hot  /  reviews  /  video  /  blogs  /  forum

DS

Please understand photo
Wii/DSi shop, Internet channels, and the like will not be affected
[Update: Nintendo of America, as well as Australia, have also announced the end of the Wi-Fi Connection service. Looks like it's across the board.] Nintendo of Japan has announced that they're ending all DS and Wii online ser...

How Nintendo breaks hearts with the D.E.N.N.I.S. System

Feb 06 // Jim Sterling
[embed]244154:46787:0[/embed] While the system is designed for Dennis to trick women into having sex with him before abandoning them, its applications in business are frightening, and Nintendo's mastery of it is absolute. Like Dennis, Nintendo is able to seduce and conquer its fans by demonstrating value, engaging physically, nurturing dependence, neglecting emotionally, inspiring hope, and then separating entirely. Do you remain skeptical? Read on and understand.  Demonstrate Value This one's easy, because we already know, by Nintendo's own admission, that it secures customer loyalty by demonstrating the value of its product. Through marketing promotions, competitive pricing, and pledging to offer the widest variety of games to the widest variety of consumers, Nintendo attempts to demonstrate its value to the user. More often than not, it succeeds. In fairness, all videogame companies utilize the first step of the system. Duping the consumer into believing a product is worth the entry fee is what the game industry is all about. Nintendo's as committed as any when it comes to demonstrating its value.  Engage Physically No other company works harder to engage its customers physically than Nintendo. With the Wii, the DS, the 3DS, and the Wii U, Nintendo has been doing more to encourage physical interaction with users than any other company in the games market. Whether you're waggling a remote, tapping a touchscreen, or tilting screens left and right, when you're on a Nintendo system, you're 100% physically engaged.  Even those shy to embrace Nintendo's whimsical world of bodily nonsense are eventually suckered in. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword test the resolve of even the most adamant anti-waggle gamer, and the excellent Nintendo DS library has us all dragging styli around like they're little Weekend at Bernie's corpses! If you're a Nintendo customer, consider yourself physically engaged.  Nurturing Dependence  Nintendo has the key to the cage of some of gaming's most beloved and cherished franchises. Your inner child is Reggie Fils-Aime's bitch. Miyamoto is the way and the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Mario except through him. To get your hands on Zelda, Metroid, Kirby, and so many more, you depend entirely on so-called Big N.  Nintendo knows it, too. It knows what you like, and it knows you have nobody else to turn to. Games like Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. feed your nostalgia, remind you of happier times before you became an evil-hearted adult, and convince you to stay with Nintendo if you want to keep getting that sweet, sweet hit. One look at the dogged loyalty of Nintendo's most ardent fans will tell you this has already been achieved. They remain hopelessly in the thrall of their master, suckling at its red, cracked teats with all the gratitude of a freshly-fed dog.  We're halfway through the system, and Nintendo's three for three! Neglect Emotionally Nintendo's demonstrated its value to you. It's engaged you physically with its cool new toy. It's nurtured your dependence with the allure of childhood memories and honest-to-goodness gaming. What happens next? Wii Music happens next.  Yes folks, you've just been neglected emotionally! Satoru Iwata's band of merry men are wizards when it comes to this step, leading fans on for so long before totally cutting them off. After stringing gamers along, Nintendo does an about-face, making its press conferences and announcements all about family-friendly crap that nobody cares for. We get some maniac woman on a stage, grinning like a bargain basement Joker as she tells you she's going to put a smile on your face. We get promises of Pikmin 3, but no actual news, while other favorite franchises are completely ignored. Reggie tells us Animal Crossing is a hardcore game and can't understand why anybody's feeling shortchanged. "Nintendo has abandoned the hardcore gamer," the cry rings out, over valley and hill. My Lord, why hast thou forsaken me? The answer is clear -- Nintendo's neglecting you emotionally. Inspire Hope Wait, they just announced Pikmin 3? Holy shit, was that a new Kid Icarus? New Donkey Kong? And what's with this Wii U eShop? It's, like, actually good. Nintendo's got a new online strategy, Nintendo's promising more core games. Nintendo's back, everybody! Nintendo finally gets it.  "Nintendo finally gets it." I've honestly lost count of how many times I've read that phrase over the years. After neglecting us emotionally, Nintendo makes some announcement or presents a fresh feature that has everybody (myself included) pull a U-turn and declare that, this time, Nintendo finally understands what we want, and at last knows how to give it to us. We are relieved. We are appreciative. And then ... we bang. Separate Entirely Weeks without games. A sudden 3DS discount that pisses off everybody who supported the system early. The eShop turns out to be bereft of content and shit as always. A reality that fails utterly to live up to the promises we breathed in like sweet oxygen. And all the while, Nintendo sits there, deaf to our pleas, blind to our entreaties. It's working on something else now, and has cut its consumers loose. It's okay, though. You need not be alarmed. Nintendo will be back, next time it needs to demonstrate its value to you. And the D.E.N.N.I.S. System rises again.
D.E.N.N.I.S. System photo
It's Always Sunny at Nintendo
Earlier this week, Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto claimed his company had failed to "communicate the value" of the Wii U to consumers, a turn of phrase that struck me as quite amusing. As a fan of It's Always Sunny in Phila...

Top ten best THQ games: Remembering a giant

Jan 31 // Allistair Pinsof
Anyone who knows me, knows that I loves me strategy games. I love StarCraft, Rise of Nations, Sins of a Solar Empire, Civilization -- you name it. Company of Heroes was probably the first one that got me really into WWII from a strategy perspective. It is also one of the first games that took advantage of advanced graphics -- namely, destructible environments -- that have a huge effect on gameplay. As tank shells create craters, for example, your infantry can use the modified terrain as cover. Subtle details like that keep gameplay fun and dynamic and also provide a refreshing twist on the classic RTS. - Daniel Starkey [Take a look back at our previous Company of Heroes coverage.] Licensed games, as a general rule, tend to be rather uninspired affairs. Relic Entertainment's acclaimed Warhammer 40,000 titles fly in the face of that trend. Space Marine and the Dawn of War series are genuinely entertaining titles that pay homage to Games Workshop's license rather than abuse it. Relic has delivered quality experiences time and again, developing games capable of standing on their own merits while still providing ample amounts of fan service for the already initiated. As someone who has spent more than a fair share of hours painting miniatures and rolling dice, it's clear Relic has a great deal of reverence for the source material. Captain Titus' battle with Ork and Chaos forces on Forge World Graia brought that universe to life for me. I wish Relic the best and hope that their new overlords at Sega allow them to keep making these games for a long, long time. - Kyle MacGregor [Take a look back at our Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine review.] While the game was initially buggy, a heroic modding community has managed to make S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl into something worth celebrating; despite its dreary setting and almost constant peril, the Zone was a place that oozed life. It is a brave game both mechanically and tonally, considering no FPS has come close to what S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl attempts is slightly sad; the singular highpoint of the whole Call of Duty franchise is when the series visits Pripyat in the irradiated zone. - Alasdair Duncan [Take a look back at our S.T.A.L.K.E.R. coverage.] It feels wrong to love Saints Row 2, but it feels even worse not to. The presentation lacks polish, the writing is tasteless, the focus is aimless ... but it's so fun!  Where Saints Row made a marked improvement on the GTA series' controls, Saints Row 2 makes a remarkable improvement on almost every other level. GTAIV offered flawless presentation but boring combat; Saints Row 2 is just the opposite. It's the sandbox game I've always wanted, where nothing matters but the player having fun. Want to surf on a car for no reason?  Hell ya!  Want to ride golf carts through a mall while doing a drive-by?  YES! Even the music is awesome in this game. GTA is great but nothing compares to firing infinite rockets at cop cars while driving to Hum's "Stars". If only I could merge Saints Row 2's gameplay with GTA4's presentation and story, I'd have the greatest game ever. For now, I'll take Saints Row 2 over GTAIV.  After all, I can watch The Wire if I want inner city drama.  - Allistair Pinsof [Take a look back at the only Saints Row 2 video that matters on the internet.] Lock's Quest is one of the most unique games released on the Nintendo DS. It spices up tower defense with direct character control and RPG elements.  Long before Iron Brigade and Starhawk, Lock's Quest had players building walls and constructing turrets to later fight among them. The ability to directly control Lock on the battlefield may seem trivial at first, but it adds an entirely different prioritization element to tower defense, where Lock's location, health, and special abilities all factor into the decision making process.  As a tower defense game, it really shines in that it's not unforgiving in its difficulty, but the later levels really feel like they push you to your limits. While it's satisfying to have a great base built that easily repels the hordes of robots, it doesn't get much better than feeling all is lost only to scrape by with a well timed electrical explosion that takes out the last of the advancing enemies. Lock's Quest is pure fun, whether you are a fan of tower defense or not. - Darren Nakamura [Take a look back at our Lock's Quest review.] 50 Cent: Bulletproof was an awful waste of time. 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand, on the other hand, stands as the greatest guilty pleasure for any person who was brave enough to try it back in 2009. 50 Cent and G-Unit are playing a venue somewhere in the Middle East where his payment is in the form of a diamond skull, because why the hell not? As luck would have it, that skull is stolen and 50 Cent goes on a bullet hose rampage, destroying the country and yelling "you fucked up!" at everyone until he finds it. Because no one takes Fiddy's skull. No one. - Brett Zeidler [Take a look back at our 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand review.] Red Faction: Guerrilla is initially interesting for its building destruction mechanics. It's quite a hoot to blow up a building's support beams and watch it tumble down into pieces on top of anyone around it. I might die in the process, but it hardly matters since I'll just get a new guy and have at it again. That's when it hit me: these thoughts and ideas have a lot, perhaps too much, in common with those of terrorists. After all, the goal is to drive these uninvited invaders off of the planet, since they're only there for economic reasons. Guerrilla explores terrorism in an almost uncomfortable way, by executing it perfectly. Throwing away a life in an explosive raid is okay to do within the game, though it does make me a bit uncomfortable. And I love that. - Patrick Hancock [Take a look back at our Red Faction: Guerrilla review.] Very few games have warmed my heart like Costume Quest. There's just something about it. Although many people were quick to point out it was a very basic RPG experience, for a downloadable title it was perfect. Subtle changes to RPG tropes, like candy as currency and trick-or-treating as quests, helped showcase that the game wasn't merely a homage, but a labor of love. Combat has elements reminiscent of Super Mario RPG and exploring the whimsical world never felt like a chore. Double Fine did a great job recapturing the spirit of every child's favorite evening, and THQ did the right thing by publishing it. - Chris Carter [Take a look back at our Costume Quest review.] Until the arrival of Darksiders 2, drawing comparisons to Zelda was used interchangeably as a slight and compliment. Whether shamelessly cribbing from God of War, Portal, and Panzer Dragoon made the game stronger or not was also a point of contention. Never before had a game attempted such blatant copying of contemporary, popular games. Though some resisted Darksiders -- and still do -- for me, it showed that there is no shame in copying others when quality and holistic design come before tribute. The variety of level design comes from copying other titles, but Vigil Games is what made all the disparate parts come together in a game that continues to surprise until its end. When stripped away from its idols, you get Darksiders 2, the equivalent of a dried-out sponge. - Allistair Pinsof [Take a look back at our Darksiders review.] Some people may say that its predecessor, Saints Row 2, was a funnier and better game. These people are afraid of change. The Third is the full realization of what the series had been working towards. It is utterly ridiculous and doesn't pretend to be anything but. By doing this, the actions of the player outside of cutscenes fall in line with the character's actions within them, unlike a certain other company's open world games.The http://deckers.die mission in particular is what skyrockets this game above any other. In a single mission you become a toilet, a sex doll, use the Mega Buster, participate in a text adventure, and fight a boss that simulates lag. I truly hope that when future generations talk about the best levels in video games, deckers.die is sitting alongside the classics. - Patrick Hancock [Take a look back at our Saints Row: The Third Dildo Baseball Bat review.]
Top Ten THQ Games photo
From wrestlers to panda-suit-wearing sociopaths
When assessing a publisher's impact on the industry, we tend to focus on the highs rather than consistency. THQ was anything but consistent, putting out Nintendo DS shovelware, rushed licensed games, and taking part in one of...


