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7:01 PM on 08.30.2014

Surviving Sierra: A Beginners Guide to Adventure

This year I've been taking the opportunity to replay all of my favourite Sierra On-Line adventure games. Sierra is likely responsible for the inception of graphic adventures and they certainly did a great deal in terms of creating some of the most memorable entries in the genre. I began playing Sierra adventures when I was still in elementary school and they still stand as my favourite PC games. Fortunately for me, I was playing my father's extensive collection of Sierra adventures and had the benefit of his hand-written notes, hint books and personal guidance to act as something of a tutorial. These games are many great things, but they're certainly not easy for beginners to pick-up & play. With the recent announcement that the Sierra brand would be making a comeback with a brand new King's Quest release, I thought it may be prudent to write down some basic rules of play when it comes to enjoying these digital antiquities.

Rule #1: Save your game early, and save frequently

It may seem strange but I'm not joking when I tell you that you need to learn how to properly save your game when playing any of these titles. With most PC games your instinct would be to keep a small handful of saved games while you play, this would be a recipe for disaster when playing Sierra adventures. Instead, your collection of saved games should function as something of a timeline for each title. Anytime you arrive in a new location, make a new save. For example, if you entered a cave with a dragon, make a saved game called "Dragon's Cave" (always find a word to describe the location in further detail, this may not be the only cave you encounter of your quest). Then, if you find anything or do anything of significance (you'll know when your score increases), overwrite that save. However if you were to leave the location and return later it would be extremely important that you don't overwrite your original save file for this area, instead create a brand new save (in this case, "Dragon's Cave 2"). That way, you can always return to that previous instance. Just because you can return to most locations later in the game doesn't mean everything will be as it originally was. You'll need an effective timeline of everywhere you've been during your adventure and that will likely mean dozens if not a hundred separate saves.

Rule #2: Observation is key

Whenever entering a new scene it's important to look over every pixel on screen. The first thing you should do after saving your game is to liberally use the look command. Players can type 'look around' anytime to get a basic description of their surroundings (when playing the point & click games use the "eye" icon on the background). Read the description carefully as it will direct your attention to points of interest in the room. Likewise be sure to use to the look command to examine anything you find in more detail. Anything written in the game could be a clue to solving a puzzle, so it's important to read as much as possible. Not everything of importance will be mentioned in these descriptions so be sure to use your eyes as well to scan the screen for anything of interest. Sometimes important items can also be obscured by objects in the foreground as well, so leave no rock unturned.

Rule #3: Pick up everything that isn't nailed down. If it is, solve the puzzle of getting the nail out

As an adventure game protagonist the only weapon at your disposal is the collection of an endless myriad of seemingly useless junk cluttering your pockets. If it can be picked up, it's likely necessary to completing the game so you'll save yourself a lot of frustration if you pick everything up your first time around. Even the most mundane object will hold some value to you later and it's only under the rarest circumstance that you'll want to leave an object behind. If an item is irretrievable in someway it's important that you eventually figure out how to take it with you.

Rule #4: Remember to use commonsense

Sierra adventures operate on simple logic-based puzzles. That is, most of the time, commonsense is all you need. Whenever you're stuck be sure to ask yourself what you would do if this was real life. Be sure to take note of everything you've collected so far, what can you use to get yourself out of this scenario? Many times there are multiple solutions to a single obstacle, get creative and see what you can come up with. Even failed attempts can lead to helpful hints. Try everything you can think of before resorting to a hint book or FAQ.

Rule #5: Read the manual before playing

It may seem like a strange thing to mention but you should familiarize yourself with the game's manual before playing any Sierra adventure. Within the game's documentation could be several vital clues that will help you along your way or even copy-protection that the game may reference later. Parts of the manual's written narrative may even reference people or places you'll encounter in your travels. The game may expect you to know what's written in the manual to get through certain sections.

And lastly, there's something I like to tell all newcomers to these games and the adventure genre in general. Do not pick up anyone of these titles with the intent of finishing them. Play these games with the intent of experiencing them. It's easy to get frustrated when you're not making progress but the enjoyment these titles have to offer come from the puzzles, characters and environments. Really take in every moment, stop to appreciate the scenery and play at a slower, more deliberate pace. Boot up each game knowing that the odds are likely stacked against you, and for my money I wouldn't have it any other way.   read

10:56 PM on 08.23.2014

Simplifying Syndicate: A Missed Opportunity for EA

A recent venture to the local dollar store yielded a small surprise for me. Amongst the eclectic selection of public domain films and K-Tel CDs I found a copy of 2012's Syndicate, appropriately priced at only one Canadian dollar. While only vaguely familiar with the series I couldn't resist promptly purchasing the oddity, if only to satiate my curiosity. I hurried home to begrudgingly install Origin (and I was successful after only two failed attempts) and after squashing a runtime error I was finally granted access to the world of Syndicate. Three hours later as the credits rolled I couldn't help but feel like the entire game could have been so much more. I'd like to preface this overview by stating that I have never played an entry in this series before, but I am aware that this iteration is a major departure from the originals. With that out of the way, let's take a look at Syndicate.

