
...Actually, you know what? Fuck it. I've got a much better idea.
You know what this is?
This is a Fire Flower. You know what it does? It lets Mario, or Peach, or whoever, shoot fireballs from their hands. That's right, shoot fireballs. Not only that, the Mario gang can also pick up Boomerangs to throw at enemies and they can even wear cannons on their heads to really put the hurt on all the baddies coming their way.
There can be only one conclusion. The best FPS of the year is none other than Super Mario 3D World.
"But surely", you say, "3D World's shooting mechanics aren't in first person?"
Now look here, if you're going to split hairs you can go bugger off and make your own damn GOTY list. Super Mario 3D World is the best FPS of the year and that's all I have to say about that.
- Best Racing game There were many great racing games around this year. At least I think there were? Yeah, probably. But look at the top right corner of this screen and tell me what you see:
That's right, Super Mario 3D World has a timer in every level. Do you know what that means? It means you could totally speedrun this game if you wanted to. In other words, the game gives you a special incentive to race through every level. Hell, it even added a character to the roster whose defining ability is being able to run faster than the others! And what about the level where you're running across a track from Mario Kart? It even has the right music! And surely you must have noticed Bowser's sweet ride in the screenshot above?
Truly, there was no racier racing game than 3D World in 2013. As such, it would be nothing short of completely and utterly unfair not to reward it with the Best Racing Game of the Year Award.
Congratulations Super Mario 3D World, you deserved it.
- Best Fighting game Before handing out the next award, we have to take a look at the essence, the very core, of the genre. What makes a fighting game a fighting game? Is it the quick combos and the super moves? Is it the mind games you play with your dreaded opponents? Or is it simply killing your enemies stone dead by whatever means necessary?
Clearly, it must be the latter. Otherwise, why do spam tactics exist? Riddle me that, Batman!
So the question must be, which game allowed you to kill your enemies stone dead by whatever means necessary more or better than any other game? Let's see now; jumping on people's heads, scratching them to death with your claws, throwing shit at them, swiping at them with your tail, attacking them with your galaxy-enhanced spins, multiplying yourself and doing all of the above with twice the power, the list is virtually endless.
No Divekick, Injustice or Killer Instinct is going to match that. As such, they are clearly unworthy of the title of Best Fighting Game of the Year.
It rightfully belongs to one game, and one game alone. Super Mario 3D World.
- And until you can find me another 2013 game in which you could grow huge and stomp the shit out of everyone, that's the way it's going to be.
- Best Action-adventure Action!
- Adorable, ADORABLE, action.
- And deceptively military-based adventure at that.
Put them both together, and you simply cannot deny that Super Mario 3D World wins! You CAN.NOT.
- Best JRPG As we all know, JRPGs are about one thing, and one thing only; dressing up your characters. Leveling up, you say? Intriguing plots in large open worlds? Don't be ridiculous. As Square-Enix is quickly showing the gaming world, the quality of a JRPG is measured by its dressing-up features. The more eccentric and unpractical the better!
However, even though it looked like Final Fantasy XIII-3 had the JRPG category in the bag for 2013, it didn't come out in the West this year. Tough luck, Barbie Lightning! Even if it had though, there was one game this year that managed to trump even Final Fantasy in its dressing-upability.
Because while Lightning may have had her moogle suit, the Mario crew was already taking dressing up to the next level. They famously dressed up as cats, they could wear Goomba hats, Boomerang bros were among their targets and even Tanooki weren't safe from being turned into a costume. Let's see Lightning match that! (she can't)
But more than that, Mario's costumes all had something that Lighting's severely lacked: functionality. Now I'm sure that her outfits do something in her latest games, but I refuse to believe you would even notice it with all that hammering on the "Auto Battle" button you're going to be doing. In contrast, Mario's cat suit alone let you climb up any wall and do bad-ass lunge attacks and dive kicks. Indeed, Mario's cat-suit is quite possibly one of the best pieces of clothing to dress up your characters with.
Thus, Super Mario 3D World is objectively the best JRPG of the year. You can't fight me on this.
- Best WRPG Did any good WRPGs even come out this year?! No? But that won't do at all, we gotta have a winner at least!
Hold on, I think I got it.
For lack of any worthy entries, I'm going to have to give this to Super Mario 3D World by default. Congrats!
- Best Strategy Game And the winner is XCOM: Enemy Within!
In what may very well be one of the best expansion packs ever released, XCOM Enemy Within shows tha-
The winner isStarcraft II: Heart of the Swarm! Starcraft II may very well already be one of the best strategy games of all time; the fight between the Protoss, Terrans and the Zerg has captured many a gamer's imagination, and has led to a multitude of sleepless nights. So when a huge expansion comes around, you can bet your butt that we will sit up and take notic-
The winner is Fire Emblem: Awakening! 2013 was a great year for the Nintendo 3DS, and perhaps nowhere was that fact as evident as with the latest installment in the Fire Emblem series. With a story that transcends time itself and the addition of many new gameplay mechanics, it truly showed what turn-based strategy could be. Moreover, its characters were hard not to fall in love wi-
The winner is Super Mario 3D World, just because.