Review: Pokemon Black and White 2

Oct 04 // Daniel Starkey
Pokémon Black and White 2 (Nintendo DS)Developer: Game FreakPublisher: NintendoRelease: October 7, 2012MSRP: $34.99 Playing a new Pokémon game for many people tends to be a war with their own nostalgia. Every time a new title in the core series of games is released, fans of the originals become rabid children and flock to the new game in a desperate attempt to "Catch 'em all" -- a task which gets exponentially more difficult with each generation. It's a roller coaster of sentimentality that messed with my head a bit. For the first few hours, I went back and forth between belting the Pokémon show theme song and practically yelling at the DS for not telling me what to do and where to go. BW2 needs some kind of recap feature or journal or something. NPCs will often mention to go find certain things, but it never explicitly tells me where they are. There are so many random buildings and people wandering around everywhere that it's impossible to know at first glance what is and isn't important. Important names are only in the last lines of the dialogue with NPCs and never mentioned again. I have no way to look it up, no way to find a hint, no way to get some kind of reminder, even. Every now and then, people just walk up to me and hand me items without any explanation or context. No one tells me what I need to get through which area or how, or even the general direction I should be going. Black and White had a fairly linear path. This sequel, on the other hand, seems to just send you off with all of your options apparently available, but not really showing you where you can and cannot go until you try. [embed]235932:45277[/embed] I've also noticed that it's harder to use only one Pokémon in this game. It's the first time I've ever had problems with that strategy. I'm being forced to pick up other Pokémon and use them because I simply don't have the ability to learn any decent moves.  While initially frustrating, this actually makes me glad in a way. For years I've been playing this game in a really cheap, easy, shortcut-y way and this is the first time I've seen some real effort to balance the trainer and wild Pokémon distribution in such a way that my old, rather boring strategy is totally unusable. Kudos, Game Freak. You did something right. Conniving bastards. Sucking me in again... Despite these extensive, nagging complaints, I'm really surprised at how well the core Pokémon formula continues to hold up. With minor tweaks, the basic game becomes exponentially more complex over time while simultaneously being simple enough that children can get into it and appreciate the basics. The entire game is centered around the core theme of growth and gradual maturity as well, reinforcing the appeal to younger audiences. Most people started playing Pokémon when they were young and had little agency in the world, but by tapping the dream of growing up and being more and more important within a relatively small time frame is a powerful appeal to kids. It seems then, as the Pokémon generation ages, the nostalgia is reinforced by this longing to fulfill those same childhood dreams that were planted in our minds back in the '90s. Wow. This has to be some really sick, decade-long marketing scheme ... it's genius. Maybe Nintendo and Game Freak are actually Team Rocket. If so, they've managed to create another compelling installment in the long-running franchise. Pokémon embodies the maxim "easy to learn, hard to master." Even after 15 years, I still only know a small portion of what I potentially could. While I don't have the time or the patience to dedicate to that endeavor, it's comforting to know that even in what is, ostensibly, a children's game, that if I chose to take that leap, I would have something substantive on which to land. Unfortunately, that same level of refinement and care cannot be found in the narrative. Black and White attempted to tackle several legitimate moral issues with their plot -- and they were, more or less, the first games in the series to do so. They posed a question which any legitimately moral individual inhabiting the world of Pokémon would eventually have to ask themselves: is it okay to capture small animals and force them to fight one another for sport? For most, the answer is a resounding "no." However, Black and White backed away from the implications of the very question they raised, and I'm sad to say that their sequels are no different in that regard. Normally, I could forgive Pokémon for so poorly handling a fairly legitimate moral issue, but the plot has been so deeply integrated, and spans such a large portion of the game that I really can't let it go. It feels like I have been tantalized with a potentially subversive, thought-provoking game that never appears. In that sense, Black and White 2 are clearly the products of Nintendo. The paired titles hint at so much more than they are, that when the whole journey is over, I'm left wanting what could have been. Most people won't care, though, and for those folks, Black and White 2 represent a perfectly adequate, even addictive sequel that falls a bit short short of its full potential. Then again, at some point, a giant, flying, solar-powered pirate ship shows up and freezes whole cities with an ice laser. So... take the good with the bad.
 photo

Pokémon is practically a cultural institution. Every true child of the '90s knows every word to the theme song, lost a lot of their parents' money on the trading card game, and spent many dozens of hours testing playgr...

100% Series Retrospective: Resident Evil

Oct 02 // Chris Carter
Resident Evil - PlayStation [Owned], PC, Saturn, PSN [Owned] COMPLETED Resident Evil is where it all started. Gaming legend Shinji Mikami created a game that was not only an homage to Sweet Home, but also a great survival horror companion to Alone in the Dark. Unlike most games at the time, you simply didn't know what to expect next -- literally anything could jump out and try and bite your head off. Moments like the first time you experienced zombie dogs jumping through a window, or the famous first-person Hunter scene are burned into my memory. Despite the low-budget voice acting (which only added a campy, enjoyable Evil Dead feel to it), Resident Evil is a pure classic, even today.  Resident Evil 2 - PlayStation, PC, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube, PSN [Owned] COMPLETED Resident Evil 2 took the first iteration's mansion setting, and turned it to 11. It wasn't just "The Mansion" anymore -- your playground was an entire city. Somehow, someway, Resident Evil 2 filled this city with secrets, story, and tons of character. Costume changes and hidden modes became more of a big deal, and started shaping up Resident Evil's trademark of packing in tons of content. The unique "two-disc" approach, in which the game was basically two games, was also rarely done at the time, and was a testament to the sheer undertaking that this year-and-nine-month project really was. The dynamic "Zapping System" mechanic that changed your story was pretty much unheard of at the time, and still is today. While I don't think Resident Evil 2 was as fun as the original, one thing's for sure: it's one of the most technically impressive games of all time.  Resident Evil 3 - PlayStation, PC, Dreamcast, GameCube, PSN [Owned] COMPLETED "3" was unique in that it had a big bad boss enemy stalk you the entire game -- basically right from the very beginning. It also introduced a mechanic that I was extremely grateful for, and rarely re-used: dodging. After the main game was completed, you could access the first true Mercenaries mode, entitled "Operation: Mad Jackal." RE3's variation was much more fleshed out than the prior installments' "Survivor" or "Battle Game" gametypes. Quite honestly, Mad Jackal set me up for my rabid love of the Mercenaries gametype. In fact, for a few titles, I would play Mercenaries for considerably longer than the actual core game -- Resident Evil 3 was one such example.  Resident Evil Survivor - PlayStation [Owned], PC COMPLETED My recollection of Survivor is vague at best: I remember renting it with my little brother, and beating it in an afternoon. The only specific thing I really remember about it is that it's basically Doom in Resident Evil form, and you literally cannot save the game, ever. While you're able to keep any weapons and items after death, you have to restart from the beginning if you die: considering is is around 1-3 hours, that might suck. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Survivor is what it is. It's not a terrible "lightgun game," but it isn't great, either. One of the biggest punches in the face is the fact that it feels like a straight arcade port (even though it's not) given the fact that there are no continue points. It's hard to recommend for that reason alone, but if you're a Resident Evil fanatic, you may as well track this one down.  Resident Evil Code: Veronica - Dreamcast, PlayStation 2 [Owned], GameCube, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Owned] COMPLETED Code Veronica was formerly my favorite game in the series, before REmake and RE5 came along. It was the first game to offer semi-fixed angles for the camera, instead of pre-rendered backgrounds, which was partly due to the upgrade in hardware to the PlayStation 2. It also offered a first-person view for a few weapons, and an amalgamation of various Resident Evil games, such as the 180-degree turn, upgradeable weapons, and explosive scenery. Simply put, it was just a clean, fun Resident Evil game. In the PS2 version, there were a few ham-fisted action scenes involving Wesker, but they were good fun too and helped add to the game's enjoyment. In addition to the normal game (Code: Veronica X), I completed battle mode with every character.  Resident Evil Gaiden - Game Boy Color [Owned] COMPLETED Gaiden ("side-story" in Japanese), is probably the only "bad" Resident Evil game in the entire franchise. While a few others were extremely average, Gaiden is borderline unplayable. Strangely enough, it's a top down/rhythm game hybrid -- the results are disastrous, and not even Leon and Barry can save this one. Combat is done in a turn-based game style, where contact with an enemy initiates a mini-game similar to the "field goal kick" bar from the popular Madden NFL series. To be blunt, combat just wasn't scary, and it wasn't much fun either. Resident Evil REmake - GameCube, Wii [Owned] COMPLETED RE1's GameCube REmake is possibly the best remake of all time, for any series. Capcom pulled out all the stops for this one, when they could have easily just re-released the game à la the RE GameCube collection. The graphics are updated, the voice acting is improved, and the game is overhauled so much that fans will barely recognize some parts of it (among a few new areas). The REmake offers up classic RE1 gameplay with a brand new veneer -- personally, while it's not my favorite, I think it's technically the best game in the series.  Resident Evil Zero - GameCube [Owned], Wii [Owned] COMPLETED Resident Evil Zero is one of the only games I haven't completed in the series before this Quest. While I had a GameCube, I was too busy playing other stuff at the time (including the GameCube's REmake), and just missed this one. I've heard mixed reactions -- both that it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, and that it's a solid entry to the franchise. Either way, I'm excited to jump into one this year with the Wii re-release. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: I'm not a huge fan of Zero, but that's mostly due to the two title characters involved. As the main series precursor to RE, I think Zero falls short in many respects. I didn't really feel connected to Rebecca or Billy nearly as much as I did with any previous character in the series, and considering they hardly ever make a re-appearance, I can only assume many people felt the same. I applaud Capcom for bringing us back to the Spencer Mansion and giving us a bit of insight into the mystery there, but honestly, REmake did all of this and more (I can't say enough good things about that game).  Resident Evil: Dead Aim - PlayStation 2 [Owned] COMPLETED Dead Aim is easily the best light-gun game in the series, especially for its time. Movement was shown in a third-person view like standard Resident Evil games, but it switched to first-person for shooting purposes. This basically created a hybrid shooting/adventure game that at least allowed you to pick your fights during most instances, instead of being forced to battle every single enemy on-rails. Why Capcom didn't follow this formula further, I'll never know, as it made for a really interesting game. It also offered up a few new characters that, while forgettable, show Capcom was at least trying something different instead of putting Leon and Chris into a game for the hundredth time.  Resident Evil Outbreak - PlayStation 2 [Owned] COMPLETED Outbreak was a fan's dream: for the first time, Resident Evil was truly multiplayer! You could cooperate or betray your teammates, just like a real zombie apocalypse. There were plenty of "How could you leave me behind!" and "It was both of us or one of us!" moments, and this made for a unique experience that hasn't really been matched yet, even with Left 4 Dead. Outbreak served up classic hopeless Resident Evil tension with heated multiplayer gameplay, and it's a shame so many people missed out on it (mostly due to the haphazard marketing of the PS2's HDD and Internet accessory).  Resident Evil Outbreak File #2 - PlayStation 2 [Owned] COMPLETED Strangely enough, Outbreak 2 was the first Resident Evil game to allow people to move and shoot. Since it wasn't as popular in America, however, no one really talks about it. Part of the reason for the lack of popularity was the fact that it was basically a carbon-copy of Outbreak 1, with a few different scenarios. The game added an extra communication system that allowed people to talk to one another despite the region, and a few other small additions, but it wasn't really enough to show up on most people's radars. Personally, I wasn't upset with more of the same, as I enjoyed the original Outbreak.  Resident Evil 4 - GameCube, PlayStation 2 [Owned], PC, Wii [Owned]*, iPhone [Owned], iPad, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [Owned] COMPLETED Many fans are upset at Resident Evil 4 for spearheading the series into an action-oriented direction. Personally, I see it as a natural evolution of the series. The behind-the-back camera and aiming mechanics are a much better alternative than anything previously offered, and the enemy variety lends itself well to the new direction. For whatever reason, people never seem to fault Resident Evil 4 for a more action-centric focus, instead choosing Resident Evil 5 as the sacrificial lamb. Personally, I never saw it: I was already ready for action ever since Code Veronica X. The Mercenaries mode also takes a further step forward, and offers up even more additional content than ever before -- most notably the ability to select multiple stages, and the inability to actually complete it. Resident Evil 4 was also insanely popular, and helped revitalize the series.  Resident Evil: Deadly Silence - DS [Owned] COMPLETED Deadly Silence. DS. Get it?! One of the cool things about this version of Resident Evil is that the top screen of the DS is used as a map, and a health indicator at all times. Additionally, the game is pretty much a spot-on port of the PS1 game, voice acting and all, which is pretty impressive given the DS' general lack of horsepower. It also has a multiplayer mode; it's kind of weak, given that you and your friends never actually see each other in different parts of the mansion, but it's a free addition nonetheless. To differentiate this playthrough from my original RE run, I'm playing the "REbirth mode," which adds a ton of unique first-person action scenes, and DS-centric additions/re-arrangements. Even though the game is basically a port, touch screen-specific puzzles and changes are enough to justify another playthrough here. All in all, Deadly Silence is about what you'd expect out of an above average portable port, and a solid addition to any RE fan's collection.  Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles - Wii [Owned], PlayStation 3 COMPLETED Umbrella Chronicles is an on-rails shooter for the Wii. That's about all I can say about it, honestly, before I head into this one. It doesn't take a whole lot of effort or time to complete it, and cooperative gameplay is kind of shoe-horned in. Thankfully, it has a decent amount of unlockable content. While I have played Umbrella Chronicles, I haven't tackled it as much as Darkside Chronicles, so I'll be sure and post extended thoughts below. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: If you like light-gun games, be sure and check this one out. It offers pretty standard, enjoyable light-gun arcade-y fun over the backdrop of a few past Resident Evil titles. Umbrella Chronicles is a good way to get a refresher for Resident Evil Zero, Resident Evil 1, and Resident Evil 3. Although, despite how fun it can be, I'd highly recommend playing it with a partner, as it enhances the enjoyment tenfold. Resident Evil 5 - Xbox 360 [Owned], PlayStation 3 [Owned], PC COMPLETED I make it no secret that Resident Evil 5 is my favorite game of all time (emphasis on personal favorite). The day I got it at midnight, I took off work the next day, and beat it sometime in the morning. The next day, my wife and I started a co-op campaign that would last about a week -- after that, I grinded through another playthrough to get some cash for extra weapons; I just couldn't get enough. To put it simply, I think RE5 is the most fun game in the entire series. There's a hefty campaign, tons of extra content, co-op, and for the first time, there's co-op Mercenaries -- what more could you want? I literally played RE5 for months on end, and ate up all the DLC possible. I can't say enough good things about this game. For my 2012 playthrough, I'm either going to tackle the PlayStation Move version of the game, or replay it with my wife. Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles - Wii [Owned], PlayStation 3 COMPLETED Darkside Chronicles is a considerable improvement upon Umbrella Chronicles. There's a new evade move and it offers a dynamic difficulty setting, along with an improved co-op mode. Like the other light-gun titles in the series, Darkside Chronicles is basically a love-it-or-hate-it kind of game. It doesn't really offer a whole lot more than most other on-rail shooters. If you're a Resident Evil fan, however, you may want to put up with it just for the extra story bits. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Out of the two light-gun Wii titles, Darkside Chronicles is the better game; especially for two players. The developers make a much better effort to accommodate co-op play, and the new mechanics make gameplay smoother. You also get crucial backstory on Leon and Krauser, which helps make Resident Evil 4's Krauser encounters that much more enjoyable. If you have to choose one of the two Wii light-gun games, make it Darkside -- but getting both isn't a bad idea.  Resident Evil: Deck Building Game - [Owned] COMPLETED If you haven't played a deck-building game before, the concept is pretty simple. There are a bunch of stacks of static cards in the center of the play area. You have one giant deck, of which you draw five cards at a time from. With those five cards, you can perform a number of actions depending on what you randomly drew -- you can buy cards from the middle or perform actions to either draw more cards or modify your deck. Resident Evil's deck-building variant adds another new concept: fighting infected. On any given turn, you're allowed one buy, one action, and one "exploration" that allows you to take a door card and explore the Spencer Mansion. In the mansion you can find items or battle infected for trophies -- depending on the gametype, the player with the most trophies (kills) wins. I've played a number of deck-building games before such as Dominion, but Resident Evil is one of my favorites. Each player gets assigned a unique character that changes your abilities, which helps add to the characterization and uniqueness of the game. Also, it's a delight to take down the Nemesis with a bunch of knife cards as Krauser. Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D - 3DS [Owned] COMPLETED Mercenaries 3D is a very niche title. If you love the Mercenaries mini-games from other titles, you may like Mercs 3D. If you loathe them -- well, that's kind of the entire game here. Mercs 3D made waves in the gaming community at release due to the inability to delete saves, and its incredibly short length (it can be beaten in a few hours). It also had a few other problems like the short draw distance, among other graphical glitches. Personally, I thought the game was acceptable, and played it for quite a while before putting it down. While it may seem like a cash grab at first, there are a decent amount of scenarios included, and Mercs fanatics will be sure to come back to it occasionally.  Resident Evil: Revelations - 3DS [Owned] COMPLETED Did the mysteriously abandoned Resident Evil PSP game end up as Revelations? Does it really matter at this point? Early previews are calling this "one of the best Resident Evils in a long time, and possibly the best Resident Evil ever." The demo is great, the visuals are great, and there's really no reason to doubt this entry, despite the fact that it's on a portable. I plan on getting this game day one and ripping through it in a few days. I'll be sure and post my thoughts after completion. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: After playing the final release, I felt like the demo was a bait and switch of sorts. The fact of the matter is, without going into spoiler territory, at least half of the game is not the tight-knit claustrophobic experience the demo made it out to be. A lot of Revelations is spent with an AI partner clunking around, or in open areas fighting non-stop enemies in a full-out actionfest -- the switch between the Cruise Ship sections and everywhere else is jarring, and the story isn't the greatest to boot. Thankfully, the game looked great, controlled great, and Raid Mode is pretty fun solo or with a friend. I hope that Capcom puts this new engine to good use, and expands upon a lot of concepts with Revelations. It's not one of my favorite Resident Evil games for sure, but it's not bad, either.  Resident Evil Game Boy Color - Game Boy Color ROM [Owned] COMPLETED This previously unreleased title has finally been given to the public by an anonymous source. While it evidently isn't possible to beat the game in its current state, I'll still attempt to complete as much as possible. Up until 2012, no one has had a chance to play this missing piece of history, so I'm pretty excited to see what we've been missing all these years. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Considering Resident Evil GBC is only available as a free ROM, you aren't really risking anything financially to try it. There isn't a whole lot to say about this one that can't really be said by looking at the screenshot above. It's a very simplistic version of Resident Evil, distilled into a tiny cartridge-size package. The ROM isn't complete, but at least you can get a taste of this lost game. While it isn't ideal, I would have salivated at the prospect of a portable Resident Evil game for car trips as a child.  Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City - Xbox 360 [Owned], PlayStation 3, PC COMPLETED I honestly have no idea what to expect from Raccoon City. I'm not the biggest fan of Slant Six, and I'm not too keen on the possible idea of shooting down Resident Evil's heroes and heroines. Additionally, based on rumors, the game may not have a split-screen mode, which would hinder my ability to play with my wife. Regardless, I'll be picking up Raccoon City this year on my 360, and I'm eager to see what it can offer to the series. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Raccoon City is a disappointment. While fun, the game has a heap of issues, from online stability, to numerous gamebreaking glitches. Players have been known to fall through the floor, turn into ghosts, and all sorts of other mishaps. It's a shame, because for Resident Evil fans, the game is a fun little romp through the events of Resident Evil 2 and 3. You get to see pretty much every major monster from the series (Nemesis included!), and some familiar faces like Birkin, Leon, and Hunk. If done correctly -- and possibly as canon -- this could have been a really worthwhile entry into the franchise. As it stands, it's a hard recommendation  Resident Evil 6 - Xbox 360 [Owned], PlayStation 3, PC COMPLETED I could not be more excited for Resident Evil 6. From the rumors offered so far, it looks to have a full Mercenaries mode with multiplayer, story mode co-op, and a single-player campaign without an AI partner. In short, it apparently offers more content than RE5. I'm excited for the new setting, and hopefully the story will be interesting this time around without Wesker (presumably, provided he isn't cloned). Although the series is decidedly more action-oriented, there are also rumors of more claustrophobic areas and slower-moving zombies having a part in RE6 -- if they can do it right, I say bring it on. EXTENDED THOUGHTS: Despite my initial excitement, over time, I came into Resident Evil 6 expecting to be disappointed. I had heard so many bad things from my friends and colleagues who have played it at various events like E3 and TGS. I had personally bought Dragon's Dogma primarily for early access to the Resident Evil 6 demo, and came away fairly unimpressed. I played the Resident Evil 5 demo for hours on end (over twenty hours in fact) -- with the Resident Evil 6 demo, I literally played it once and deleted it. So with all this in mind, I came into Resident Evil 6 very skeptical, and left mostly impressed. Mostly. Spreading apart all three (four, if you count Ada) stories was a ballsy move. With Resident Evil 5, it was enjoyable to play as Chris and Sheva the entire game, as the story wasn't all over the place, and you were grounded in both characters, which made it easy to learn their nuances and melee abilities. With Resident Evil 6, you're jumping all over the place at times, and it can be jarring. Not only does every character handle differently, but everyone has a different UI to boot. Given the mostly fast-paced action the game spews at you constantly, design choices like the inability to pause the game in co-op just feel weird, as do QTEs that only involve one player, wrapped up in such unexciting things as starting a car. Still, I found myself enjoying the game the more I played it. (I'm talking ten hours of learning the nuances of combat). I'll fully admit, Mercenaries -- which you all know I'm a giant fan of -- really helped me grasp said nuances much quicker than the campaign, and bolstered my enjoyment tenfold. As you can see in this video, combat is more than meets the eye in Resident Evil 6. There's sliding, counters, quick-shotting, and contextual melee moves. It's like a complex fighting game in a sense, but integrated into one of my favorite franchises of all time. Naturally, since it's done well, I'm enjoying myself. RE6 also has a ton of content provided that you're ready to embrace the action-oriented gameplay (which has been a staple since RE4). There's an Ada campaign, a handful of online modes, a meta-game involving skill XP in both the campaign and Mercenaries, tons of unlocks and some costumes for Mercs, and more. Like RE5, there's enough here to keep you playing well into 2013. While it isn't one of my favorite games in the franchise by far, I think it's a fairly solid action game (what immediately comes to mind is my opinion of Skyward Sword: great action-RPG, alright Zelda game). Just like RE5, your mileage will vary depending on how fun your co-op partner is -- just know, however, that the co-op AI is not nearly as frustrating as Sheva was. Collection Photo:  Final thoughts: The Resident Evil series has certainly had its ups and downs. From its horror roots to a metamorphosis of action to the chagrin of many fans, everyone has to admit that the franchise is interesting, if nothing else. As a whole, I found myself not enjoying this Quest nearly as much as the other ones, and I can't really put my finger on why, as I still like the series overall. While I was truly eager to rip into Tony Hawk, Kingdom Hearts, and Zelda almost immediately, I took a long break in between some of the games here, as I found it fairly tough to continue on. Perhaps it's because of the slow-moving nature of many of the earlier games, and when played in rapid succession, it can get a bit grating? I don't know for sure. Thankfully, the multiplayer iterations kept me going, as it was a blast to, well, blast away the undead with my wife or with a friend.    
100% Resident Evil photo
Carter's Quest
[Read on for a description of every Resident Evil game ever released in the US, and my completion of them all in 2012.] Why Resident Evil? This year, Capcom is pushing out three entirely new Resident Evil games -- it's also t...