The game has an interesting premise, one that is becoming more and more relevant with each passing year. In Syndicate, the world is controlled entirely by large corporations and the majority of the populace is augmented with cranial implants. You play as Kilo (kilobyte?), a corporate raider/hired gun who fights for the large conglomerate EuroCorp's interests. You've just been implanted with the company's latest prototype chip to make you a more efficient killer and when one of EuroCorp's rivals readies to unveil a similar product you're sent in to stop them. One of the conceivable advantages to shifting the series' focus from isometric strategy to first-person action could be to tell a more personal story while letting the player explore this interesting future firsthand. Unfortunately Syndicate accomplishes neither, you're never given more than surface level details regarding Kilo and the moments when you're allowed to simply look around and explore are too few and far between. I wasn't expecting the same level of exploration seen in titles like Deus Ex, but Syndicate doesn't even offer you a guided tour like the BioShock series would.

The story is also woefully underdeveloped. Without pouring through data logs players will understand only the basics of their surroundings. Starbreeze Studios have engineered an attractive soapbox to discuss issues of globalisation or transhumanism and the opportunity has been completely squandered. Also, at only three hours long, the entire campaign feels like the first entry in an episodic series instead of a full fledged retail release. Kilo can't even be considered a hero for a majority of the game because he doesn't have his obligatory change of heart until you're two thirds of the way through the story. It's too bad because the game's presentation is top-notch with a competent voice cast and style to burn.

All of this would be excusable if actually playing Syndicate was fun & exciting. While the gunplay is fast & frantic it never manages to reach the absurd heights of Rise of the Triad or Bulletstorm leaving it largely forgettable. And while you have access to special abilities allowing you to hack enemies and environments you'll rarely need to make use of them. Halfway through the campaign I was having difficulty finding the motivation necessary to continue. My feeling of ennui is an unfortunate side effect to the development team's unfocused talent. Syndicate can sometimes be a feast for the eyes despite it's modest system requirements, it's just a shame that the game's large budget was wasted on such a disposable experience. It's certainly worth the price of a gas-station cup of coffee, but not much more.   read

3:17 PM on 08.04.2014

For Your Re-Consideration: Crystal Monsters

Gameloft has a dubious standing in the game's industry. While they're known for almost consistently delivering a respectable level of quality with their efforts, the studio is almost universally looked down upon for what most feel to be an uncomfortable level of unoriginality or even downright plagiarism. However, littered throughout their catalogue are some of the best efforts the handheld scene has ever received, especially in regards to mobile phones. That of course brings me to the subject of my article today, Crystal Monsters. A brief examination of the game's promotional material would lead even the most casual of gamers to conclude it was simply a Pokémon rip-off of sorts. They'd be correct, at least, mostly.

Crystal Monsters is a curious release, initially made only available to Japan in 2008 for mobile phones under the title Monster Chronicles. Crystal Monsters was then ported to Nintendo DS in 2010 and released by way of the now almost irrelevant DSiWare service. It's not that I can't understand Gameloft's choice to make the title available for DSi, it's an inherently natural fit. What I can't understand is why they would choose to release it exclusively on DSiWare in our territory and entirely forego a release on Google Play or the iTunes App Store. On the Nintendo DS, Crystal Monsters would essentially have to compete for players' attention with the perpetually red-hot Pokémon franchise. On the mobile market, they would have almost no competition. Especially back in 2010, it had the opportunity to print money. Instead, Crystal Monsters will have to settle for being a largely forgotten footnote in the history of video games.

The game opens with a short text crawl explaining that there are many different realities and that in this story two separate realities have come closer together. One is a world much like ours and the other is a world inhabited by monsters. Your character is something called a "Neo-Seed", a genetic mutation that can see these creatures as they naturally roam the countryside. These monsters are otherwise invisible to normal people who call themselves "Pure Breeds". Many Pure Breeds blame the recent appearance of monsters and Neo-Seeds for much of the world's problems and some radicals have formed a political organization called the Pure Faction to lobby for the control of breeders and their companions. When your home town's celebrity breeder is injured before a regional monster tournament you're given one of three monsters to start your own career as a breeder and are promptly sent in his place to compete. However, it isn't long before you're swept up in an adventure to save the world from certain doom.

In short, the story is a bit ridiculous. But it is, at the very least, somewhat original and a great starting point for a series of interesting events. It's easy to imagine this as the set-up for a children's animé series. The game's presentation has taken significant inspiration from Pokémon but the gameplay has more in common with the Dragon Quest Monsters series with a greater emphasis on breeding and three vs. three combat. The differences persist as Crystal Monsters features a much more involved capture process. The game's creatures are effectively divided into nine elements and each requires a unique stone to capture. Later in the game, a crystal will prove to be quite ineffective when used by itself and capture will require the use of other items in conjunction with them. Also, you'll rarely find yourself in competition with other breeders, instead most battles will be with wild monsters or boss monsters. That's not to say that other breeders will never challenge you to a fight (Pure Faction will challenge you themselves in regular Team Plasma fashion), they simply do not make up the bulk of your obstacles.

Speaking of combat, that's where Crystal Monsters truly excels. Players need to exploit type advantages to chain together attacks much in the same way the Shin Megami Tensei series requires. Successful chain attacks are accomplished with on screen button prompts akin to Super Mario RPG. And your plan of attack will have to be thought out beforehand because you're limited to a team of three monsters and you can only have a grand total of twenty captured monsters. Your inventory requires similar scrutiny as you're limited to carrying a grand total of only fifty items including consumables used in battle. Halfway through the game, my inventory was always full and I was forced to carefully weigh the pros and cons of discarding any item in favour of another.