- Best Sports game Ah, and here we are at what must surely be the single most boring category in every edition of the video game awards. Because come on, who the hell cares whether FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer was the best soccer game of the year? Or did you want to go the route of American Football and give it to Madden onehundredandeleventyseven-2? Fuck no.
Fortunately, this year there was a game that can make even a shitty category like sports worthwhile. It is a game in which you can play sports like a sporty...sportsman. Person. Whichever. Anyway, you wanna throw baseballs at people? You can! You'd rather take your best aim with exploding soccer balls? Sure deal! Or are you well enough in touch with your feminine side that you'd rather simply stick to gymnastics? Well, sorry, but I don't think we ca-OF COURSE WE HAVE THAT.
It has the MOST sports. All of them. All of the sports. How could I ever live with myself if I did not award it the victory?! I couldn't. Super Mario 3D World is by far the Best Sports Game of the Year. Sports.
- Best Story I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who once said that "brevity is the soul of wit". And if he wasn't, fuck it, he may as well have. Still counts.
The point is this; if brevity is the soul of wit, then obviously the brevityiest game must obviously be the wittiest. That's just grade school logic right there, no way around it. And it was without a shadow of a doubt Super Mario 3D World that had the briefest plot this year. Bowser kidnaps fairies. That's it. We get no context, no motivation, no nothing. In fact, let me show you all of Super Mario 3D World's dialogue.
Can you feel all the brevity coming through your computer screen RIGHT ONTO YOUR FACE?! Don't answer that, off course you can. And what's more, along with that brevity comes just a total SHOWER of wit. Don't lie to me, you're completely covered in wit right now and you damn well know it.
I think I've said enough. Super Mario 3D World clearly has the best story of the year. Now go clean yourself up. Wit stains horribly.
- Best Multiplayer (co-op) Co-op games are always a lot of fun, especially if it's on-the-couch-style. Nintendo for many years now has been absolutely killing it in this field. From the multiplayer in New Super Mario Bros., to Donkey Kong Country, to Kirby's Epic Yarn and Return to Dreamland. But 2013 was the year in which co-op really shined. The latest Mario game gave us the possibility of playing four player co-op in a 3D game, with each character having their own little ability no less.
Super Mario 3D World particularly encourages players to work together. Getting all of the green stars and the stamps in each level requires a keen eye and a little platforming prowess, which your friends are sure to be able to help you with. Each friend can even use his or her character to compensate the weakness of your own. In the end, you can carry each other across dangerous chasms, earn a crown for helping your friend defeat a bunch of bad guys or collect some coins, and you can wait for your partner at the end of the level so you can have the satisfaction of reaching the goal together.
Can't get more cooperative than that! So Super Mario 3D World wins!
- Best Multiplayer (competitive) Alternatively, you can toss your buddy in a pit, steal his crown and screw him out of reaching the flag pole with you. Can't get more competitive than that!
Super Mario 3D World wins....again!
- Best Music Now, you know what, I think I'm just going to let this entry speak for itself.
Please Mister Music, will you play? (<- cookie for the reference)
- bbain take note.
Enough said, it's Super Mario 3D World.
- Best New Character Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...Meowser.
No contest. I don't even care anymore about any suggestion you wish to make. BOWSER IS A GODDAMN TIGER. Super Mario 3D World wins.
- Best Boss fight Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you...Meows-
Wait. Didn't we already do this? I think we have. You see, Meowser isn't just the best new(ish) character, you also get to fight him! Obviously, right? Anyway, if you didn't think that a Mario could deliver an epic final boss, you are sorely mistaken. Being chased up a building by five of those guys makes for an intense experience that is only rivaled by...
And now, we've arrived at the winners for each individual console. Which of the above games will take the prize for best game of the system, and possibly the best Game of the Year? The suspense is killing me!
So let's start, off course, with the WiiU.
- Best Wii/U game The winner is...
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD!
Hold up. That can't be right. I mean, Wind Waker HD was a great game and all, but best WiiU game of the year? I kinda expected some other game here.
Just wait here for a second, I'm going to go talk to the jury, see what's up.
...Okay, so me and the jury had a little "heart-to-heart", and it turns out that the actual winner of Best WiiU Game of the Year is none other than Super Mario 3D World! Congratulations!
Apparently every single member of the jury meant to say Mario from the start, but simply misspelled it. They're all dyslectic, you see? Easy mistake.
- Best Xbox 360/One exclusive HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
No but seriously, nobody cares.
Oh, and it's stillSuper Mario 3D World.
- Best Playstation 3/4 exclusive
....I got nothing.This is harder than it looks, alright?!
- Best PC exclusive I want you to play along with a little experiment of mine. Put your right hand fingers on your keyboard's arrow keys, and the left ones on two neighboring buttons of your choice. I prefer Z and X, but just do whatever. Now, close your eyes and pretend you're playing Super Mario 3D World.
Congratulations! You just played the best PC game of the year.
- Best Handheld game Come on, I don't have to explain this to you, do I? You've seen the WiiU, haven't you? And you have noticed the GamePad.