TGS: Level-5 discuss its partnership with Studio Ghibli

Sep 20 // Allistair Pinsof
Akihiro Hino, Level-5 president and general director of Ni no Kuni, said he looks up to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. Even as a creative partner, he couldn’t keep himself from geeking out when they met. “I met him a couple times over the course of the project and even asked to take pictures for a keepsake,” Hino said. When he first approached Ghibli, the animation studio was still working on Howl’s Moving Castle. The stars wouldn’t align for a partnership until years later, after Level-5 made a blueprint for the story and game. “Regardless, we talked on a very casual basis and were very friendly,” Hino said. “Miyazaki can seem tough as a director, but as a person he is a very nice man. As a creator, [working on the game] was a very emotional experience that I treasure very much.” After Ni no Kuni came out on the DS in late 2010, many RPG fans in the West expected it was only a matter of time until it came overseas. Yet, that day never came. Some assumed it was due to it not having an audience or Level-5 being too busy localizing other games -- they are, after all, always years behind on bringing the Layton games over. But, nope, it was none of these things. It was because of the darn book that came with the game. “It was too difficult to package it with the book and sell it overseas. That was the biggest reason why it wasn’t brought overseas,” Hino said, adding that translating the virtual book for the PlayStation 3 entry wasn’t a cakewalk. “In all honesty there are instances where I regret including the book but it’s a bridge connecting the imaginary world to the real world in Ni no Kuni. It did take a lot of time to localize because we put a lot of care into it, but reading the book itself will help you grasp the world of Ni no Kuni.” Studio Ghibli didn’t simply dump assets into Level-5’s FTP folder and call it a day. Game director Ken Motomura said he worked with Ghibli every day, swapping storyboards, directing motion capture, and reviewing how things turned out in post-production. Hino worked with Ghibli on the staging and theatrical direction of the game’s dialog and animated sequences. “We couldn’t have reached this universe on our own,” Hino said. The staging and artistic elements of the project brought the most hardship to the project, from Level-5’s side. It was a learning experience, according to Hino. The small elements Level-5 often ignored in a scene suddenly were examined with an animator’s eye by Ghibli. A pristine stack of dishes in the background of one scene suddenly became a more detailed, messy background element that made the world feel more realistic and lived-in. If given a chance, Level-5 would love to make Laputa: Castle in the Sky into a videogame. Wouldn’t that be something? Too bad it’s not their call. “Personally, I’d love to work on bringing existing Ghibli properties to games but it’s up to them,” Hino said. “I’d personally like to pursue and hopefully negotiate over the course of years [to come].” Here's hoping that Ni no Kuni does well enough internationally so that day may come soon rather than not at all.
 photo

Despite being one of the biggest influences on Japanese game development, we are only now getting a videogame out of Studio Ghibli. I am grateful that Ghibli chose to partner with Level-5, but I am also curious as to why a...

Review: Theatrhythm Final Fantasy

Jul 02 // Jim Sterling
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (Nintendo 3DS)Developer: indieszeroPublisher: Square Enix Released: July 3, 2012 MSRP: $39.99 Theatrhythm Final Fantasy pilfers from some of the most beloved soundtracks in videogame history to create a tribute to the music that has brought thirteen games to life. Starting with the very first Final Fantasy released in 1987 right up to 2009's Final Fantasy XIII, every current main installment in the franchise has been accounted for. Most of them appear in their original context, too, complete with whatever glorified MIDI sounds or full orchestras they may bring to the table.  There is a loosely defined plot that involves a battle between Order and Chaos, as the player is charged with collecting "Rhythmia" as a reward for successfully completing challenges. Yes, the same waffling plot details and pretentiously invented words that infest latter-day Final Fantasy are present, though the story is left (thankfully) light. The aim of the game is simply to keep playing it until you've gathered enough Rhythmia, automatically unlocking a final track that serves as a battle against Chaos himself.  The game is started by creating a party of four characters, made up of protagonists from each of the Final Fantasy chapters (though supporting cast members can be unlocked through play). Each character has a unique set of stats that are useful for different songs, and can be equipped with abilities or items that may help the player out during a song such as avoiding losing health for failure, getting rarer items, etcetera. As the party gains levels, their stats improve and they access new abilities, which can be crucial when taking on trickier tunes.  [embed]230537:44255[/embed] There are three modes of play: Series, Challenge, and Chaos Shrine. Series mode takes three tracks from each Final Fantasy game and tasks the player with completing them sequentially, while Challenge is a "free play" mode which allows the songs beaten in Series to be replayed at higher difficulty levels. Chaos Shrine is by far the most interesting of modes, as it unlocks short sequences of two randomly generated songs. These two-song challenges, called Dark Notes, come in varying degrees of difficulty and can be unlocked either by beating previous Notes or collecting new ones via StreetPass.  The songs themselves come in three distinct challenge types, based on their contextual use in the games they come from, although the way the player interacts with them remains largely the same. Essentially, triggers appear on the screen, and must be hit with the stylus when they pass through a circular marker. Red triggers simply require the stylus to be tapped, gold triggers have arrows which require the stylus to be swiped in a certain direction, and green triggers demand the stylus be held on the touchscreen until they've fully passed through the marker. The game takes a lot of influence from both Elite Beat Agents and Gitaroo Man, although it is not quite as intense as either of those games.  The way triggers and the marker behave are defined by the type of song being played. Field Music (drawn mostly from FF's world maps) has triggers flow from left to right as a party member walks through an environment. Hidden items can be encountered along the way, and hitting special triggers can unlock a Chocobo, which rides through the field area at high speeds. The twist in Field levels is the fact that green triggers aren't just straight lines, and the stylus will need to be moved up and down in order to stay on the path.  Battle Music features the entire party, whose members successfully hit monsters every time a trigger is successfully activated. The aim is to defeat enough monsters to see how far the party can get and, hopefully, kill a special boss creature. There's no penalty for playing through the entire song and failing to beat the boss, but there are rewards for a party strong enough to terminate the Safer Sephiroths and Gilgameshes that might appear. Finally, there's Event music, which plays a movie from a game's most famous scenes in the background and moves the marker across a pre-built track populated by triggers.  At first, the game seems fairly uninteresting. The "Series" mode of basic challenges aren't difficult at all, and progression feels very basic and sparse. It doesn't help that the game's end-of-level statuses and menus are a pain in the ass to sit through every single time a song is beaten. One's first impression of Theatrhythm is that of a repetitive and dull game, featuring very little interaction and feeling like a destitute man's answer to Elite Beat Agents.  Fortunately, however, things heat up when the Challenge and Dark Shrine modes open. Playing songs at higher difficulty levels really makes the game come alive, as triggers move fast and depend upon some deft stylus-swiping. As high levels of challenge open up, the requirement to pick a good party becomes evermore crucial, as the ability to deal extra damage or heal the player's health bar gradually reveal themselves to be essential components of success. The game adds a little artificial difficulty, it must be said, by randomly switching the triggers to match the music's melody or rhythm at any given time, but a cool head and a strong party ought still to prevail.  The Dark Shrine has the most potential as it contains more than just the three songs per game featured in other modes. Here, rare tunes can be discovered, such as "JENOVA" or "Mambo de Chocobo," and the idea of never knowing what you'll get next can be pretty enthralling. The concept of sharing Dark Notes via Street Pass gives the mode a "collect 'em all" feeling that makes it stand out from the static Series and Challenge modes, and theoretically there is a ton of replay value on offer. Theoretically being the operative word.  As is the unfortunate nature of Chaos Shrine, the randomized tunes means that a lot of the same songs will come up time and time again, and after you've played "The Sunleth Waterscape" for the fifth time, progress starts to feel disheartening. It's wonderful to uncover a brand new song, but it doesn't take long for such happy moments to become far-flung and sparsely encountered, while the boredom of playing the same old tracks creeps in. Since this mode is the only way to access songs outside the limited pool presented in Series mode, it asks a lot of patience and needs a high tolerance for hearing identical tunes over and over -- a boon in the case of "Battle of the Big Bridge," not so much in the case of anything from Final Fantasy XIII.  Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is a fun and engaging game for as long as the freshness of the experience lasts, but it doesn't last very long. The amount of repetition relied upon indicates that there's not a great deal of content on offer, while tunes have been held back to sell as downloadable content. As 3DS and PS Vita games face ever stiffer, considerably cheaper competition from mobile devices, these games need to be providing a shedload of content to justify their high asking prices, and as good a game as Theatrhythm is, a shedload of content is what it does not have.  All things considered, it is still a good game. It's well crafted, it's bursting with rose-tinted memories, and the average Final Fantasy fan will be unable to play it without goosebumps. While the songs can replay far too many times, there is at least a lot to unlock for the highly dedicated. New party members, stronger abilities, and a range of party-aiding items can be uncovered through continuous play; defeating Chaos simply reveals end credits, rather than terminating the game entirely. Still, the threat of boredom is always there, and it's highly advised that the game be played in short bursts to minimize the feeling of treading water.  Theatrhythm Final Fantasy is beautiful and charming in many respects, but an absolute drudgery in others. At the end of the day, though, unlocking that track from Final Fantasy IX that you just hoped would be there is a special kind of fun that fans will live for. It's just a shame that such fun is not consistent and frequent enough to truly make this the memorable experience it deserves to be.
 photo