The systems in place are different enough to make the game feel fresh and playing Crystal Monsters for the first time was invigorating as I was flying blind (there is little to no information available online regarding this title outside of a half-dozen reviews and some dead forum threads). The creature designs are also similarly praiseworthy as they manage to be original, distinct and visually appealing. This game had been in the corner of my mind since first seeing it on the eShop and I'm glad I finally took a chance on it. At only $5 USD it comes highly recommended and I hope that it's sequel is eventually ported as well.
Crystal Monsters is available now on the DSi Shop for 500 Nintendo Points   read

9:32 PM on 03.09.2014

Let's talk about Ouya!

There comes a time where, as a consumer, I feel it's necessary to put up or shut up. Among gaming circles throughout the internet it's become a widely adopted philosophy to vote with your dollars to see the change you want in the industry, to show financial support for enjoyable and innovative ideas. For example, I adamantly refused to pay for cable television until the provider in my area offered the chance to pay only for the channels I wanted. When I received a flyer in my mailbox advertising just such a service, I felt the need to put my money where my mouth was and pony up the dough. I wasn't actually shopping around for cable providers at the time but it was a service I had always wanted nonetheless.

During Christmas I found myself in a similar scenario. While I had intended on supporting Ouya since it's inception a year and a half ago, I had been unable to pledge my support due to owning an SD television. Everything about the product and Ouya's philosophies regarding indie development, game distribution and a low-barrier open platform deserved my support but I was unwilling to upgrade my television to do so. However, my father gave me the gift of a brand-spanking new 42" HDTV and I felt it was once again time to put up or shut up and I found myself purchasing an Ouya the very next day. I was planning on writing this blog shortly after but I've been (surprisingly) too busy actually playing the damn thing to find the time. I didn't want to write a hardware review for the device until I was convinced I had played all the top-shelf games available for the console. Now that I feel I have, I'd like to share my experience with the Ouya.

The hardware itself is rather unassuming. Looking about as small as a Rubix Cube, the Ouya will have no trouble finding a place among your home entertainment system. The console sports a Tegra 3 chipset, 1GB of RAM and 8GB of storage (16GB in the most recent revision). Most commentators have lamented Ouya's implementation of the Tegra 3 over it's successor, but the inexpensive chipset allows for a small price point and significant performance for your dollar. Much has been said about the Ouya's controller, and while I can't say I've experienced any of it's well documented shortcomings, I do feel like I should point out that a firmware update was released the day I hooked up my console that supposedly addresses these issues. Installation is about as simple as a modern-day console can get and setup is similarly a breeze. In no time you'll be browsing the Dicover store and trying out new software.

Likely, the Ouya's greatest standout feature is the implementation of the Apogee software model across the entire platform. Everything is free to try and while it may seem like such a small point, it's particularly empowering once you realize that all of these developers have to prove themselves to you before they can see a dime of your hard earned cash. In practice, you'll find yourself trying out games you probably wouldn't have otherwise and skipping titles that you may have thought would've been a good buy in a more traditional retail environment. The console already has a wide variety of games (almost 700 different games at the time of writing this article) covering a wide variety of genres and while Ouya suffers from one of the worst good:bad ratios in hardware history, it's small selection of standout titles really shine on the platform.

A common misconception regarding the console is that it's library consists almost entirely of mobile ports. While a few of the Ouya's titles were originally released on iOS and Android devices, the bulk of the Discover store's selection is much different than you would expect. In fact, the selection is wide and diverse enough that I believe there would be a little something for every type of gamer. Whether or not the Ouya (or any microconsole for that matter) is a good fit for you will depend entirely on what kind of experience you're looking for. The games available for the Ouya right now are largely proportionate to the size and cost of the console itself. I'm of the opinion that a console like Ouya would greatly complement anyone's console collection.


12:53 PM on 11.26.2013

For Your Re-Consideration: ObScure - The Aftermath

It's no secret that the internet can be an overtly negative place to hang out sometimes and when it comes to bloggers and journalists, there's certainly no shortage of the angry critic. While several internet personalities are quite talented at implementing their perceived rage when approaching a review or retrospective I see no point in trying to do something that has been done before on countless prior occasions. Instead, I'd like to try things a little differently and speak up for the underdogs out there. For Your Re-Consideration is a series of overviews that highlights the brighter aspects of games, hardware and other things in nerd culture that seem to be the whipping boys in their respective fandoms. To be clear, these articles are not meant to be unbiased critiques, many of the negative attributes surrounding these subjects are well-known popular opinion. Instead, this is just an encouragement to give something another look.

The original ObsCure has become something of a cult classic amongst my fellow gamer friends. While the series has never enjoyed any sort of wide spread acclaim the first entry in this little known franchise seems to be regarded as an interesting experiment in the Survival Horror genre, an interesting experiment that deserved a second attempt by series' studio Hydravision Entertainment. I'm a huge fan of Survival Horror and Obscure had been recommended to me by my friends at least a dozen times before but whenever I asked about the game's sequel everyone I knew seemed to hold it in low regard. It's a shame really, because ObsCure: The Aftermath is one of the finest examples of Survival Horror I've seen on the Wii.