It has a screen on it, and you hold it in your hands. Ergo, it is a handheld. Also I just used the word "ergo" which means I won the argument just now. I'm pretty sure that's how discussion works.
So now that we have irrefutably established that the WiiU GamePad is a handheld console, what game would deserve that title of the Best Handheld Game of the Year? The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds? Tearaway? Shin Megami Tensei IV?
Oh who am I kidding, you already know that it's Super Mario 3D World.
And here we finally have it. The Game of the Year, the game of games, the one game to rule them all, 2013 incarnate. Which of the diverse titles above will achieve this great honor and go down in history forever (because that is how history works)? Will it be Super Mario 3D World? Or maybe Super Mario 3D World? Or perhaps we'll see a stellar come-from-behind victory for Super Mario 3D World? Or will fan-favorite Super Mario 3D World claim the prize? Place your bets now!
And the winner, of the 2013 Game of the Year awards...
SUPER MARIO 3D WORLD!
In what must be one of the biggest surprises of the year, the latest Mario adventure, which had already snagged the trophy for every single other category, even somehow those it had no reason being in, wins the most prestigious award of the entire year: a star shaped ball of yarn!
Have fun with it, you guys! But do be careful.
I SAID BE CAREFU-
Oh well, I guess you can always come back next year to try your hand at becoming the Game of the Year 2014. Your odds are looking great!
Thanks to everyone who entered my contest! We had great entries all around, and I hope the developers of The Typing of the Dead took notice of that blog, because the game would become all the more amazing if all of your brilliant words were to make it into the game.
By the way, my own words would have been "hijinks" and "shenanigans" because those are straight-up the best words in the English language. They're completely perfect for what they are.
....yeah, you see why I asked you guys now?
Anyway, enough small talk! Let's get to what we're all here for, the winner!
Well, you know what this means. Time to start sucking up!
In the contest thread Phil announced that he just wanted The Typing of the Dead, but what he does with the rest is completely up to him. I sent him the rest of the list, so who knows, you might get contacted after all. But just between you and me; I hear that Phil likes to get his butt fondled. Who knows, it might help.
By the way, Phil's words were:
Waffle Meat Worm Dingle Testicular Rabbit Chungus Savory Gravy Manly Pickle Choke Fornication Massive Mexicans Bottled Chum Mayonnaise Taco Leaping Pus Frisky Dingo
Truly a worthy winner.
Congratulations again, and have fun typing zombies to death!
Finally, another round of thanks to Wrenchfarm and OpiumHerz for giving most of these games away in the first place.
Thanks to the ever generous Wrenchfarm's awesome contest I found myself with a truckload of great new games to play, because studying is for chumps.
However, the awesomeness of this contest could not be contained by one Steam account alone. Oh no. When my Steam Library saw how many new games were coming its way, it flat-out rejected some of them. The Binding of Isaac? Steam wouldn't take it. Dark Souls? No can do. Pathologic, courtesy of the lovely Opiumherz? Denied.
Of course, the little fact that I already owned these games may have been a relevant factor too, but I still hold that it was probably just the awesomeness.
And that's why I've decided to give the people of Destructoid a second chance to win these great games!
To reiterate, we're talking about:
Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition, on Steam.
Chances are if you're on Destructoid you know about Dark Souls. Do I really need to tell you more about it? No I don't. It's brilliant and you want it.
The Binding of Isaac, including Wrath of the Lamb, also on Steam.
One of the best and most addicting roguelikes ever. Buckets and buckets of content, ranging from cool new power-ups to new levels and the largest number of "final" bosses ever seen in video games. Also poop.
Pathologic, on GoG.
The first game of Ice-Pick Lodge, who later went on to do the surreal The Void. This game got high praise for its atmosphere, which if you're any kind of fan of horror games you'll know has been missing from most mainstream "horror" titles for a while now. Can the indies do better? You decide!
But I can hear you thinking. Snickering almost. "Oh Shade", you'd say, "isn't that like the lamest thing, like, ever?" I'm not sure when you became a valley girl, but fine. "You're giving away Wrench's games you already had anyway, and you expect us to love you for it?"
We're having none of that nonsense here. In the spirit of Halloween I'm adding two games of my own into the mix! Why? Because I bloody well can, that's why. And because VIDEO GAMES.
The first is an indie game I already had in my inventory for a while, so it's high time to pass it on to someone else. I love this game dearly though, from its brilliant art directions to its gorgeous music. I'm talking about the original Trine! What does Trine have to do with Halloween? ....it has skeletons, I guess? Yeah, let's go with that. So skeletons equals Halloween and therefore we add to the winnings:
Trine, on Steam.
But that's nowhere near the best part, because there's one more game coming the winner's way. Here we have a game that nobody saw coming. It just popped up on Steam a few days ago with an equal mix of "What the fuck?" and "Fuck yeah!"
Quick question: What's the best way to defeat zombies? Shotgun? Axe? Flamethrower? Tallahassee?