Square Enix isn't shy about a Final Fantasy spin-off, always ready to milk the franchise a little more in the name of nostalgia and profit. It is surprising, then, that it's taken the publisher so long to exploit one of the m...

E3: Hands-on with Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion

Jun 08 // Chad Concelmo
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion was inspired by the classic Mickey platformer Castle of Illusion for the Genesis. This inspiration shows from the minute you start the game. The graphics -- while obviously improved for the slick 3DS -- look very similar. Even the animation and controls are very reminiscent of the original classic ... but I am getting ahead of myself. Not much is known about the story in Power of Illusion, but, as in Castle, Mickey is tasked with journeying through multiple Disney-themed worlds to put an end to the evil witch Mizrabel (who looks eerily similar to Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty). Along the way -- and this is the best part -- he will run into and rescue many Disney characters from different movies and TV shows. Seeing these awesome characters in the game was both surprising and exciting. As a huge Disney fan, I squealed with happiness when I found Scrooge McDuck and smiled when I talked to Rapunzel. The whole gang is included, and the game's creative director, Peter Ong, promises there are many, many appearances in the final game. To control, players use the slide pad or D-pad to move Mickey around the screen. Jumping is done with one button, and, like, Castle, a stomp is performed by hitting the jump button once again. You can also shoot paint and paint thinner projectiles by pushing the attack button. These controls, while very similar to Castle of Illusion, are only the very tip of the amazing iceberg. Like its console Epic Mickey counterparts, in Power of Illusion, Mickey can use paint or thinner to draw objects or take them away. This is done using the touch screen of the 3DS. When an object can be interacted with, it will appear glowing in the map on the bottom screen. By tapping this, a "paint" screen will be shown. In this screen, players will have to "paint," or outline, the object to make it appear, or erase it with the thinner to make it disappear. While only a few levels were shown in the demo, this technique was used to fantastic effect. Sometimes it was simple, just having to erase a vine blocking your path or painting a block to stand on. Other times things were more complicated. In one section, a series of cannons was on the screen that Mickey could launch himself with. Some cannons needed to be painted and some needed to be erased in order to form the perfect path to move on to a high platform. Since the action pauses when painting, some of the cannons had to be painted while in mid-flight. It made the sequence not just about strategy, but timing as well. To add more detail to a constantly deepening game, the painting mechanic is graded on how good of a job you do with painting the items. The better you do, the better rewards you get. For example, if you paint a stone column perfectly, fewer enemies will attack in the next section. If you do a bad job, more enemies may be waiting for you further on in the level. In addition, special painted objects can be found, unlocked, and carried with you throughout the game. As in Metroid, these acquired powers can be used at any time and help you access hidden areas and defeat enemies. In the demo, you could carry two special objects. One was a "Thwomp"-like enemy that would crush anything underneath it (even Mickey!). By drawing it anywhere on the screen, the monster will slam down and destroy anything underneath it. This is very helpful in defeating enemies that may be a little out of reach or guarding a tough platforming section. And, again, if you paint it perfectly, the enemy is more powerful and slams to the ground more times. The other item was a chest that would release helpful items such as money, more paint, or helpful hearts. The graphics and animation in the game are truly wonderful. DreamRift's other games -- Henry Hatsworth and Monster Tale -- have very similar, 16-bit retro graphics, but Power of Illusion seems to look even better! It's hard to tell in the screenshots, but parallax scrolling is in full effect, with backgrounds and gorgeous out-of-focus foregrounds looking incredible. And seeing this all in 3D makes everything look even more colorful and stunning. If this was the entire game, it would be great. But there is so much more! After rescuing the numerous Disney characters, they will return to your castle and find shelter in one of many rooms. These rooms can be upgraded to look more and more like scenes from the characters' respective universes. For example, I upgraded Scrooge McDuck's room and it was a perfect recreation of his office from DuckTales (complete with giant vault door!). And these upgrades aren't just aesthetic. After fully upgrading, characters will help out Mickey on his quest! Some may open a shop to sell helpful items, others may offer new powers, and others will assign side missions that can be completed for even more fun rewards! There is so much to do in Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion and so much to gush over. It truly is a beautiful game with fun gameplay, clever mechanics, and many surprising Disney appearances. I can't wait for Power of Illusion. As a fan of both retro 2D platformers and Disney, this game is a dream come true.
 photo

I haven't made a final decision as to what my favorite game at E3 2012 is yet, but Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion for the 3DS is right up there. When DreamRift's game was announced a couple of months ago, I was shocked. Inste...

 photo

It's a bit odd for me to be the one recapping Nintendo's E3 2012 press conference, because I totally missed it. But, looking over what news has come out, I think I know how it went down. There was a guy with abs, Reggie got z...

Why does New Super Mario Bros. 2 look so bland?

May 28 // Tony Ponce
[Image by Orioto] Three years ago, I wrote an article entitled "Inconstancy in the Mario universe," in which I compared the various Mario platformers and analyzed the themes that I felt each best expressed. The environments have such a beautiful whimsy about them, and that essence trickles down and permeates every other aspect of the games. The original Super Mario Bros. introduces us to the fantastic wonderland that is the Mushroom Kingdom. Super Mario Bros. 2 flips the script and sends us to Subcon, a dream world where all our preconceived notions are challenged. Super Mario Bros. 3, with its checkerboard and wavy line motif, is a stage production littered with props. Super Mario World takes us to Dinosaur Land, populated by tough reptilian baddies yet tempered by very colorful, geometric backgrounds. The Game Boy games likewise stand out in their own way, as do the later 3D-roaming romps. Not even direct spin-offs like Wario Land and Yoshi's Island are content to rehash. In terms of pure visual design, there is no consistent template. Each game features drastically altered sprites, worlds, music, enemies, and so forth, all while retaining that quintessential "Mario-ness." Very few videogame franchises, especially ones that are over two decades old, have been able to embrace variety so effectively. I consider 2005's New Super Mario Bros. as somewhat of an anomaly; as an overall package, its purpose was to reignite the same passion we felt when we played Super Mario Bros. back in 1985. Do I consider it as striking, visually or otherwise, as other Mario platformers? No, but as a reintroduction to the 2D action that had been absent for over a decade, it served its purpose. Certainly, I had hoped, New Super Mario Bros. would be the start of a new generation of inspired variety. Nintendo's E3 2009 conference raised the first red flags. Two new Mario games were presented that day: New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy 2. Let me address the latter first. Not since The Lost Levels has there been a direct thematic Mario sequel -- think along the lines of Final Fantasy X-2 or XIII-2. As amazing as the first Galaxy was, did we really need another one? I must admit, I was quite worried about how fresh Galaxy 2 would feel, considering that it was originally conceived as an expansion pack of sorts. My fears were allayed by the polish of the end product. Mario visited completely new planets, acquired imaginative new powers, and soared the stars to one of the greatest game soundtracks ever composed. This was no retread. Crisis averted. But Galaxy 2 is a 3D game, and comparing 2D and 3D Marios is like comparing two completely different series. For the more classical sensibilities, New Super Mario Bros. Wii was also waiting in the pipeline. And just as Galaxy 2 gave me reason to pause, I wouldn't blame anyone who saw the New Super Mario Bros. Wii reveal and thought it looked like a hi-res port of the DS game. Remember how for months, many gamers, those who consider themselves on the pulse of the industry, honestly thought it was just a multiplayer version of NSMB? Is it really their fault for not paying close enough attention, or should Nintendo shoulder some of the blame for making a game that, at a casual glance, looks exactly like what folks thought it looked like? This was Mario's grand side-scrolling return to a home console, yet it was hampered by its very deliberate association with an earlier handheld title. After playing through NSMB Wii, I was disappointed that, yes, the graphics are indeed higher-polygon, better-textured versions of the assets found in NSMB. There were no sweeping visual or thematic changes, as I've come to expect from a new Mario platformer. The worlds -- Grass, Desert, Ice, Beach, Forest, Mountains, Sky, and Fire -- are identical to those from the DS game and are even visited in nearly the same order. The backgrounds, colors, architecture, it's all the same! Where are the bizarre locales, like Giant Land and Pipe Land from Super Mario Bros. 3, or Pumpkin Zone and Mario Zone from Super Mario Land 2? Where is the imagination? Fast-forward to the present, is New Super Mario Bros. 2 the big update we've been waiting for? With a scant four screenshots to go by, the jury is still out until E3, but the present evidence doesn't paint a rosy picture. I'm looking at the same Grass, Desert, Ice, and Forest environments from the last two games, only now Mario is rocking the Raccoon Tail, a reveal marred by the fact that it was already used as a hook for Super Mario 3D Land. Nintendo must have forgotten that it already played that trump card. Three games in and this sub-series is failing to live up to the "New" in its moniker. I fondly recall the ever-more elaborate sprite work, rich colors, and inspired designs from one Mario to the next, yet modern Nintendo insists on sticking to a very safe, very clinical, 2.5D polygonal style that evokes none of the spirit of the old days. You don't have to be a nostalgia junkie to notice the lack of effort. The above are the four NES-era Marios laid side by side. With the exception of The Lost Levels -- it gets a pass for being the second Super Mario ever made -- each is visually distinct from one another. In fact, if someone who had never played a Mario before looked at these screens, he or she would most likely infer that they are associated with different games. The most remarkable thing about this comparison is the technical and artistic progression. The original may not be the most basic NES game in existence, but it ranks pretty low. In Japan, Super Mario Bros. 3 was released a mere three years later, yet the difference is staggering. It's sometimes hard to believe they all ran on the same hardware. The above are the three "New" titles. Wouldn't even a seasoned gamer have trouble telling the games apart from a quick glance? You'd have to know what to look for specifically, which requires a more careful observation. Oh sure, the original sports a much lower resolution, but the visual uniformity is readily apparent. And unlike the NES games, these all run on different hardware. You'd assume that Nintendo would feel some impetus to mitigate confusion. There is one more "New" game I failed to mention: New Super Mario Bros. Mii. A remixed version of NSMB Wii with the ability to play as (duh!) Miis, it was among the Wii U "experiences" present at last year's E3. How does it stack up visually? Take a guess! Which is Wii and which is Mii? Hard to tell without other Miis running around, huh? To be fair, NSMB Mii wasn't pitched as an actual Wii U title. However, there will be a Wii U Mario title, and it's rumored to be based upon Mii. How different will it be? How much will remain the same? We won't know until E3, but you'll have to excuse me if I'm not brimming with confidence. As much as I lament the visual conformity, I miss the attention to the finer details even more so. There are some elements you don't notice until they are gone or altered, but once they are, you feel a slight disturbance. For example, you would be surprised at how something as simple as the end-of-level markers can have punctuate a game's spirit and ideals. In the original Mario, you jump on a flagpole and get the flag. In 2, you lift a crystal ball and enter a bird's mouth. In 3, you run off the set and grab a flashing card. In World, you jump through a gate, timing it just right to hit the bar and earn the chance to enter a bonus stage. In Land 1, you aim for the higher of two doorways in order to enter the bonus stage. In Land 2, you try to ring the out-of-reach bell to enter the bonus stage. In New Super Mario Bros., you... jump and get the flag. In New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you... jump and get the flag. In New Super Mario Bros. Mii, you... jump and get the flag. Even in the non-"New" Super Mario 3D Land, you jump and get the flag. We have yet to see a full stage run of New Super Mario Bros. 2, but I guarantee that you'll finish a level by jumping to get a flag. We get it, Nintendo. You guys really like your flagpoles. Care to mix it up a bit? When it comes to Mario's 2D adventures, Nintendo doesn't want to push the envelope anymore. I do not deny that the newer games at their core still contain a few sparks of brilliance, but it's almost as though the company is just running through the motions because it can score 20 million sales without a sweat. This is a rant about visuals, but please spare me the "gameplay over graphics" rhetoric. I know, it's odd to hear me say that. Nonetheless, when you are the leading name in a genre, the standard against which all others are measured, it's all the more important to make a good first impression. It's like how we're told to "dress for success" when coming to work -- if you don't take care of your physical appearance, how can anyone be certain that you aren't slacking in other areas? As I said in the beginning, it's a trickle-down effect; it'll eventually take its toll on other key areas, "gameplay" included. In an age when 2D platformers are marginalized as cheaper, less-rewarding products, no one should be allowed to coast on past successes. You only have to see a game like Rayman Origins in motion to feel cheated that the venerable Mario is not being raised to that same standard. C'mon, Nintendo! Step up!
 photo

When the first screenshots for New Super Mario Bros. 2 were revealed last month, I had this crazy notion that Nintendo discovered a way to add DLC to NSMB on the DS. It wasn't until I saw that big "2" that I realized it was a...