The atmosphere in ObsCure 2 is reminiscent of other classic horror titles

This game really seems to be a celebration of what made the horror genre so fun and unique in the mid 90s. Keeping the game's tone in the realm of the ridiculous, ObsCure 2 seems to have found the inspiration for it's plot in teen slasher films. You'll control a whole cast of college-age stereotypes as they fight desperately to survive when the school's populace is infected by a parasitic black flower. What makes ObsCure 2 unique today is it's strict adherence to Survival Horror conventions. You'll have severely limited supplies, infrequent save points, threatening enemies and restricted cameras that feel like they're right out of a PSX game.

A big part of the game's appeal to me is just how well Hydravision utilized the Wii remote. The motions used make sense and feel very responsive. Firearms are used in conjunction with the pointer and reloading is done by shaking the Nunchuk. Melee attacks are accomplished by swinging the Wii remote and surprisingly enough the game can differentiate between vertical and horizontal swings. All other motions are contextual but they're all very well implemented without any of them feeling gimmicky. It's a shame that more developers couldn't competently apply motion controls to their games like this during the Wii's heyday but it's always refreshing to see when somebody out there seemingly "gets it".

Also worth noting is ObsCure 2's environments. All levels are logically laid out with traditional Adventure puzzles impeding your progress. Thankfully all puzzles are relatively logic based and can be figured out pretty easily if you're paying attention. The game's cast each have separate special abilities that you'll need to utilize to advance in certain situations. During some of ObsCure 2's more clever puzzles you'll need to take advantage of two specific characters' abilities simultaneously in tandem to progress. This interesting dichotomy stands out as being unique in the genre and allows for some really stand out co-op moments without ever devolving the experience into a 2-player shooter.

Co-op is especially well implemented

That's right, the game features 2-player drop-in, drop-out co-op. Normally such a statement would be a death sentence for a horror game but ObsCure 2 manages to present a multiplayer experience without sacrificing good scares. And the title has it's fair share of good scares, really building up tension with it's moody atmosphere and excellent sound design. Often you'll be given a preview of the horrors you'll face much later by hearing monsters shambling around elsewhere in the building. Finally, the story is just plain silly fun. Much like a Resident Evil title the cause of this nightmare is absolutely ludicrous but played with enough sincerity to keep the game from slipping into parody.

The supposed disappearance of Survival Horror in our industry is easy to understand. The very things that make these games nerve racking are the common complaints associated with this title. Combat is difficult, supplies are limited and one or two enemies can feel over-powered enough to defeat you in an instant. But taken for what it is and given the opportunity ObsCure: The Aftermath has the potential to be a really captivating game. I was glued to my television start-to-finish and I suspect many other fans of 90s horror games will have a similar experience if they show it a little Re-Consideration.

ObsCure: The Aftermath is available on PS2, PSP, PC & Wii. This overview was written after having completed the game on Wii.   read

12:28 PM on 05.08.2013

For Your Re-Consideration: Sonic Unleashed

It's no secret that the internet can be an overtly negative place to hang out sometimes and when it comes to bloggers and journalists, there's certainly no shortage of the angry critic. While several internet personalities are quite talented at implementing their perceived rage when approaching a review or retrospective I see no point in trying to do something that has been done before on countless prior occasions. Instead, I'd like to try things a little differently and speak up for the underdogs out there. For Your Re-Consideration is a series of overviews that highlights the brighter aspects of games, hardware and other things in nerd culture that seem to be the whipping boys in their respective fandoms. To be clear, these articles are not meant to be unbiased critiques, many of the negative attributes surrounding these subjects are well-known popular opinion. Instead, this is just an encouragement to give something another look.

I wasn't planning on talking about another Sonic title so early in this series but since I've been playing Sonic Unleashed again for the umpteenth time and I decided now would be the perfect time to talk about my absolute favourite title in my absolute favourite game series. Sonic Unleashed is, for a myriad of reasons, a game that noticeably divided the Sonic community right down the middle. Fans were divided much like the dual nature of the game itself with many fans saying it was, at long last, Sonic's return to his former glory. Others had decided it was further evidence that SEGA had lost it's way or simply didn't know what to do with the brand anymore. However, in spite of all that's been said of the game before I think Sonic Unleashed is simply misunderstood.

To understand my story with this particular game we're going to have to go all the way back to March of 2008 when a large assortment of materials for the latest installment of Sonic the Hedgehog were "leaked" online. Fans have since speculated that SEGA purposely left the back door to their corporate FTP server open for us to find these images and hype the game up for them, but that's neither here nor there. Key amongst these resources was a single gameplay trailer and soon after it's discovery every Sonic message board lit up like wildfire. Rumors were flying left right and center regarding the mysterious new entry in the series but we wouldn't get the real scoop until E3 and that's when the proverbial shit hit the fan.