All wrong. All so very, very wrong. What do you use to kill off zombies? Keyboards, motherfuckers! Oh yeah, we're going there.
And with that, we add:
The Typing of the Dead: Overkill, on Steam!
(note that this game also includes regular The House of the Dead: Overkill)
Now ain't that a lovely batch of games right there? Damn straight it is. And winning them is easy! All you need to do is answer a simple question. So far, the screenshots of Typing of the Dead have given us some great words to kill zombies with. "Ample buxom" is my favorite, but "May I eat you" and "UNICORNS" are top-class zombie-killing words as well. Still, there have to be even better words out there. And that's where you come in!
I want to know from you:
"What words would you type to kill zombies?"
The winner will be picked at random from all the entries. I'll let this contest run for one week, that is until November 8th. After that I'll contact the lucky winner!
Hello, my name is Shade, and I'm a Nintendo fanboy.
- Hi, Shade.
I love Nintendo. I love their games, their handhelds, their overall quirkiness, and yes, even their consoles. I wouldn't be a gamer today if it wasn't for Nintendo, and they made many of my favorite games of all time; I owe them one. More than one, come to think of it.
So while everyone else was out slamming the Xbox One and hyping over Sony's presentation, I was doing other things. Working mostly, because hey, someone's gotta do it. Microsoft consoles have never interested me in the slightest, to the point where my only response to the Xbox One is still to have a good-hearted laugh about the entire mess, and while Sony is already much more interesting to me, it's still not enough to convince me to watch its entire presentation. But I'm still a gamer, and a self-proclaimed Nintendo fanboy at that, so every year I make a point of following Nintendo's conference live. As we all know, this year it was a Nintendo Direct rather than a press conference, but it ultimately came down to the same thing.
So how does someone like me feel about this Nintendo Direct?
It was...decent. Nintendo showed plenty of games, and pretty great ones at that. A new 3D Mario, Donkey Kong Country, the untitled Monolith Soft project, and Smash Bros. were all awesome games that you can bet your ass I'm going to go out of my way to buy. There was a problem, however.
Nintendo's Creativity I have always defended Nintendo's use of its old IPs. I see a lot of people complaining about anotherMario game, anotherZelda, and so on. These people think that Nintendo is unoriginal, that they don't have a grain of creativity left. After all, if they still had cool ideas, why aren't we seeing new characters anymore? Is Pikmin really the best they had? Myself, I have always rejected this notion very strongly. Nintendo actually has more creativity in its right pinkie toe than most developers do in their entire body.
The reasoning is very simple; just because Nintendo decides to put its familiar faces out there doesn't mean they don't have new ideas anymore. Just look at the Mario series, for example. It started as a 2D platformer, which saw several other installments all vastly improving the tech and Mario's abilities. On the Nintendo 64, however, it took a massive leap into the third dimension. Super Mario 64 singlehandedly changed gaming, and the Mario franchise, forever. The next Mario game, Super Mario Sunshine, also changed the formula significantly. Mario was given a new setting to play around in, new goals to fulfill, new enemies to fight, and a boatload of new abilities all combined in FLUDD. Next, of course, came Super Mario Galaxy. While it was the standard fare of Mario running and jumping around trying to save Peach, Galaxy saw a whole slew of new mechanics by virtue of the planetoids he now inhabited. The new physics made Super Mario Galaxy an adventure unlike any seen before.
- Pictured: Creativity
As such, over the course of a couple of games, all starring the familiar plumber completely unchanged, Nintendo showed creativity in gameplay that few other developers can even begin to match. And that's not even taking into account the spin-offs, such as the always awesome Paper Mario series.
The same goes for many other series. Metroid went from a 2D action-adventure to the massive secret-ridden Super Metroid, to the amazing 3D version that was the original Metroid Prime, to an entire new control scheme in Metroid Prime 3. Even Metroid: Other M tried to change up the formula by having a mix of 2D and 3D, and a focus on story. I actually liked Other M more than most, but since it's a controversial game let's just leave it at that.
My final example will be Zelda. The Legend of Zelda was originally a top-down 2D game, then became a side-scroller for its second adventure before returning to top-down again. It too took the jump into 3D, and gloriously at that, with Ocarina of Time. Majora's Mask changed things up by adding time mechanics as well as the ability to change into a bunch of different characters. Wind Waker turned the world into an ocean, making level progression vastly different from the previous games. The DS games both turned the control scheme on its head by making it touch-only. Finally, Skyward Sword (and Twilight Princess to a lesser extent) implemented motion controls to give the player direct control over Link's sword, paving the way for many creative new ways of using it to solve puzzles and defeat enemies.
It's true that Nintendo banks on nostalgia a lot. It's also true that many of the games I mentioned just now could have been new IPs. But hey, we all love Nintendo characters, so what's the harm? As long as the gameplay is as unique as it is, by all means slap a familiar face on there. I don't need Prince Fluff when the game can be made equally well with Kirby. Even Kid Icarus: Uprising featured an old character, but they gave him such a massive overhaul that he's barely even recognizable anymore. Isn't that just as good as a new IP? The face is the same, the game is different.