Nintendo to offer retail releases digitally on 3DS, Wii U

Apr 26 // Conrad Zimmerman
It all sounds good, but when's the last time you saw a markdown on a Nintendo product? Which leads me to another point, that this doesn't specify whether third-party publishers will be able to release their games in a similar manner on these platforms. It sounds like the sort of thing you wouldn't have to ask about but I gave up long ago thinking that common sense thinking applied to Nintendo. Still, progress! Financial Results Briefing for Fiscal Year Ended March 2012 p.4 [Nintendo] [Image]
 photo

In Nintendo's year-end fiscal reports briefing, released tonight, the company lays out its future plans for digital distribution. Starting with New Super Mario Bros. 2, Nintendo will begin offering its retail packaged 3DS gam...

 photo

Straight from tonight's Nintendo Direct stream comes New Super Mario Bros. 2, available this August for 3DS. Mario appears to have a gold transformation of sorts, and the Raccoon Leaf makes a PROPER return, as in Mario can actually use it to FLY. Take that, 3D Land! This is just the first bit of news from the stream. Expect more throughout the night and possibly tomorrow.

Review: Kid Icarus: Uprising

Mar 19 // Jim Sterling
Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)Developer: Project SoraPublisher: NintendoReleased: March 23, 2012MSRP: $39.99 Kid Icarus: Uprising does a lot of great things. Its lighthearted story full of camp characters, shameless self-references, and constant desire to break the fourth wall is entertaining and often amusing. The sheer wealth of content is impressive, with a full-fledged campaign, multiplayer options, and additional content. There's also a brilliant difficulty adjustment system, allowing you to make precise tweaks to the "intensity" of a level in exchange for more rewards. There's so much to love about Uprising, and that's why it's so distressing that over 50 percent of it is actively unpleasant to play. Each stage of the solo campaign is split into two rough halves: a flying section and an on-foot section. Both segments of the stage control about the same, using the analog nub to directly maneuver Pit, the stylus to move a targeting reticule onscreen, and the left trigger to handle attacks. Holding down the trigger will see Pit spew a consistent payload of firepower, while pausing between shots sends out a more powerful attack. Due to the awkward button layout, it's almost essential that the included stand be used, as it allows for far more comfortable play. However, due to the static position of the system, the 3D will likely need to be turned off completely. I find myself often repositioning the 3DS in my hands to keep the 3D focused, but when it's fixed in place on a desk, I have to stay hunched over to get it to look good. It's easier to just switch it off.  The flying sections are rather enjoyable to play through, thanks to the more streamlined combat and automatic flight path so that players simply move to avoid enemy attacks. While repetitive after a while, the first half of each level is a simple rail shooter affair that marries fast-paced action to some truly stunning visuals, providing a rather inspired rollercoaster ride through Uprising's imaginative, colorful world. If the entire game had been like this, I'd have hailed it as one of the best handheld games of all time. [embed]224073:43111[/embed] However, half the game is not like this, and I even suspect that more of the game is played on the ground than in the air. These sections are horrible, due to a control scheme that simply does not work for the type of third-person combat that Project Sora insisted on using. As with flight, the nub moves Pit, the touchscreen aims, and the trigger fires. However, due to more direct control over Pit, Uprising attempts to squeeze more actions out of the limited input, and the result is an absolute mess. The touchscreen controls the camera as well as the targeting, meaning players constantly have to stroke the screen in order to get a bead on targets or see where to go next. The nub not only moves Pit around at a stuttering pace, but also controls all of his dodging. If you want to dodge, you must move the nub quickly in a given direction, and you can keep it in place to make him run. If you just want him to walk, you must carefully slide the nub, otherwise he'll sprawl over the floor before sprinting off. Now, keep in mind that the nub is rather sensitive and that heavy combat situations don't lend themselves well to precise, methodical movement. Also keep in mind that a vast number of levels feature very thin platforms with plenty of gaping chasms. While we're at it, you might like to know that Pit can only dodge or run for a few seconds before getting winded and stopping to have a breather, even if you accidentally dodged one too many times or if he keeps running when you just want him to walk. Oh, and "walking" consists of this awful hopping motion that's about as unwieldy as a survival horror protagonist from two generations ago. Now, imagine how tempting it is to toss one's 3DS, with the cart still in it, under a train when all this collides in one metaphysical sphere of torment. This is the overwhelming feeling that almost every stage in Uprising leaves me with. The latter half of each level, and all but a handful of boss encounters, force this wretched control scheme on the player, and it severely hurts the entire affair. The only other option is to use the face buttons to move pit and the circle pad to aim, which is even more awkward (it's unintuitive to move with the buttons and if you change directions too fast, Pit will still dodge of his own accord). Meanwhile, the secondary circle pad peripheral is only functional for left-handed use. As Pit constantly flops around each stage like a wet fish, all I can do is marvel at the arrogance of a studio that was so committed to a failed idea that it would rather mold plastic stands to try and reduce the torture rather than actually fix the underlying problem of a game that simply does not work on the platform it was designed for. Every now and then, this miserable dance of disarray is broken up by vehicular sections that at least allow Pit to move with a sense of consistency, but they suffer from awful gliding physics that see him bump into walls more often than not. There are also a variety of power-ups that can be equipped, selected with the D-pad and performed by touching an icon with the stylus. However, many of them require precise aiming, which is ludicrous when you're being asked to use the stylus to aim and attack a fast-moving enemy. Things like that give me the impression that Project Sora just didn't care how the controls worked, it simply wanted to use them at any cost. Outside of the campaign, there's a multiplayer mode consisting of team and free-for-all battles. These six-person bouts put players in the bodies of generic soldiers, all running, dodging, and flailing about while attempting to kill each other. Eventually, losing players get to take control of Pit or his obligatory opposite, Dark Pit, becoming a walking objective for the enemy team to neutralize. The online play is functional, but due to the use of the same unsavory input as the campaign, it's hardly a superior alternative. Uprising comes packed with a selection of AR cards, nobly attempting to take advantage of this underutilized 3DS capability. I was really looking forward to seeing what the game did with these cards, but the disappointing answer is that hardly anything was done at all, with functionality barely above that of the cards in the 3DS system's box. Each card will produce a character, monster, or weapon from the game that bounces around in a relatively cute fashion. If two cards are made to face each other, they can fight, but "fighting" consists of a few slash effects while two health bars deplete. That's it. One of them will lose while the winner continues its canned animation. The AR mode is worth using once then never again.  If only someone had stopped and wondered if the need for a 3DS stand was a clear indication that the concept was broken, maybe things could have been different. The requirement for a peripheral does not fix the issue, it simply wallpapers over it. It's a jerry-rigged solution to a problem that needed complete elimination. Because of that, the game lets itself down, time and time again. Kid Icarus: Uprising is equal parts tremendous and terrible, with a fine line clearly separating the two distinct territories. Unfortunately, since each stage ends on a sour note, the overall emotion one gains is that of bitter disappointment. It's a game that repeatedly starts strong and ends despicably, and as much as I want to adore it, I ended every session cursing its name. For its humor, its ambition, and its genuinely thrilling flight segments, it deserves a lot of credit. However, everything else it does is a bitter pill to swallow and damages all the genuine good that has been accomplished. Truly a shame.
 photo

Of all Nintendo's classic franchises, Kid Icarus is one that has sorely been lacking in love, with protagonist Pit's failing to make even a playable Super Smash Bros. appearance until Brawl rolled around in 2008. However, tha...

Nintendo won't allow Binding of Isaac on the 3DS eShop

Feb 29 // Jonathan Holmes
Nintendo is saying that Isaac cant ever exist in the 3DS shop ever. I have no idea how this would effect retail but theres no way anyone would publish it retail wise either way due to the games price. It took a while to get an answer because the religious themes in the game made it very hard for Nintendo to take a stance on it, so it had to keep going higher and higher in the ranks of Nintendo approval to get the OK. I was told for a while it looked like we were getting the green light because we had an official rating in Germany (M) and as long as the game could get a rating that was not (AO) it would probably pass... but then they went silent for a month and I had a feeling after the news got around in Germany about the controversial "Blasphemous" rating that Isaac received (which resulted in its (M) rating), it would probably get back to Nintendo and sway their vote... but I have no confirmation that that was the reason. All I know is they passed on it due to problems the religious aspects of the game might cause. I don't have details on what aspect of "religion" they are most bothered by, but I did hear that they didn't care about any blasphemy in games, but cared more about religion period and how something based on the bible might effect things... honestly it was a pretty muddy response, but I did hear that religious games are far more bothersome than blasphemous ones, and the game being based on a story in the bible and being "by the book" in a lot of ways could have actually been an issue.All this stuff has opened my eyes so much more to the freedom devs have with Steam. Censorship like this doesn't pop up that often in games, and there really are only a handful of "banned video games" or highly censored ones. It's nice to have the freedom to publish something that speaks its mind about religion on a platform like Steam.
 photo

[Update: Full comment from Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen after the jump] For those who've never heard of the game, The Binding of Isaac is a smart, well designed, randomized little shoot 'em up RPG that's already a...

 photo

As is the case with each new generation of Pokémon games, there's going to be a third version to round out the newest set; except this time it's a third and fourth. It seems Pokémon Black Version ...

Top nine Aliens toys holding videogames

Feb 07 // Jim Sterling
Gorilla Alien holding NeverDead You've noticed that I've not reviewed NeverDead yet. How can I, with this bloody lummox holding it and stopping me from being able to play it because he is definitely alive and that is the joke? Gorilla Alien is good for holding videogames because his arms move back and forth to create a gripping motion. This allows you to place the edge of a case between his hands and he'll gently hold the sides, like a loving mother would hold a babe in its swaddling clothes. Gorilla Alien can also spit water from its squeezy rubber head, but do not do this to your videogames, as they will become damp and could take anywhere between two to three minutes to completely dry -- unless you hold it over a hot toaster or Bunsen burner. King Alien (Deluxe Alien Leader) holding Rayman Origins Rayman Origins is a brilliant game that did not receive much marketing, so what better figure to hold it than a brilliant Alien toy that did not receive much marketing? King Alien (Deluxe Alien Leader) was featured on TV once, but still many fans do not realize it exists. Hopefully, this feature can give King Alien (Deluxe Alien Leader) the spotlight and respect he deserves. As with the Gorilla, King Alien (Deluxe Alien Leader) can hold figures in place thanks to his obligatory dynamic action. His ornate head features mandibles that open and snap shut -- this is a very exciting action, but be careful! The mandibles are sharp and you risk doing superficial damage to your game cases, unless the cases are plastic or harder than thin paper. Thank God most of them are! King Alien (Deluxe Alien Leader) also spits water, but I don't need to warn you again, do I? Good. Flying Alien Queen holding Rhythm Heaven Fever Look out guys, it's the Flying Alien Queen! She is so scary and enthralling, with realistic grasping talons and wings that actually flap! She cuts quite the courtly figure, standing next to the fantastic Rhythm Heaven Fever. In this photograph, I have placed the game against one of the Queen's sprawling wings, using her atrophied arm to secure it in position. This is an excellent display piece that anybody can create, for use in the home, office, or at a church function. It is sure to be a talking piece, as the local ombudsman notices the stark contrast between beast and music. That's quite a powerful and evocative thing, isn't it? Yes, it is. Killer Crab Alien holding Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow Hey, it says "Dawn of Sorrow," not "Prawn of Sorrow" like you think it does, Killer Crab Alien (sea joke)! By far one of the best action figures ever created, there is nothing about Killer Crab Alien that isn't great. From the gorgeous red-and-black color scheme to the multiple points of articulation and sleek bodily design, Killer Crab Alien has it all. Also, the mental image of a Facehugger on a crab is funny. Our crab friend is perfectly designed for holding small artifacts in its frontal pincers. Here, it is holding Dawn of Sorrow like a newspaper, which is a satirical statement on how the corporate news media peddles grief in order to manipulate the emotions of the common man (or the woman ones). FACT: Killer Crab Alien features two spring-loaded parasites that fire when the spines in the back are depressed. Always carry Killer Crab Alien when out at night, as it is excellent for fending off attackers. I was going to try and put the game in the end of its tail, but it kept falling out so I gave up. Panther Alien holding Resident Evil: Revelations Panther Alien was very cool looking, and when you pressed on its back, a little stingray thing shot out of it. There'll be none of that fucking shit today, though! Here, we see Panther Alien holding Resident Evil: Revelations, which Capcom spelled wrong on the box for a fun joke. Panther Alien reminds me of golden lions in a Chinese palace, so it is very stylish and impressive to have one holding your classic 3DS games. Mantis Alien holding Enslaved Literally nobody in the world bought Enslaved, but that's okay because it means there are more copies for Mantis Alien to enjoy (though, in all honesty, he really only needs the one). Mantis is another figure to sport the "grip" attack motion, but the long range of his claws and the tight pinching motion makes him a superior choice for those who want an ideal forward-facing videogame centerpiece. I have chosen Enslaved to showcase Mantis' gripping potential because the lush green color scheme complements the toy's own verdant pigmentation. The two items blend into one another, creating a natural yet emotionally fulfilling display that is sure to impress your friends and entertain some animals. Bull Alien holding Final Fantasy XIII-2 I think that Final Fantasy XIII was a load of bull, so here's a load of Bull (Alien) to carry the sequel on its back like a big bloody crucifix! At first glance, the Bull Alien (which is the first Kenner Alien I ever owned) is poorly designed for holding videogames, almost as if Kenner didn't plan for such an eventuality (which is unlikely). Fortunately, by positioning the tail behind the game case, one can get a compelling diorama that maximizes the videogame-holding potential of the figure while showing off the game itself in a new and daring light. Bravo! Scorpion Alien holding Kirby Mass Attack While Kenner would bring out a regular Alien Warrior, such a vanilla role was fulfilled by Scorpion Alien for most consumers. By far the most normal looking of the standard figures, the fact that its main action was an exploding torso confirmed that it was designed as a regular drone but had to have an animal associated with it. The choice of Scorpion was probably regretted later when they designed Killer Crab. In any case, one can stick a DS cartridge between Scorpion Alien's fingers to have him hold it. It looks so adorable and your daughters will want to keep it. She can't have it though, because these are collectors' items (probably). Queen Alien holding Time Crisis: Razing Storm The Flying Queen was cool, but there's nothing like a classic, and that's what this Queen figure most certainly is. She is also holding a classic game, Time Crisis: Razing Storm, which I definitely meant to fish out of the bottom of a storage box and didn't think was a different game until it was too late and I had to just make do with what I'd gotten. Anyway, the game is propped neatly up against her extended tail, which can be swung in a whipping motion. This is a large display, so make sure you've cleared plenty of room on your kitchen countertop or car hood before erecting it. So there you go. I have more than nine figures, but couldn't be bothered to do any more.
 photo