The 2008 E3 Trailer for Sonic Unleashed

After having seen the E3 previews I was sold, I must have watched that trailer on continuous loop for at least an hour and in the following months SEGA revealed more and more details about the game accompanied by a slew of gameplay trailers showing off the new zones and game mechanics. Unfortunately for SEGA many didn't share my enthusiasm. Questions were raised regarding Sonic's new form, the Werehog, and why the decision to give the game two separate gameplay styles was made. The game's lead designer and then head of Sonic Team Yoshihisa Hashimoto explained that it was his intention to give the game a proper tempo. Instead of giving the player all speed, all the time he would instead complement Sonic's traditional running gameplay with it's antithesis. And if Sonic's game design was built around the use of his legs, then the Werehog's play style would be built around the use of Sonic's arms. Hashimoto believed that the variety introduced into the game by this initiative would keep players from feeling fatigued and capable of playing longer sessions. Looking back at the original Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis it's easy to see where he got this philosophy. After all, even that title was split between fast zones the player could dash through without stopping and zones that forced the player to slow down and carefully traverse the environment at a deliberate pace. Yoshihisa Hashimoto's departure from Sonic Team is a loss SEGA cannot overestimate, possibly their biggest since losing Tom Kalinske. It's obvious the young designer understood the franchise better than most and it's his influence on the series that led to success stories like Generations and Colors.

What's immediately apparant from booting up Sonic Unleashed is the level of quality shown in the game's presentation, in what's probably SEGA's most earnest attempt to revitalize the brand to date they spared no expense. Sonic Unleashed began development as Sonic Adventure 3 and was even released as Sonic World Adventure in Japan. This time Sonic is on a globetrotting adventure visiting continents based on real world locales. Sonic Team put a lot of care and attention into the design of these new zones and the effect is stunning. All of the places Sonic visits feel like living, breathing cities that mesh well with Sonic's already established aesthetic design. It all has the effect of really fleshing out Sonic's world, moreso than any previous effort, it's a more concentrated effort that put's Sonic's world on par with the Mushroom Kingdom.

You have an entire planet to save and Robotnik's ambitions have finally been realized with the construction of Eggmanland. The stakes have never been higher and there's a real sense of urgency to the entire matter. When I played Sonic Unleashed for the first time in 2008 I was completely blown away by just how fast Sonic could go and how easy it was to maneuver through each act. It was the first time I was really impressed by a game this generation. Sonic's skillset has been completely reworked with with the intention of allowing the player to play through his stages without stopping. New moves like drifting and wall jumping can be utilized throughout the game's levels to maintain your momentum. On the flipside you have the Werehog, the subject of much debate since Sonic Unleashed's unveiling. The Werehog's levels play much more like a traditional platformer in the same vein as Crash Bandicoot or Donkey Kong Country. You'll climb, swing, jump, fight and even solve rudimentary puzzles. It's all very good and I don't understand why it's the cause of such scorn. I can't help but think that a radical change like the Werehog would have been better received in the 90s.

While we wait for the reveal of a new Sonic title from SEGA maybe it's time to give Sonic Unleashed some Re-Consideration. I think everybody would be surprised at just how enjoyable the game is when judged on it's own merits.

Sonic Unleashed is available in stores everywhere for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PS2. Sonic Unleashed can also be found on Xbox Live Games on Demand. This overview was written after having replayed the game again on Wii.


12:08 PM on 05.01.2013

Nintendo, I solved your problem for you.

It is no secret to anybody that one of Nintendo's biggest problem with the Wii U currently is their marketing (or lack of marketing) for the device. By their own admission they've been unsuccessful in advertising their new flagship console to the public. I've had an idea bouncing around in my skull for the past couple days that I've decided to share with the community here at Destructoid. What if, after a 30 second TV spot that shows nothing but Wii U software the commercial ended with

It would effectively let the public know that this is an entirely new console without the need to rebrand the Wii U, It would play the nostalgia card that Nintendo has been so fond of using lately and it may be the correct slogan to let the core gamers know that the big N is serious. Anyways, it was just an idea. Thoughts?   read

12:06 PM on 04.28.2013

Outsider's Perspective: Call of Duty Black Ops 2

Call of Duty has become something of a phenomenon in the Gaming industry. The series' is almost consistently winning awards, breaking sales records and being released to widespread and critical acclaim. Admittedly, I missed Modern Warfare and the original Black Ops when they made a splash earlier this generation because I haven't been interested in first person shooters since their earliest incarnations on DOS PCs. However, I wasn't content to be on the outside looking in and with the purchase of my shiny new Wii U I decided to finally take the plunge and see just what all the hullabaloo surrounding the series was and I've walked away from the experience with mixed feelings.

Today's blog is going to differ from my regular format because this game requires no introduction to the vast majority of the gaming public. Chances are you've already chosen a firm stance in regards to the Call of Duty franchise and my words won't sway you either way. Nevertheless, I felt the need to organize my thoughts online in hopes of starting a dialogue about Black Ops 2.

"Are you looking at me?"

The first thing that leads me to scratch my head in confusion is the game's plot. Some people may accuse me of wanting too much from what should essentially be videogame junk food but I don't think it's asking too much for a game's story to at least be enjoyable. Instead Black Ops 2 does everything in it's power to deliver a very basic revenge story in the most convoluted fashion imaginable. The game feels the need to shift perspective between characters and settings to the point of disorienting the player. The game's antagonist sees an unrealistic rise to power and his character suffers from an extreme lack of motivation. Menendez's lofty goal's seem entirely disproportionate to his reasons for having them in the first place.