That, right there, is the Nintendo I love. That's the Nintendo that made the world fall in love with its characters. That's the Nintendo I'll fanboy over.
That is my Nintendo.
Unfortunately, it's not 2007 anymore. It's E3 2013 now, and Mario Galaxy has been done. So has Metroid Prime 3 and Skyward Sword. I'm ready for Nintendo to show its stuff again. But after watching the Nintendo Direct, I have to wonder. Where is my Nintendo?
Directly Safe During the Direct, Nintendo showed a number of games from existing franchises. As I've explained above, I don't mind that at all as long as they're unique and interesting. Unfortunately, I didn't get that impression this year. A lot of the stuff they showed seemed like regular continuations of what Nintendo has already been doing. A lot of it seemed simple. Safe. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD looks absolutely fucking fantastic, but it's still just The Wind Waker again. Mario Kart 8 is...well, it's just kind of Mario Kart 8, isn't it? Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze is another game that looks amazing, but where's the difference with Returns? New enemies and camera angles? Underwater levels? Seems a tad weak, to be honest. And what about Pikmin 3? It's going to be great, but what is it going to do differently?
Even the announcement of the new 3D Mario didn't blow me away like it should have. When it was announced that we were going to see the new WiiU Mario, I was ready for the new step. The game that is to Galaxy what Galaxy was to Sunshine. We didn't get that. Instead, we got Super Mario 3D World. Again, it looks like a fine game that I'll be buying, but at the end of the day it seems like it's going to be pretty much the same as Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS. I actually got confused and thought that it was a 3DS game at first (the title doesn't help).
Besides that, a number of characters remain on the sidelines while Nintendo focuses all of its energy on Mario and Link. Why haven't we heard anything about a Star Fox game for WiiU, for example? When will we get a new Wario platformer again (Shake it was amazing)? How has Metroid been doing since Other M? Come to think of it, how are things progressing with Fire Emblem X Shin Megami Tensei? And most importantly, what happened to Captain Falcon? He could've been great for WiiU, as I've already pointed out last year, but he's nowhere to be found. These are all series that could easily bring something new to the table, or at least something that we haven't seen in a long time. Unfortunately, none were present yesterday.
- The new Smash Bros. was announced, but Captain Falcon hasn't been in a new game since Brawl. That's kinda sad.
The only game they showed in Nintendo Direct that got me excited not just because it's a Nintendo game but because it seems to want to do something new was X, the otherwise untitled Monolith Soft project. This may be the fanboy in me speaking (I'm a Monolith Soft fanboy just as much as a Nintendo one, if not more so), but I thought it looked fantastic. It takes some notes from Xenoblade, always a good sign to me, but it also strives to make a fully seamless open world, has monsters which have far outgrown what Xenoblade was able to show, seems to have a big focus on transforming mechs, and has been hinted to include online multiplayer. Those are things that get me excited enough to think that it may be something more than just a safe sequel. The Wonderful 101 is another game that looks really quirky, fun and unique, but it's not Nintendo's own.
Maybe I'm being too negative over this. After all, Mario Galaxy had Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid Prime had Metroid Prime 2, and Zelda had Twilight Princess and Spirit Tracks. All followed an old formula without much innovation, but we still saw cool new things afterwards. Hope is not lost, obviously. Maybe we're just at the point in time where all series simultaneously take a bit of a break before going into full overdrive again. We also have that new WiiU Zelda to look forward to, after all.
A Fitting Hopespot Regardless of how much of a sign Nintendo's showing yesterday was for its game design philosophy from now on, there was one thing that got it exactly right. One thing that shows me that Nintendo's still got its stuff. One thing that shows my Nintendo. And it may not be what you think.
It's the inclusion of the Wii Fit Trainer in the new Super Smash Bros.
At first, this may seem like an odd thing to say. Doesn't the Wii Fit Trainer represent everything we don't want? Doesn't she represent Nintendo's fall into casual bullshit nobody cares about? How could she possibly be the best thing Nintendo's done all week?
Because it's the silliest fucking thing!
At first, I honestly didn't know what to make of her inclusion. I was confused. But the more I thought about it, and the more I saw from her, the more I realized that this is perfect.
Like Sakurai said in his Smash Bros. developer video, nobody saw her coming. This is pretty much undeniable, yeah. Nintendo is showing that it still knows how to dig deep and surprise us. Sure it would be cool to see Shulk make it into the game (I told you didn't I? Monolith fanboy), but what could possibly be cooler than going on www.smashbros.com and seeing a new trailer for a character you never even imagined possible?
But more than that, Nintendo has managed to make a character whose only purpose in her own game was to "show you the moves", if I may quote a certain someone, into a veritable fighter. They even managed to take a whole bunch of yoga moves and tie them to the various abilities we know and love from the Smash Bros. series. She dodges by doing a yoga move, she does a smash attack by doing a yoga move, she poses for a taunt, she twirls hoops around for an Up+B attack. She does all these thing that you wouldn't think could make sense for even a second...and yet they do! She's a normal human, a standard fighter, and yet she looks hella fun to play as right between Bowser, Samus, Kirby and the rest of Nintendo's best and brightest.