Kenner's range of amazing Aliens toys was, scientifically, the greatest thing about the nineties. These action figures took the idea of Xenomorphs inheriting genetic traits from their hosts -- as seen in Alien 3 -- and ran wi...

Review: Resident Evil: Revelations

Feb 06 // Jim Sterling
Resident Evil: Revelations (3DS)Developer: Capcom, TosePublisher: CapcomReleased: February 7, 2012 MSRP: $39.99 Revelations takes place between Resident Evil 4 and Resident Evil 5. Jill Valentine and her partner, Parker Luciani, travel to the Queen Zenobia cruise ship in order to investigate a returning bio-terrorist threat, Veltro. Naturally, Jill and Parker get trapped on the ship and soon find themselves surrounded by some of the slimiest bio organic weapons that Resident Evil's nasty world has to offer.  While much of the game is spent playing as Jill, the game shifts perspectives at regular intervals to include other characters, including Chris Redfield. The alternate viewpoints paint a fairly interesting conspiracy plot that, while quite straightforward, is blessedly less convoluted and anime-esque than more recent Resident Evil stories have been.  Capcom's latest 3DS effort attempts a unique blend of Resident Evil 4 combat and the restricted, oppressive sensibilities of venerable survival horror games. Valentine moves and fights as Leon and Chris do in their prior console outings, but enemies are aggressive bullet sponges and ammunition isn't exactly falling from the ceiling. In several situations, it becomes more prudent to flee than to fight, a choice that most games don't inflict on players anymore.  [embed]221149:42612[/embed] Should our brave heroes stop and fight, they'll need to hold the R-button to switch camera from third-person to first-person. Jill and friends won't run in this perspective, but they'll be able to use the analog nub to freely aim anywhere on an enemy's body and can slowly move with the L button depressed. Though opponents are rarely found in large numbers and tend to move slowly, their erratic movements and ability to soak up damage can make them tough targets. More often than not, encounters with even weak enemies will push players back as they retreat several yards, shoot, and retreat some more. It's a solid system, only held back by the slow enemy death animations -- it can often be hard to tell when a monster's been killed, and a few extra bullets are regularly wasted on creatures that are more dead than their appearance indicates.  While mobile, the multiple protagonists will be able to dodge incoming attacks by timing a push of the analog nub a moment before impact. While the dodge is essential in some scenarios, I found its implementation far from intuitive. Not to mention, the enemies move so spasmodically that nailing the timing for the dodge is quite frustrating. Still, when it does work (which can frequently be due to sheer accident), it's quite satisfying. Each character also gets a relatively useless melee weapon, and access to a variety of grenades which prove themselves essential in boss fights. Every gun can be modded with custom parts found hidden throughout the levels, bestowing extra damage, double-shots, and more exotic properties upon one's favorite armaments. New to the series is Genesis, a gadget that players will be relying on quite a lot. Genesis is operated like a weapon, but it should be rather familiar to those who have played the Metroid Prime series. Essentially an environmental scanner, Genesis can pull information from targets littered around the environments. Hidden items can be detected, and biological material from enemies can be scanned in order to earn free green herbs. While at first it seems like an unnecessary waste of time to constantly stop and scan for hidden trinkets, using the Genesis and hunting for secrets becomes a strangely enjoyable experience, and a cathartic break from the rigors of combat.  Revelations impressively excels at balancing the stress of survival horror with the playability of modern gaming. Ammo is indeed scarce, but Capcom was able to provide the perfect minimum to keep it fair. There are enough tools to keep players alive, but not enough to casually waste. Every enemy dispatched feels like it was put down at a cost, and every healing green herb is a precious commodity. The boss fights are particularly trying, with a number of memorable, lengthy, and resource-destroying encounters.  It's a rare thing to be able to say a game is exasperating and mean it positively, but that is most certainly the case with Revelations. Despite monsters being slow and the theater of combat small, the stress levels are on par with anything found in console Resident Evils or the Dead Space series.  Although much of Revelations is a success, there are times when the seams joining its two sensibilities start to fray. This is especially evident in combat-heavy levels, where the wild forklift-turns of characters and sluggish animations essentially give the enemies a number of free attacks. In these instances, the genres of action and survival horror appear to contradict one another, as players are expected to stay and fight, but feel undermined and ill-equipped to do so. For most of the game, this isn't an issue, but in a number of tough, enemy-laden areas, it can be frustrating in a less than enjoyable way.  Controls are understandably unconventional on the 3DS, but they're not hard to get used to. Those who obtain a Circle Pad Pro will be able to take advantage of it (though one wasn't provided for testing) and there are a number of control options, so everybody should find something that works. I found the default scheme a little awkward at first, but soon preferred it. Just be warned that one's fingers are due a good cramping with extended play.  In addition to the campaign, which will take players anywhere between six and eight hours, there is a full-fledged co-op mode known as Raid. Raid takes the form of appropriated scenarios from the main game, and can be played locally or online with another player. Interaction between the two characters is limited at best, but having another human at one's back makes the combat situations far more engaging and less infuriating. Raid levels are fast, thrilling, and a surprisingly fun addition to the game. There's also a leveling system, with new characters, weapons and mods that can be unlocked, so Raid mode has quite a bit of longevity to it.  Raid is almost good enough to be its own game, and could well have been if it were a little more fleshed out. As a mode within Revelations, it's a significant draw that's not to be ignored and ought to keep players returning after they've played through the story. Coming from someone who never really got into the Mercenaries mode of other Resident Evil games, I can say that Raid is a fantastic new addition to the series.  Despite being a 3DS title, Capcom didn't skimp on production. The adventure is fully voiced, with a suitably dingy soundtrack and squelchy effects to keep the atmosphere nice and miserable. Visuals are quite splendid for a 3DS game, and the 3D effect gives it just enough "pop" to create believable environments. Gimmicky, "in your face" 3D animations have thankfully been kept to a bare minimum, so the effect is subtly complimentary, rather than forced or gimmicky. Gamers looking for an audio-visual treat on their Nintendo systems will get what they paid for here.  Resident Evil: Revelations is an exhausting game. It's the type of game that demands cigarette breaks between levels, due to how strenuous it can be. It lacks the outright scares of its survival horror influences, but the consistently bleak atmosphere and exigent combat situations make for a game that will drain one's brain in a disconcertingly enjoyable way. Every challenge feels like it might be too much, and every step forward is another step closer to some horrendous, taxing endeavor, but that's what ends up being so much fun.  Revelations proves that, while traditional survival horror isn't due a comeback anytime soon, there are certainly compromises that games can make in order to get a fresh taste of that old, beautifully soul-destroying flavor.
 photo

While Resident Evil 4 is considered one of the best made games of all time, shifting the series from survival horror to combat-focused action left some fans with a vast, empty chasm in their hearts. The modern Resident Evil i...

Preview: Two hours of flight with Kid Icarus: Uprising

Jan 19 // Wesley Ruscher
Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)Developer: Project SoraPublisher: NintendoRelease: March 23, 2012  I have to say, it felt a little surreal playing a near finished copy of Uprising earlier this week. While the game excited both fans and the press alike, all the way back in the Summer of 2010, it's sort of became Nintendo's version of Sony's Last Guardian -- a game that should now be titled the "Lost Guardian." Luckily, Nintendo fans have escaped the same fate with Kid Icarus: Uprising, and can finally take Pit on his much anticipated legendary adventure this March 23. Without getting into too much the story, Uprising follows the events of the original NES game. The evil Medusa (who was destroyed by Pit in the first game) has been reborn and, like all evil villains, seeks to destroy mankind. This is where Pit comes in; he's a hero, so naturally it's up to him to save the world. It's a simple premise, but one that sets the stage for an adventure that hopefully is not as forgettable as his past endeavors. Set in a world loosely based off Greek mythology, it only takes a fleeting moment to be captivated by the beauty that Kid Icarus: Uprising brings to the 3DS. There's a certain magic that Nintendo is known for and the team at Project Sora -- lead by Kirby and Super Smash Bros. designer Masahiro Sakurai -- has created a game that not only stands up to some of the companies most respected franchises visually, but also ushers in a new level of 3D fidelity that has yet to be witnessed on Nintendo's portable powerhouse.It's kind of a shame that no video or screen can truly capture how gorgeous Uprising is -- as soaring the skies and blasting enemies (classic and new alike) is even more spectacular in 3D mode. From the lush vistas visited in the beginning levels to the spectacular, psychedelic-like flight amongst the stars -- battling space pirates -- it's hard not to be taken back by just how impressive the 3D visuals are in the game's flying sequences. Where Uprising loses a little of its visual pop though, is in the land-based sections of each chapter. Every chapter in the game is broken up into two parts: flight and ground. While the ground levels are impressive in their own rights, they fail to capture the exhilarating intensity of the flight sections for mainly two reasons: freedom and chaos. Having freedom is never a bad thing, and in Uprising's case this still holds true for the most part. It's just that the each flight section is an on-rails shooter (akin to Panzer Dragoon or Sin and Punishment) and because of that, Uprising guides its players through amazing set piece after set piece. A literal roller coaster of visual and shooting splendor, that is hard to replicate on the ground.Chaos on the other hand, is the game's biggest visual detractor when it comes to the 3D department. In flight the chaos is controlled. The ground, on the other hand, opens up more complexity to the combat -- especially when the games difficulty, called intensity is turned up -- and (in my experience) causes the 3D's sweet spot to constantly shift with the frantic movement of one's hand. While I know, the 3D can be turned off, Uprising does such an amazing job with the immersive technology, it's hard not to want to play the game this way throughout, regardless of how intense the action is. Increasing a chapter's intensity is by far Uprising's biggest gameplay hook. Ranging on a scale from 0.0 to 9.0 (2.0 is the game's default level) and adjustable in increments of one tenths, players can alter the difficulty of any chapter in the attempt to earn more of the games currency; hearts. The higher the intensity, the higher the rewards in chapter -- both in terms of hearts awarded and weapons discovered. For players who just want play Uprising for the story, they can (for a price of hearts) drop the intensity below 2.0. I was told it makes the game a cake walk, making it perfect for the casual player or those who want to better understand a chapter's layout. I had a chance to play the game at intensity well beyond the 2.0 level and while I made it through the first chapter somewhat unscathed, I was easy fodder on later stages due to the increased and more relentless enemy AI. Those looking for a Nintendo game that will test all their reflexes should look no further.So for those wondering how Uprising plays... well that is sort of a mixed bag. For the most part combat is relatively simple. The circle pad controls movement, the L button attacks, and the stylus aims. It can be a little cramping, but for those who prefer to game at home, the stand announced for Japan is coming with the US version and does alleviate some of the hand-numbing issues. During combat, depending on the proximity of an enemy (regardless of being in flight or on the ground) Pit's attacks will alter. When enemies are far, his weapons act like a gun -- providing ranged attacks -- but when up close, he instead changes his tactics to melee strikes. Holding down the L button creates a rapid fire shot -- highly useful on the smaller airborne enemies -- but when the reticule is left to build, a powerful charge blast can be released to decimate larger foes. Knowing when and where to switch from ranged to close attacks, as well as when to charge an attack becomes ever important in the games later stages and when the intensity is turned up to insane levels. In my travels through Uprising I came across a few enemies that were more than a handful if I tried to battle them with the wrong style of attack. There's a want to try to just blast everything to bits, but surprisingly there is actually a lot of depth to Uprising's combat, especially when playing the ground game. Using the stylus to control Pits movement on the ground does come with a slight adjustment period, but after a level or two it all becomes second nature. Flicks of the stylus control Pits head and the camera, while the circle pad handles overall movement. For those who played Metroid Prime Hunters on the DS, there is instant level of familiarity in this setup. On top of the standard move set, quick flicks of the circle pad afford Pit with some useful dashing abilities and, like the Smash Bros. series, when timed properly with an attack create a much stronger offensive strike. Helping to build Pits offense are nine different weapon types: blade, bow, cannon, arm, claws, palm, orbitar, club and staff. The blade is Pits standard, all-purpose weapon, but with the variety available there is a solution to be found for any of his problems. I got my hands on the lightning quick, melee focused claws; the tactile and powerful cannon; and the long ranged dual-blasting orbitars, but it wasn't until I got Pit's paws on the cumbersome club that smiting fools turned into a "guilty pleasure" for me. With the Black Club (pictured below) fully charged, I was able to launch devastating cannon balls that were great for clearing out enemies. Having such a powerful weapon makes Pit nearly unstoppable, but there is a price for this unbound strength. Due to its massive size, Pit's agility and stamina are greatly reduced throughout the level. Often after dashing, I found Pit out of gas and in need of a moment to recuperate -- leaving him vulnerable to attacks. Choosing the right weapon for a chapter can be tricky at first -- as only after death can one be switched out for another. Thankfully, Uprising encourages multiple playthroughs, due to its intensity level rewards and constantly improving weapon drops. In my playthrough, I came across multiple variants of each type of weapon. Players will also find identical named weapons, but they will differ in their value and bonuses (i.e. 2X speed, or no fall back from enemy damage) making them unique in their own special way. When weapons start piling up they can be sold -- as well as purchased -- in what is called the Arms Alter. It's just one of the many ways to constantly keep upgrading Pit's arsenal.Speaking of upgrades, weapons aren't the only way to improve Pit's prowess. Powers, which can be found during any given chapter, are perks that can give Pit the upper hand in his quest. There are a variety of powers ranging from the Sky Jump -- which lets Pit jump high -- to the Mega Laser -- which as it sounds shoots a deadly blast that can help the angelic warrior out of a tight situation. What makes Pit's powers extra unique is in how they are quipped. Similar to Resident Evil 4's items storage system, each power comes in the form of a puzzle piece (varying in size and shape) and has to be carefully fitted in a confined equipment square. Up to four arrangements can be planned ahead of time, with one formation equipped at time. There is even an auto-fill that selects the overall best configuration for those who don't want to put too much effort into it. The auto-fill is fairly simple though, and does not allow a player, to say, choose an optimized offensive configuration for example. I feel like I only scratched the surface with Kid Icarus: Uprising and to be honest I left a few things out. For example in some levels -- which I can't say which -- there are vehicles for Pit to pilot (though I can't tell you what they are like either). That being said, Uprising is one of the deepest games to hit the portable market in quite some time and should please gamers of all types. Expect more to come in the next few months about Nintendo's much anticipated 3DS game that is set for March 23. I, for one, am definitely excited to find out more.  
 photo