Black Ops 2 really delivers some thrilling set-pieces

I was really glad that the developers aimed to have a smooth running game. Black Ops 2 seemingly runs at a consistent 60fps and that really complements the action on screen. Another positive note for me was just how much diversity there was to be found in the gameplay. The game delivers one action-packed arcade sequence after another. You'll operate such a wide variety of futuristic military technology and it really helps to keep the core experience from becoming stale. However, my lack of ability did hamper my experience and even on the easiest difficulty I found myself dying frequently. I couldn't help but think that the action would be much better framed and that the opposition would be much more manageable if the easiest difficulty level was played on-rails.

I'd like to stress that I still had a lot of fun with this game. It's certainly not my favourite game on Wii U but I certainly don't regret my purchase. Call of Duty is obviously competently made and I can concede that any gripe I have with the game may simply stem from the fact that I'm not part of the series' target audience. Regardless it's a franchise I'd like to maybe revisit in the future. I'd also like to hear from you guys, is there anything keeping you from getting the most out of Call of Duty? Let me know in the comments below.


10:26 AM on 04.05.2013

Wii need U: Nintendo's conspicuous absence

A few short weeks ago tragedy struck as my PS3 met the same fate my Xbox 360 did a year prior. The aging console (a model 1 80gb unit from 2008) that had been plagued with inexplicable freezing and lock-ups for months finally gave out under the pressure and called it quits. Similarly to my 360 a year prior, it's warranty was well past expired and I simply could not afford to pay for the console's repairs. Admittedly I was initially upset but I decided to collect the deceased console's accessories, controllers and 50+ games and sell them to my local independent game retailers in town to raise funds for a new console. Perhaps against my better judgment I decided my recent income was enough to supplement the cost of a new Wii U ZombiU Deluxe Bundle.

Go big, or go home.

I was initially very excited. It was the first time I had bought a new console in some time and I had forgotten how palpable the thrill of unwrapping a new console was. The promise of something incredible was just around the corner and I hooked up the new hardware while anticipating what would come next. I played the software that came with it and I purchased some more titles from Amazon and Nintendo's eShop. However, while shopping I noticed a distinct lack of quantity in the Wii U's software library. In fact, unless I was mistaken, the game selection hadn't grown at all since the console's release last year.

I remember hearing about these titles during the consoles launch last year.

Nevertheless, I continued to play and I found the Wii U to be a great deal of fun. The gamepad made a lot more sense to me in practice than it did during Nintendo's E3 presentations. The console's social features were well implemented and easy to use. In fact, I found the whole experience to be a little intoxicating and the hours quickly melted away as I continued to play more and more. However, I couldn't help but be a little curious about what was coming next for Nintendo's new hardware. As it turns out, not a whole lot.

There's more coming... we swear!

I took to the internet and read as many Wii U related news stories I could find and what I discovered was upsetting to say the least. The Wii was suffering from a slow release calender in it's last few years but that was to be expected to some degree. After all, Nintendo was gearing up to release it's next flagship console. But for the Wii U to be echoing the same performance after less than a year is just disappointing. I have no doubt that Nintendo will release a handful of great quality titles for the Wii U during it's lifetime that will make the hardware worth owning, I just hope 3rd parties don't give up too quickly due to Nintendo's slow start. Unfortunately, every news story posted recently about the Wii U reads to the contrary.

Left and right developers and publishers can be heard saying that they're reluctant to release software for the console because they view the market for Wii U software as too small or risky. And during this release drought Nintendo themselves have been MIA, unwilling to comment on what the future holds for the Wii U. I know this situation can be turned around and I know that Nintendo is just the company to do it, I just hope that Nintendo doesn't find their footing too late for the console to be home to some great 3rd party content. Do I have buyer's remorse? Not yet, I can't find myself crying foul after so little time with the system thus far. But I understand how Nintendo's customers may feel spurned in light of recent revelations. Still, I want more games.   read

2:48 PM on 03.05.2013

For Your Re-Consideration: Ninja Gaiden 3

It's no secret that the internet can be an overtly negative place to hang out sometimes and when it comes to bloggers and journalists, there's certainly no shortage of the angry critic. While several internet personalities are quite talented at implementing their perceived rage when approaching a review or retrospective I see no point in trying to do something that has been done before on countless prior occasions. Instead, I'd like to try things a little differently and speak up for the underdogs out there. For Your Re-Consideration is a series of overviews that highlights the brighter aspects of games, hardware and other things in nerd culture that seem to be the whipping boys in their respective fandoms. To be clear, these articles are not meant to be unbiased critiques, many of the negative attributes surrounding these subjects are well-known popular opinion. Instead, this is just an encouragement to give something another look.

The Ninja Gaiden series has become something of a hallmark in our industry for brutal difficulty. From the series' inception the Ninja Gaiden franchise has always been remarkably unforgiving in just how much room for error the player was allowed. This remained unchanged when Ninja Gaiden was given the reboot treatment in 2004 leading to a new trilogy for Ninja protagonist Ryu Hayabusa. The first two titles in this new trilogy were released to critical acclaim for their tight controls, insane difficulty and somewhat old-fashioned sensibilities but the third title has garnered much negative publicity through it's initial release and inevitable re-release. Despite this, Ninja Gaiden 3 has completely renewed my interest in the franchise and become one of my favourite action games of this generation.

Ninja Gaiden 3 is easily one the most violent games I've played in recent memory.