The utter strangeness of her inclusion makes her so special to me, paired with the fact that she works so well. Just think about it! At some point during the past year, Nintendo must have had a internal roundtable. They were discussing which characters to include in the next Smash Bros. Mario and the old gang are all in of course, but who should be new? The main character from Animal Crossing would be a good fit. He's already had his own stage in Brawl, after all. Who else? Maybe we could get Mega Man in here, since we had Sonic already? Let's see, more. And right at that moment someone, some amazingly brilliant eccentric gloriousness of a person, stood up and said "You know what we should do? We should get the Wii Fit Trainer in there!"
And they rolled with it.
That's the quirky, silly, creative Nintendo I love. That's the Nintendo that's showing me they can take anything, and make it awesome. The Wii Fit Trainer is my hope that Nintendo will find its creativity again, and that Super Mario 3D World isn't the prime example of Nintendo starting to just play it safe.
I mentioned last week that I still had two blogs that I wanted to write in the near future. Well...this was not one of them. However, something came up a few days ago that I felt warranted this topic being done a tad earlier than planned.
I think everyone about my age can relate: back when you were younger, say high school age, there were a couple of free online games you played which looking back were really pretty bad. Runescape seems to be a major offender for most people. You probably played it at some point, but you wouldn't be caught dead playing it now. Maple Story is another favorite, although I hear that one actually holds up pretty decently even now. I never played Runescape myself, but my friend got me into Maple Story a little bit. I didn't play it for very long, and my friend got way more into it than I ever did.
But there was another game my friend showed me back then. A game I wound up putting tons more hours in than he ever could have imagined when he showed it to me.
This was a little game called Rakion: Chaos Force.
If I have to sum up Rakion, it's basically a F2P class-based PvP melee MMO. Yeah, say that three times fast. But really, you should just think Team Fortress or Monday Night Combat, but replace all the guns with swords, and you'll be pretty close. That right there is more or less what Rakion was like, at least in theory, and I loved the crap out of it. In fact, the very reason I'm writing this blog is because I firmly believe that this concept still has promise.
The main game was more or less divided into three modes. You had your basic Free-for-all, which was pretty fun in and of itself but nothing special. There was Team Deathmatch, in which people were paired up in groups of six or so and scored points by killing the other team. Standard Deathmatch, no complaints; personally I found this mode to be a heck of a lot of fun. Finally, there was Golem Mode, and this worked much like Capture the Flag. Again people would be paired up into two teams, and each team had a large Golem creature in their base. The teams would then try to kill the other team's Golem in order to win the round. The trick is that you couldn't actually hurt the other team's Golem right away. Instead there was a large Golden Golem in the middle of the map. At the start of each match both teams would rush in towards the Golden Golem, which could be killed by regular attacks. The person who scored the final hit would gain a golden aura, and this meant that he or she was now able to damage the Golem at the opponent's base. Off course, this resulted in one team trying their hardest to protect their golden ally, and the other team trying even harder to kill him. This was a pretty neat mode, all in all. Either way, there could have been more variety in gameplay modes (there was a solo PvE-style mode, but fuck that noise), but overall it was fun enough for a free MMO.
Rakion featured five classes when I played it, and looking at the website now that hasn't changed yet. They are pictured below. From top to bottom, there's the Blacksmith, the Archer, the Warrior, the Ninja and the Mage.
Take a second to guess which one I picked. Go on, guess.
Each character had different strengths and weaknesses, as you would expect. There was a little combo system in place, but these combos were only a couple of hits tops. Besides that, each character had a ranged attack, with some being more reliant on it than others. The system was simple, but it worked and it felt right. There was one other special thing about all the characters, but I'll get to that later.
The Warrior was your standard all-round guy. He wielded a sword which actually had a pretty decent reach, but there's not much to say about him. His ranged attack was a knife throw. It was pretty difficult to aim, but you didn't really ever use it anyway. You had to take a second to equip your ranged weapon before you could use it with all the characters, and you had to equip your melee again afterwards, so for most characters ranged was neglected in favor of simply running up to your opponent and sticking a sword in their gut.
The Ninja was the fast one. She had two knives, ran fast and had quick combos but pretty low health. These were always a pain to fight. For ranged she had shurikens: these sucked in PvP but were insanely overpowered against Golems and other creatures. You never saw a match in Golem Mode without a Ninja or two.
The Blacksmith was the big dude. He was slow but could dish out tons of damages with that warhammer he wielded. He was pretty fun to play as, and his design was cool. For his ranged attack he had throwing axes. They did good damage, but much like the Warrior's ultimately weren't worth it. Free players could use three character slots, and a Blacksmith filled one of mine.