"I can't believe I'm actually flying!" These are some of the first words that Nintendo's, once forgotten hero, Pit utters in disbelief during the opening moments of Kid Icarus: Uprising -- his long awaited return to the foref...

Destructoid's most wanted DS / 3DS games of 2012

Jan 13 // Chad Concelmo
Resident Evil Revelations (3DS)Developer: CapcomPublisher: CapcomRelease: February 7, 2012 I just recently replayed the undeniable classic Resident Evil 4 and fell in love with the game all over again. And as much as I liked (not loved) Resident Evil 5, after playing RE4, I have been craving a more classic Resident Evil experience. Resident Evil Revelations looks to satiate that need. Set on a creepy boat floating on a creepy sea, the gorgeous, "is that really running on a handheld?" Revelations should be the return to form the classic series desperately needs. I can't wait for the game to scare the bejesus out of me ... all in 3D! Kid Icarus: Uprising (3DS)Developer: Project SoraPublisher: NintendoRelease: March 23, 2012 I'm not going lie: out of all the games I am excited about in 2012, Kid Icarus: Uprising gives me the most reservations. I obviously love the character and am super stoked for the action-heavy gameplay, but I am very nervous about the controls. In my short time with the game, the controls were very uncomfortable, to say the least. But when a game is delayed (Kid Icarus: Uprising was originally supposed to be released in 2011), sometimes it is for the best. I am cautiously optimistic for this promising, wildly different sequel. It could end up being a surprise hit! Luigi's Mansion 2 (3DS)Developer: Next Level GamesPublisher: NintendoRelease: Q1 2012 The original Luigi's Mansion was such an odd little launch title for the GameCube back in 2001, but that was one of the reasons I fell in love with it. When Nintendo does "odd," the results are always, at the very least, memorable. Now, more than 10 years later, the game is getting an official sequel on the 3DS! Once again starring Mario's tortured, often-forgotten sibling, Luigi's Mansion 2 looks better than the original and promises to feature multiple mansions, more stuff to do, and more ghosts to suck ... into the Poltergust 3000! I played the game at E3 and absolutely fell in love with its crisp visuals and addictive gameplay. I can't wait to play more of Luigi's Mansion 2 when it comes out later this year! Paper Mario (3DS)Developer: Intelligent SystemsPublisher: NintendoRelease: 2012 This is it. Out of all games on all systems, this is the one I am most looking forward to in 2012. I have never been shy about my love for the Paper Mario series. I think it is one of the most charming videogame series of all time, and the original is one of my favorite RPGs ever. Not much is known about Paper Mario for 3DS, but does it really matter? It's a brand new Paper Mario game! That's all I need to know. I am so freaking excited! I am going to play the sh*t out of this game! Honorable Mentions: Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance   Pokémon + Nobunaga's Ambition (DS)Developer: Game Freak, Tecmo KoeiPublisher: Nintendo, The Pokémon CompanyRelease: March 17, 2012 (JP) I am what you call a "lapsed fan" of the Pokémon series, having only played through the first generation before hanging up my towel. I've also never played any entry in the Nobunaga's Ambition series, nor am I consumer of strategy RPGs. However, take these two properties that would never in a million years eat at the same table then make them eat at the same table, and my interest is piqued. It's such a natural progression, really. For years, we've been exposed to our fair share of historical games that take extensive liberties with the events. Tecmo Koei itself has been pumping out a parade of Dynasty and Samurai Warriors sequels featuring outlandish skills and high-octane rock soundtracks. Sengoku-era warriors chillaxing with the likes of Mewtwo and Jigglypuff is the obvious next step. Extreme Escape Adventure: Good People Die (3DS, PlayStation Vita)Developer: ChunsoftPublisher: TBARelease: February 16, 2012 (JP) When I first heard about 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, I expected a beefier successor to the escape-the-room Flash games I enjoyed in college. I was blindsided when I popped the cartridge in and discovered a text-heavy visual novel without any respite, not even within the aforementioned puzzle rooms. Not one for excessive narrative, I shouldn't have liked this game. Not only did 999 become my favorite title of 2010, a lot of other people became hooked as well. It performed beyond Aksys' expectations, completely selling out and forcing the company to produce a second run. Good People Die is the sequel to 999; if it's even half as good as the original, I'll be a happy man. Already, the details have gotten me excited, the most interesting bit being the cooperation / betrayal mechanic. The participants are once again shackled with death watches, though they operate differently than in the last adventure. By choosing to help or turn on your partner, you collect points, and if you earn nine points, you can escape. However, points are awarded based on both parties' decisions, so should you choose to cooperate with someone who in turn betrays you, you lose points. If you hit zero, the watch will inject you with lethal poison. Oh boy! Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney (3DS)Developer: Level-5, CapcomPublisher: Level-5Release: 2012 (JP) It's the season of crossovers! The union of Pokémon and Nobunaga's Ambition is (hopefully) like a pairing of foods that you wouldn't think tastes good but does, like sugar cookies filled with potato chip crumbles. Following that logic, Professor Layton and Ace Attorney is like peanut butter and Nutella -- two great tastes that taste even better combined. You know this to be true. How can Phoenix even legally practice law outside of the country? I say that because there is no way that town is just a Renaissance festival passing through California. Then again, Phoenix and Layton aren't supposed to exist in the same century, so I probably shouldn't try to introduce logic to this discussion, despite logic being the cornerstone of both franchises. Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS)Developer: indies zeroPublisher: Square EnixRelease: February 16, 2012 (JP) I was writing these little blurbs when I suddenly realized that none of my top picks have a US release date. Sure, it might just be a matter of time before the respective companies make "the call," and the only title I'm almost certain won't be localized can be imported and played on any vanilla DS without any region-locking hassle. Still, I'm upset that publishers in this modern age continue to be slow to respond to fans who show genuine interest in their more alternative catalog. But I digress. Where were we? Ah, Theatrhythm! The character art is deliciously adorable and the gameplay reminds me of Taiko Drum Master and Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan. I don't even think it's possible to dislike Final Fantasy music -- at least, I've never met anyone who does. Theatrhythm is most certainly a spin-off I can throw my full support behind. Rodea the Sky Soldier (3DS, Wii)Developer: PropePublisher: Kadokawa ShotenRelease: TBA I doubt many of you even remember this guy. We haven't seen or heard anything solid of Rodea, from Yuji Naka's Prope studios, in almost a year. All we discovered recently was that development completed some months back and that it's up to publisher Kadokawa Shoten to decide the next move. I want to play Rodea not only because I think it could be decent but also because I want to see a massive Prope game that isn't a shallow minigame package. Ivy the Kiwi? was fine, but let's aim a little higher, shall we? I definitely noticed shades of NiGHTS into Dreams... in the original trailer, so I pray I'm not setting my hopes up for a touch of that 90s SEGA magic in the final product. Honorable Mentions: Flipper 2: Flush the Goldfish, Kid Icarus: Uprising, Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, Mutant Mudds, Sakura Samurai: Art of the Sword , Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Resident Evil Revelations Additional staff picks for the DS / 3DS: Sean Daisy: Monster Hunter 4, Luigi's Mansion 2, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Jonathan Holmes: Pokémon + Nobunaga's Ambition, Guild 01, Resident Evil Revelations Andrew Kauz: Tales of the Abyss, Resident Evil Revelations, Kid Icarus: UprisingTara Long: Resident Evil RevelationsJonathan Ross: Professor Layton and the Mask of Miracle, Professor Layton vs. Ace AttorneyMax Scoville: The Binding of Isaac Josh Tolentino: Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor 2  
 photo

This entire week, we have covered our most anticipated 2012 games for the 360, PS3, Wii, and PC. Now it's time for Tony Ponce and I to enter the hardcore, baby-making world of portables. With the Nintendo DS going out with a ...

Review: Mario Kart 7

Nov 29 // Jim Sterling
Mario Kart 7 (3DS)Developer: Nintendo EAD, Retro StudiosPublisher: NintendoReleased: December 4, 2011MSRP: $39.99 Describing Mario Kart 7 is going to be almost pointless for anybody who has played most of the series, especially since this one ignores the more gimmicky aspects of Double Dash!! and Mario Kart Wii. The seventh iteration of the venerable kart racing series truly returns to the series' roots, keeping things free of complications and delivering the kind of "pure" karting experience fans have played for years. Usually, such a simplistic return to form can be a good thing, but with Mario Kart 7, the roots have aged to the point where they may well have become rotten. Indeed, Mario Kart 7 is the same Mario Kart you've fundamentally played six times before. There are 32 courses (16 new, 16 remixed versions of old courses) littered with obstacles and power-up boxes that boast familiar, luck-based items. Homing red shells, slippery banana skins, and vision-obscuring squids are all back, joined by three fresh items -- a Tanooki Tail that can swipe players and obstacles, a Fire Flower that rapidly tosses projectiles along a straight path, and a big red Seven that gives players seven previously established items to choose from. The fire power is great at annoying other players and the Seven is definitely cool, but I must say that the Tanooki Tail is fairly useless -- obstacles are easily avoided and the power-up rarely appears when you're close enough to other racers to strike them. Other fresh additions include gliding equipment and underwater sections. Although these new elements provide something aesthetically different, they don't actually change the game. Underwater racing is a little slower and air gliding is a little floatier, but their impact on the gameplay is minimal at best, appearing merely as vapid contrivances that exist to provide the illusion of variety rather than actually altering the core experience. [embed]216484:41881[/embed] It takes seconds for all the familiar problems with Mario Kart to surface. Rubber banding and fixed races are still an integral part of every course, and victory in a race yet again hinges hugely on the element of basic luck, with items such as the Blue Shell returning to punish players who commit the sin of maintaining success. These are long-standing issues with the series that many will likely have gotten used to but really ought to have been dealt with by the seventh installment. Simply put, these problems have grown incredibly tiring, and items like the Blue Shell stopped being funny several sequels ago. Familiar problems would be bearable if not for the other big issue with Mario Kart 7 -- it's just too damn slow. Even budget kart racers like Jimmie Johnson's Anything With An Engine are faster and more exciting than this. The game's casual pace goes hand in hand with the fact that it hasn't changed one bit, and each separate issue enhances the other, exposing Mario Kart 7 for the weary and humdrum affair that it is. When even budget racers realize that the genre needs shaking up with fresh ideas and/or at least a measure of energy, it's almost depressing to see the world's leading kart racer trudge out of the starting gate with such a dismal, sluggish, outdated little offering. Fact of the matter is that kart racers are old news, and this is one of the most routine kart racers on the market. Even series like Dynasty Warriors and Madden boast fresher features with each iteration than those found in Mario Kart 7, and as someone who usually has no problem with sticking to a winning formula, not even I can justify how formulaic Mario Kart has become. Nintendo has truly played it safe with Mario Kart 7, but it's done so to such a degree that the game could be accused of cowardice. Something bolder needed to arrive, something that shook up a very tired style of game. Nintendo shockingly chose not to take that brave step this time around. Outside of races, the time trials have returned, as have coin dash and battle modes -- the former a series of arenas in which players must collect and keep the most coins and the latter a series of arenas in which players must use items to pop balloons on opposing karts. Unlike in Mario Kart DS, the rather neat ability to blow into the microphone to inflate balloons is no longer included. This is a straight old-school mode like everything else. The only vaguely compelling element is the new kart customization feature, but it is about as streamlined and restricted as you could ever hope to get. You basically get to unlock and swap new kart bodies, wheels, and gliders by collecting coins in the various races. Each new add-on has its own set of statistics to help with speed, turning, and acceleration, but ultimately, you won't be spending much time on creating a personal vehicle since there's very little to play with. Same can be said for the new roster of racers, which doesn't really bump the character count up due to quite a few having been taken out. I'd rather have Dry Bones back than the uninteresting bee queen from Mario Galaxy. Both online and local multiplayer are included, with players able to partake in both races and battles. Once again, there's nothing new here. If you aren't sick of Mario Kart then you'll probably find some longevity in the multiplayer, which is at least streamlined and allows for random play without the need for Friend Codes. Nevertheless, multiplayer doesn't really make the game more exciting, especially online where you can't even have the fun of taunting each other and are instead stuck in a rather dry, joyless atmosphere. You also can't quit out of the game during a certain point in matchmaking, instead having to turn the entire 3DS off if you want to stop. Which is convenient. To be as fair as possible, one can say that Mario Kart 7 looks quite good. Although the 3D doesn't really factor into the gameplay, it has the best 3D visuals on the system with very little sign of ghosting or eye-straining effects. In this regard, the simplicity has worked in the game's favor. The bright, colorful tracks and entertaining racer animations are fairly appealing as well, while the music and sound effects are all standard with nothing that truly stands out. Mario Kart 7 is as derivative as a game can get, and while we pour scorn on so many other games for rehashing themselves, something tells me this will get a free pass from many critics and gamers. That strikes me as ironic since Mario Kart 7 is the one game I'd hold up as the least deserving of any kind of leniency. It being an unadventurous and predictable retread, however, is only half of Mario Kart 7's problem. The other half is the fact that it's a lethargic and mundane game, easily outpaced by games that could be considered knock-offs of the formula Nintendo itself perfected. Mario Kart is in need of a severe shake up. This stagnant, crawling, and indolent effort is not it.
 photo