I'll admit that I wasn't entirely familiar with the series' lore when I decided to start playing Ninja Gaiden 3. I had only previously played the arcade original and Ninja Gaiden Black very briefly. But Ninja Gaiden 3 does an admirable job of getting players up to speed in a very unobtrusive opening tutorial. Before too long I was cutting enemies down to size and quickly traversing the environment with ease. Combat has a certain visceral thrill compounded by the title's new "Steel on Bone" mechanic that causes the game to slow when Ryu's sword penetrates an enemy and forces the player to rapidly tap the attack button while the DualShock 3 controller supplies force feedback. While not a game changer by any means it was a simple touch that made the otherwise repetitive nature of this style of gameplay more enjoyable to me for longer play sessions. Ryu is also equipped with a wide variety of combos making fights with enemy sword fodder more varied than is typical with action brawlers. All of this is accompanied by copious amounts of blood & gore, Ninja Gaiden 3 is easily one of the most violent games I've played this generation and it deserves a spot next to similarly bloody games like BulletStorm or Mortal Kombat.

Players are given a chance to learn more about Ryu as a character and the game does an admirable job of humanizing our protagonist and making us feel his struggle.

In Ninja Gaiden 3, Ryu is afflicted with a curse called the Grip of Death. Made possible by his killing sprees in previous titles, the curse has afflicted his right arm and is slowly killing Ryu. Now, our hero must save the world from almost certain destruction with his diseased hand slowing him down. Ninja Gaiden 3 has an underlying theme regarding the morality of Ryu's actions as an assassin and the game manages to convey this to player not only through the title's plot but through enemy reactions. When left to die NPCs will crawl away slowly, begging you for their lives and it had the surprising effect of causing me to hesitate (at least initially) before killing. It was a great implementation on the developer's part because it weaves the story's central theme into the gameplay.

While hacking & slashing your way through countless victims you'll visit a plethora of varied locales and witness some really over the top set pieces and enemies. Where Ninja Gaiden 3 sees it's greatest success is in it's ability to deliver a spectacle. The game revels in it's ability to throw the most impossible obstacles at Ryu only for him to dive head first into danger and dispatch the opposition with ease. Ninja Gaiden 3 has been heavily criticized for it's reduction of the series' trademark difficulty but this is another positive for me. Ninja Gaiden 3 was always at the perfect difficulty curve for me to enjoy it, beginning to end. The game always managed to keep me engaged and I was never bored during the entirety of the game's length. If you're in the market for some especially nail-biting, white-knuckle action perhaps you should give Ninja Gaiden 3 some Re-Consideration.

Ninja Gaiden 3 and Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor's Edge are available in retail stores everywhere. This article was written after having played the game's original release on PS3. If you have any suggestions for another article, please leave it below in the comments and let me know what you think has been overlooked by our community.


12:45 PM on 02.20.2013

Outsider's Perspective: Street Fighter

For as long as I can remember I've been a gamer. Playing videogames has brought me some of the most vivid experiences of my life and I can't imagine what life would be like without the unbridled joys gaming has to offer. That being said, I'm not a typical gamer. Despite being alive during the medium's golden years there are many popular games and genres that were big when I was young but I somehow managed to miss out on and breaking out of my comfort zone can be a tall order because, well, I've never been particularly good at playing videogames. You heard correct, I'm just not that good. Oh sure, I've played a large number of titles during my gaming career, many of them difficult and even finished most of them too but I've always lacked a certain natural ability for play that I know others around me have. I've been playing games long enough that I can instantly wrap my head around a controller and a game's basic mechanics but completing any title always requires a lot of persistence and an easy mode. This series will highlight major games and franchises in the industry from an Outsider's Perspective that I've only recently delved deeply into.

The Street Fighter series is most famous for popularizing the one-on-one fighting game genre. The second entry in the series was so popular in fact that (with the help of it's rival Mortal Kombat) it spawned an immense quantity of lackluster imitators throughout the 90s. The game's feature a large cast of characters representing a wide variety of fighting styles and backgrounds. Each title in the series tasks the player with defeating every other fighter in a tournament until ultimately facing off against an overtly powerful opponent in a final face-off.

Street Fighter features fast and fluid fighting gameplay with a surprisingly intuitive control scheme. I was delightfully surprised with how simple it was to control my fighter's basic actions even during the heat of combat. Blocking, jumping and executing attacks feels very responsive and immediate. I even found that performing special attacks was much simpler than I would have thought. Instead of inputting cryptic command codes special attacks are implemented using fluid joystick motions and corresponding button presses. For the most part specials can be discovered by observing the opposition and experimenting a little. Practicing with multiple fighters turned out to be a lot more fun than expected and I quickly had a personal collection of favourite characters I'd use in multiplayer matches.

The series definitely boasts a uniquely animated style. Characters come to life with a diverse looking plethora of movements, reactions and attacks. It's easy to take note of an impressive level of attention to detail in everything in the games' environments. The soundtracks are also worth mentioning because the music really accommodates the action on-screen with a memorable selection of great tracks.

Perhaps, because I had no history with the series, I was strangely drawn to Street Fighter III. It's easily the most difficult in the series and I never managed to defeat Gil, but it's also the fastest one I played in the series and I found the parry system to be very rewarding. The strange cast of characters would no doubt be oft-putting to longtime fans but I enjoyed the roster of new faces and learning the basics all over again. Street Fighter III was easily the most technical in the series but investing time in the title gave me a greater sense of accomplishment.