The Mage, whilst being so small, was another heavy hitter. His normal attacks had very short range, but he had a heavy attack in which he sent out a row of icicles in front of him. This was slow and left you open, but did huge damage and juggled anyone who got in the way. For ranged he shot homing fireballs, which was another slow but powerful attack. The Mage is another class I really liked the design on, and they were a lot of fun to use all things considered. This was the class I used as my secondary character, only surpassed by off course:
The Archer, my main (did you guess right?) was your go-to ranged gal. She had a short sword, but her combos and reach left much to be desired: slow, low damage, incredibly not worth it. Her ranged attack was obviously her bow, and this thing was her greatest strength. She was fast with this thing as well, and once you got the aiming down you were capable of wrecking people before they could even get close. The physics behind her arrows were very well done, and you really had to learn the aiming system in order for your shot to hit its mark. After a lot of training, you knew exactly how high you had to aim to hit that moving target at the other side of the map, but once you got good you could hit him every time. There was nothing more satisfying than taking your shot, waiting a second, and seeing that asshole Ninja in the distance flinch right before she got a hit off on your teammate.
Her bow was, paradoxically, even very good at close range. You could always tell the good Archers from the bad ones by looking at which of them switched to the sword when enemies came close. Rule #1 of the Rakion Archer: Never, EVER, take your sword out. Bow all day, every day. Even when enemies got right up in your face, your bow was your best friend. The thing is the Archer shot fast. Like, really fast. She could shoot so quickly that it was completely viable to lure your opponents into doing an attack, dodge and fire. Each hit stunned as well, so if you were lucky and quick, you could get off multiple hits at once. This was a fucking blast! There was also the element of learning to predict your opponent's moves which was another incredibly satisfying experience once you saw it pay off. Once you got good with her, the Archer was a beast both close range and long. And considering all the time I spent practicing, I think it's safe to say I got pretty good indeed.
One problem the Archer did have was that she sucked at Golem. Her arrows didn't do enough damage to creatures to be viable, so you were often reliant on the rest of your team. Except for that little fact that Golem Mode didn't have respawns. Once you were dead you stayed dead, and killing all your opponents was an alternate win condition. So while everyone else was hitting the Golden Golem I usually got myself a place with a nice view, so to speak, and kept picking off the enemies. This way they'd get stunned every few seconds so I bought my team time to kill the Golem for me, and on the off chance that an enemy managed to score the last hit he had already taken so much damage that killing him before he reached our base was no trouble at all. There's also that little fact that almost everyone who got the gold aura instinctively ran towards the other team's Golem in a straight line. A word of advice: do not run in straight lines when Archers are on the prowl.
Remember kids, you can't spell "funnel" without "fun"!
Eventually, some people would get so fed up with me picking away at them while they were concentrating on the Golem that they'd come after me instead. Now the Archer was a class that in my opinion was often grossly underestimated. So every once in a while an overconfident Blacksmith who got fed up with me came after me with the idea that he'd just kill me real quick and focus on the important stuff afterwards. Nine times out of ten, he left as a pincushion. That is, if he left at all. Back then, that was the best feeling in the world.
There was also this one time where I was the only one left of my team going up against three or four scattered opponents, and my own team kept urging me to switch to the sword. Because be serious, how is an Archer going to fight close range with just a bow? About ten minutes later, in what admittedly must have been my best Rakion match ever and perhaps my best multiplayer match ever period, they knew exactly how one fights close range with a bow. I won us the round that time, because each of the opponents figured they could easily take me one on one. Had they come together there would've been major problems, but none of them saw the need at that time. I don't think they ever made that mistake again. Perhaps I was wrong earlier. This was the best feeling in the world.
Anyways, the final general thing you need to know about Rakion is the Chaos system. After a certain amount of kills, and sometimes after a certain amount of deaths as a pity prize, your character could go into Chaos Mode. You became a lot bigger, were immune to damage and stun and did fucktons of damage. Basically, you were given the option to for a limited time FUCK.SHIT.UP. See each character's Chaos form below. The Mage's Chaos Form in particular was very cool, but the Ninja became even more of a bitch than she already was anyway. All in all this was a decent system, but it didn't add a whole lot. The game could've done without.
From left to right: Blacksmith, Ninja, Mage, Archer and Warrior.
This was more or less the full game, and I loved it. There were a lot of things that made this game work, but most of all it was being able to play a class-based game like this at melee range with swords and magic. Hopefully you too are able to see what made Rakion this unique little snowflake. Never before or since have I seen a game quite like this, and that's a massive shame. Because unfortunately, there's a reason I refer to Rakion as "crappy" in my title. This game had a slew of problems. While I didn't see those at the time, looking back on it now they really do break the game. I haven't gotten it to run on my Windows 7, but I doubt things have improved much since then.
Firstly, this was one of the first games I ever played where "F2P" reared its ugly head. You could get to level 20 for free, but after that your character stopped getting skill points upon level up unless you paid. Even back then I refused to pay for shit like this, so I was perpetually stuck at level 20. This was more of a skillbased game anyway, so it didn't matter much, but it was still annoying.
Secondly, Golem Mode gave huge XP gains compared to the other modes, so ultimately that was what almost 90% of the people played. Whereas Golem Mode was pretty fun as I discussed before, every once in a while you want something different. I myself loved Team Deathmatch since the Archer was pretty unsuited for Golem matches from the get-go, but those games were rare and yielded only a fraction of the XP and gold.