Street Fighter offers a great multiplayer experience locally. Two players with equal experience can easily pick-up-&-play any title in the series and have a good time. I also played a great deal of online matches in II, III and IV. I was surprised that with a little bit of experience the games' match-making services were well equipped to pit players against others with comparable ability. My biggest fear when I decided to get into the Street Fighter series was that it would be near impossible for a beginner to learn the ropes but instead Street Fighter lends itself as the epitome of the arcade experience. Every game is easy to play but difficult to master and it has a perfectly calibrated difficulty curve to accommodate it.

When I was young I asked my father for a copy of Street Fighter II for my birthday. Instead I received a copy of Streets of Rage 2. I was initially disappointed until I played the game and had a blast but my father's mix-up had the unfortunate effect of me missing out on the fighting game boom of the 90s. After playing the Street Fighter series I'm glad I convinced myself to take this plunge because these games have quickly become favourites of mine.

This overview was completed after having played the following titles:


3:22 PM on 01.25.2013

Looking Back: EB Games

I remember a time when the local EB Games (or GameStop as it's more commonly known as in the States) was my favourite store in the city. When I was younger it would always be the first place I'd want to visit during our trips to the mall. In fact, my fondness for the local Electronics Boutique didn't start to dwindle until very recently. Even as online gaming pundits began a maelstrom of negative publicity towards the chain of game retailers this generation, I still happily visited my friends at EB without much consideration for the bad press they had attracted. However, as the clerks I was most familiar with left the store one by one to pursue greater personal interests I found they were instead replaced with staff that were much more typical of your garden variety GameStop that has become the topic of conversation on many forums across the internet. Friendly chatter about my hobby has been tossed aside in favor of an overwhelming sense of negativity and self-destructive business practices. Although my visits to the store had become less frequent over the past few years I never consciously established a reason for my absence with myself, until perhaps now. I'd like to share with you the details of my last visit to an EB Games.

With some spare cash burning a hole in my wallet and time to spare I decided it would be best spent at EB Games. I hadn't actually been looking to purchase any retail titles for some time and I thought that browsing the store may lead to something new to play as I had been dying to find something to sink my teeth into since the holidays. As I entered the store I was greeted by a member of the staff who asked if he could help me find anything. I politely turned down his offer, I've never been one to elicit the help of the staff and I feel more comfortable when I'm left to think for myself in situations like this. After only a couple minutes of browsing one of the discount bins at the front he chimed in again insisting I let him know exactly what I was looking for so that he could help. I hesitated, and proceeded to named off a few topical titles I was planning on looking into further if and when I found them in the store hoping it would buy me minutes of silence to peruse their wares. He returned shortly after with the availability and pricing of the games I mentioned and I told him I was going to pass because the titles in question were too pricey. Despite being more than a year old each they were still full price. He said he would collect the titles at the front counter for me in case I changed my mind, a move I found dubious after having given him a definitive "no thanks".

I made my way across the store slowly looking up and down at the available selection, from PS3 to 3DS and then finally Wii. As I began taking one last look through the titles the staff member approached me once more. "Are you looking forward to the new Aliens game?" he asked while pointing to the game's trailer currently displayed on the store's television set. I was delighted that he was seemingly interested in talking games but my elation was short-lived when I realized he was trying to secure a pre-order. Working in customer service myself I understand the pressure on staff to up-sell but his suggestion was curious. I'm not a huge fan of the FPS genre and the titles I mentioned before were Adventures, RPGs and Platformers. I have my favourite shooters to be sure, but they are few and far between and it isn't a genre I find myself returning to frequently. I told him that pre-ordering was something I no longer practiced because I had been burned by retailers in the past and that Colonial Marines wasn't a game I was interested in playing on day one. He suggested that I really should pre-order a copy because otherwise they would be in short supply, a point I considered moot.

I decided I would cut this visit short. I had no interest in staying any longer so I decided to leave with one title and I brought my choice to the counter hoping for a speedy exit, unfortunately that wasn't going to happen. He then tried to sell me a subscription to Game Informer, a part of the GameStop procedure I had never been a part of prior to this visit. After saying "no thanks" he then tried to sell me on their "scratch guarantee" warranty. I'm very careful with my discs so I declined. All of this finally culminated with him informing me that the game I chose was the last copy they had in stock. Now, all the staff members familiar with me know that I don't take last copies of new titles out of personal preference but none of them are around anymore. GameStop and I have two different definitions of the word "new" and I will not purchase an open product at retail price out of principle. I tried to tell him that I would instead pass on the game but he didn't seem to want to take no for an answer, insisting that it was still technically a new title. This point always makes my blood boil but thankfully the man was called to the back room by a co-worker requiring assistance and I left without completing the transaction.

I'm certain many of you have heard or experienced worse incidents at an EB Games or GameStop and you'll tell me that this was just an average visit. But that's exactly what bothers me about my visit, this was an average visit to one of these stores and purchasing a game or looking around a store shouldn't be this joyless or bothersome of a chore. Maybe I was just one of the few fortunate to have a good EB nearby and maybe that's what makes this change all the more difficult. I remember a time when I would've gone out of my way to find a retail copy of the latest game but now I'd much rather buy it online. Anyways, I'd like to hear from the rest of you here on Destructoid, what have your experiences been like at GameStop recently? Let me know in the comments below.   read

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