Thirdly, the balance in this game was whack. I have never seen such strange balancing in a class-based game. If I have to summarize it: every character was overpowered. In groups, that is. Rakion had this very strange thing in that every class was utterly broken if you had an entire team of them. Five Warriors were completely devastating, as were five Mages, as were five Ninjas, et cetera. In other games you want to make sure you have a variety of classes in your team for maximum effectiveness. In Rakion, whenever you saw a team all with the same class, you knew you were screwed, and it didn't even matter which particular class it was. To this day I have no clue how this could've happened, but that's what it was like.
Finally and by far the most painful, the netcode was complete shit. It was very rare to find a game where none of the players had huge ping, and disconnects were frequent. Lag was the rule rather than the exception, and if you could go two matches without the game crashing you were in luck.
Long story short: when this is your game's tagline, you know what time it is.
So all in all, Rakion: Chaos Force was pretty much riddled with problems. But riddle me this: what games are there that did anything like what Rakion tried to achieve? Anything at all?
Rakion had such an amazingly fun concept. You take a class-based MMO and replace the Snipers with Archers, the Heavies with Blacksmiths and the Scouts with Ninja's. You make the players get up close and personal and have them play all sorts of fun modes. They really don't have to be anything special. A simple game of Team Deathmatch or Capture the Flag changes dramatically once you take guns out of the equation. All of a sudden you need to buy your golden teammate some time, because he still has to kill the enemy's Golem and that's going to take a while. All of a sudden you have to wall off your base with Warriors and Blacksmiths, while your Archers and Mages fire away at the gold enemy before he can reach your base. All of a sudden you don't have to worry about getting close to the heavy hitter before he shreds you to bits (with a minigun, say) because he too can only do damage up close. There's all these little things that happen when you make a class-based MMO melee, but the only game I've ever seen do it was Rakion.
Where are my class-based melee MMOs, game industry? No seriously, where are they?
I have heard it said that the Dark Messiah of Might and Magic multiplayer is somewhat similar to this. Unfortunately however, I only managed to play that game relatively recently, and the multiplayer is long dead. Other than that, I'm coming up empty. Some MOBAs seem to go Rakion's direction somewhat, but more often than not MOBAs devolve into "hit the special attack button and hope it dies" whereas Rakion was much more about using your standard combos at the right time and dodging when needed. Still nothing like I was searching for.
But then something happened.
A couple of days ago, an Early Access game went up on Steam called ArcheBlade. I'm pretty sure nobody had ever heard of it. This was its trailer:
I want it said that "Dick the Megaton" is the best character name ever.
It looked...great! I was ecstatic! It has a class system, a focus on melee, simple combos with some special moves, cool characters, Capture the Flag and Team Deathmatch. Could this be the game I was waiting for? Could this be Rakion, except not shitty?
Well, kind of.
This game definitely has the right idea, and it reminds me of Rakion in the best possible way. The trailer shows its potential and it definitely looks the closest to Rakion I've ever seen something come. In fact, someone on the Steam forums has already compared the two games as well.
Unfortunately, this seems like another game which doesn't bring out the full potential of the concept. I played it for a while yesterday and was left disappointed. From what I've seen your characters always attack in the direction the camera is facing rather than where the character itself is facing. This isn't much of a problem, except that it takes even the most minute angles into account. You'll be attacking an enemy, but when you turn the camera a little bit to look at who might be approaching, your next attack is going to miss simply because you turned the camera ever so slightly. More than anything this ensures that you'll never stand any chance fighting more than one opponent at a time. Either you can't focus, or you can't see. Moreover, in all the matches I played yesterday, not once did I manage to fight someone one on one. This game has a huge tendency to bundle up all the players in a small area, ultimately ensuring that fights become too chaotic for the system to really show its stuff.
Once again F2P rears its ugly head, even more horribly than Rakion's ever did. ArcheBlade, you see, makes you buy every single character. Yeah. Free to play my ass. You want to try your hand at a defensive class? Pay up. How about ranged? Pay up again. Your quick hitter sucks? Well too bad then, you already paid for it. You can pay about 20 bucks for the starter pack, but all evidence points to this game being one of those F2P titles. You know the ones. Finally, in the games of ArcheBlade I played there was also a good amount of lag present, pointing to another instance of bad netcode. And since ArcheBlade is a bit faster paced than Rakion was it becomes all the more annoying.
You like these characters? That will be 3 bucks each kthxbye.
When I think about it that way and I read the above paragraphs, I could actually see ArcheBlade becoming someone else's Rakion. I imagine right now there's a kid just like me back in high school who is loving the shit out of ArcheBlade, wondering why there are no other major games like this.
...but it looks like we'll have to keep on searching for that one game that will get it right.
So come on, gaming industry: make me that class-based melee game. Make me a Capture the Flag with swords and bows. Make me a 4v4 Deathmatch with ninjas and magic. ArcheBlade is already a step in the right direction. Keep going, keep going.
Make me Rakion again. ....but please...make it good this time.