The more a game has the word "new" printed on the back of its game case, the better the chances are that the game inside will feel older than time itself. Mario Kart 7 has the word "new" printed on the back of its game case n...

Review: Super Mario 3D Land

Nov 09 // Jim Sterling
Super Mario 3D Land (3DS)Developer: Nintendo EAD TokyoPublisher: NintendoReleased: November 13, 2011MSRP: $39.99 Super Mario 3D Land bears very little resemblance to the Super Mario Land games that once brought unique and weird ideas to the Game Boy. With its 3D perspective, it visually resembles titles like Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy, but in many ways, the game feels more like a spiritual successor to Super Mario Bros. 3 than any other established title.  It's not just because the Tanooki Suit has made its welcome return. The game features many levels inspired by the NES classic, including a variety of airship boss stages in which players must duck and weave through familiar fire traps and Bullet Bill cannons. Furthermore, Boom Boom has returned as a recurring boss fight after debuting in Super Mario Bros. 3.  There's an almost anachronistic flavor to Super Mario 3D Land, a game that bears the name of a Game Boy series and the visuals of modern games, but features gameplay strikingly similar to a classic NES title. Only Nintendo could pull off such a Frankenstein's Monster of nostalgic platforming and make it work -- for indeed Super Mario 3D Land works beautifully.  As always, the core of the game is familiar and simple. Mario must navigate a series of stages crammed full of unique traps and environmental puzzles, before grabbing a flag pole at the end. As mentioned, the Tanooki Suit has returned, allowing Mario to glide in the air with the aid of a raccoon tail in a manner just as endearing today as it was in 1988. Fire Mario is also back, and players are allowed to store up to one power-up on the touchscreen for use if they lose their currently equipped ability.  The old-school transformations are great fun, but there's an all-new ability tossed into the mix for good measure. Boomerang Mario should be rather self-explanatory, gaining the ability to toss boomerangs that can destroy enemies or collect items. As well as giving Mario a cute Boomerang Bro costume, it's a very useful item -- not least for the fact that it can destroy enemy projectiles. A handful of all-new enemies rounds out the fresh gameplay additions, including Tanooki Goombas and ink-spitting Piranha Plants that cover the camera in black gunk and make platforming more difficult. The fun is intermittently punctuated by cleverly mapped boss battles in which Mario must make it past Bowser's fireballs and hit a Skull Switch to destroy his platform and drop him into lava -- just like he did in the NES titles.  There are eight main worlds with at least five courses apiece, and they feature some amazing level design. Every single course plays differently from the last, and some of them are outright inspired. One stage, in which platforms made of wood pass through saw blades that constantly rearrange their shape, stands out in particular. That is just one example of the kind of inventive platforming seen in 3D Land, and it's terrific to see Nintendo prove just how versatile the genre still is.  Some of this ingenuity has gone into exploiting the 3DS's 3D abilities, with a few bonus stages turning platforms into optical illusions that can only be fathomed with 3D enabled. Stages that look flat and simple might have deceptively placed blocks with positions that cannot be determined on a 2D screen. These mandatory sections don't last very long, but having 3D enabled at all times certainly helps navigate levels, since it provides a better sense of where best to jump and land. One would also miss out on various stages designed simply to provide some gratifying 3D imagery. While I usually find it gauche to have 3D entertainment that shamelessly throws stuff at the camera, Nintendo must be complimented on doing it in a way that amuses and never intrudes on the gameplay itself. If Nintendo's great at one thing, it's in forcing a gimmick down our throats so well that it doesn't feel forced at all. In Super Mario 3D Land, the 3D is undoubtedly a complement, not a detraction. The added depth makes platforming more intuitive, and the visual effects are simply fun to watch.  Despite having eight worlds plus eight special worlds with a more satisfying difficulty bump, Super Mario 3D Land is still a rather short game, and many players will also feel much of it can be too easy. There's definite replay to be had in collecting special golden coins hidden throughout the level and some stages are just too fun to play merely once, but this definitely isn't the most epic of Mario games. And due to Nintendo's "No Child Left Behind" mentality, it's also impossible to fail. If you die enough times, the game provides an invincible Tanooki Suit that lasts for the entire level. This can be ignored by those wanting a challenge, but some players may feel a little patronized at having Nintendo try to hold their hand. As someone who loves Kirby, I've certainly no right to complain about it. The biggest issue with Super Mario 3D Land is that, as fun as it is, it feels more like the beginning of something more rather than a full experience. It seems like a mere taste of what Nintendo can do -- an admittedly delicious taste, but one that still leaves a bit of a gap once finished. It feels like it was prepared to tantalize 3DS owners without giving them lasting satisfaction, to demonstrate that good things are in the handheld's future and that more games like this will come if they stay loyal. I would not go so far as to call the game a tech demo, but it certainly acts like a whirlwind tour of Mario's new 3D world, rather than a full vacation.  Nevertheless, Super Mario 3D Land is a great little game that pretty much every 3DS owner should invest in. While it's nowhere near as intricately challenging as the old scrollers from which it draws inspiration. and it lacks the ambitious scale of Super Mario Galaxy, it is still packed with innovative gameplay and that unmistakable Mario charm. Its brevity and ease will be an issue for staunchly "hardcore" players, but it's ultimately too much fun for it to be a dealbreaker. 3D Land is a game in which Nintendo shows other developers how they've been doing it wrong since the 3DS launched, and provides a template from which future games ought to be built. Hopefully this is the beginning of a library of fine 3DS games that proves the system has got what it takes to succeed.
 photo

Always bet on Mario. It's a given that Nintendo rarely fails when dealing with its mustachioed mascot, and there's no denying that when a Nintendo system is in trouble, everybody's favorite plumber can bail it out.  The ...

Review: Cave Story 3D

Nov 08 // Jonathan Holmes
Cave Story 3D (3DS)Developer: Nicalis/PixelPublisher: NIS AmericaReleased: November 8, 2011 MSRP: $39.99 [For a full review of the Cave Story experience, start here. The remainder of this review will focus on the new and altered content of this 3DS exclusive version of the game.] Cave Story 3D exists almost solely because of its new graphics, so we might as well start there. The game looks really, really different now, to the point where it's almost unrecognizable. The original Cave Story was created by one person (graphics, music, story -- everything), and while it's an incredible piece of art, some parts of the game are stronger than others. It think it's safe to say that Cave Story's backgrounds are probably the aspect of the game that fans are least attached to. They aren't bad by any stretch of the imagination, but it's not hard to imagine that they couldn't be improved upon. With Cave Story 3D, Pixel got his chance to do just that. The settings and background graphics of Cave Story 3D are as close as we'll likely ever get to seeing what Pixel truly intended the world of Cave Story to look like. The differences here can be staggering. The Labriynth has gone from being a nondescript brown cavern with inexplicable floating blocks to an intricately designed network of high-tech elevators, littered with decay and half-destroyed dreams. Where there were once basic platforms, there are now gigantic statues, corroding passageways, and sparkling pools of water.  The result of the full backdrop overhaul reminds me a lot of classic Disney films, where the detailed backgrounds lend a strong sense of place and "reality" to the game's events, while the simple and iconic give us characters that are easy to relate with. Screenshots do not do this game justice. You have to see it in motion running on the 3DS to really understand how nice it looks. The 3D effect does a lot to further drive that improvement home. I didn't turn the 3D off once during my time with Cave Story 3D, and for good reason. The game is still played purely on a 2D plane, but the team at Nicalis put in every effort to make the world feel three-dimensional. Tiny details lie in the background of nearly every stage, and objects in the foreground pop out at you with convincing strength. The camera is really smartly implemented as well, zooming in and out of the action at just the right times to imply a sense of intimacy, grandeur, intimidation, safety, or whatever other feeling may be appropriate for the scene in question. There are some drawbacks to 3D, though. For whatever reason, the game is generally pretty dark, so make sure you turn up the brightness on your 3D to the max. the screen can also get pretty cluttered at times, but thanks to the crystal-clear map on the lower screen, it just takes a quick glance down to figure out exactly what's going on.As for the backgrounds themselves, some of the more organically based areas don't translate to polygons that well. Grass doesn't always look like grass, some trees don't look like trees, etc. This is also true of the game's polygon-based characters. A lot of them look and animate fantastically, such as the protagonist, series co-mascot Balrog, and all of the big bosses. That's part of why it takes you out of the game so much when some of the enemies and a few of the NPCs just don't animate quite right, either with stiffness, or that "gliding" walk animation that has haunted many an animation student in the past. It's barely noticable, but it still stood out to me. If I didn't have the original title and the WiiWare remake to compare them to, there is probably no way I would have even noticed these little issues, but that's Cave Story 3D's dillemma in a nutshell. It's impossible not to compare this remake to the near-perfect versions of the game already available on multiple platforms. Thankfully, Pixel and the team at Nicalis were aware that not all fans may want fully polygon-based characters in their Cave Story. The game has a mode that can be selected at the title screen that allows for it to be played with Pixel's original sprite-based characters in the polygon based-backgrounds. The results are really nice. The sprite-based characters are lit in real time just as the polygon characters would have been, which allows them to blend in seamlessly. As a huge fan of Pixel's original sprites, this is the version of the game I prefer, but it's definitely worth playing both versions to see for yourself.  The graphics aren't the only thing to get an overhaul. The soundtrack has also been remixed, by Dtoid Show award winner Danny B and Dustin Kulwicki. A couple of the remixes will probably come across as too different to some fans of the original arrangements, but the craftsmanship here is inarguably top-notch. The more ominious tunes in particular are much more intimidating and evocative now, which comes as no surprise coming from the guy who did the soundtrack for Super Meat Boy. Beyond the new graphics and sound, there are a lot of little tweaks. The platforming feels a little easier sometimes, there a lot more health pickups to be found, and most importantly to old fans, there are about four new areas to be explored. These new levels are all based on designs from the unreleased beta of Cave Story, but they've now been seemlessly integrated into the main game. Though they are a nice touch, only one of these areas stuck out to me as truly amazing. You'll know it when you play it. It's also the area that's also home to the game's new NiS-flavored surprise.  Sadly, that's all there is for new content. Normally, that wouldn't be a big deal, as Cave Story has plenty of playtime and replay value. The problem here is that Cave Story 3D has to compete with $10 versions of the game that arguably have more content. The recently released Cave Story+ has the new graphics and music from the WiiWare version, an all new unlockable "gaiden" area called the Wind Fortress that features new enemies and bosses, and many of the other features from the Wii original. Most of that new content did not make it to Cave Story 3D. Also M.I.A. is the soundtrack player from the DSiWare version, one of my favorite features from that port. Again, if this were the only version of Cave Story that existed, no one would think to care about these "missing" details. As with nearly every aspect of Cave Story 3D, its main problem is that fans of the original title have been spoiled by Nicalis and Pixel's previous efforts. In the end, Cave Story 3D may be the best version of the game, but it's not necessarily the definitive version. You really need to buy Cave Story+ in addition to this title if you want to experience everything that Cave Story potentially has to offer. At $40, Cave Story 3D is four times more expensive than the other retail version of the game, which will undoubtedly hurt this iteration of the title in the eyes of many consumers. Knowing that a perfectly playable, attractive-looking version of the game is available on the eShop for $10 makes it hard to say that Cave Story 3D offers the best Cave Story bang for your hard-earned buck on the 3DS.  It's still an amazing game, and it's definitely worth your time and cash, but budget-conscious consumers who prefer an 8-bit look may be better served by picking up the DSiWare version for a fraction of the cost. Either way, every 3DS owner should buy Cave Story. It's one of the best games ever made, in 3D or otherwise.
 photo

Cave Story is a modern classic. Sadly, many people still haven't ever played it, even though it's been released on WiiWare, DSiWare, and the iTunes App store. That's probably partly due to its retro look. It's hard to generat...

Review: Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure

Oct 17 // Jim Sterling
Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure (3DS [reviewed], PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 [reviewed], Wii)Developer: Toys For Bob (Wii), XPEC Entertainment (PC, PS3, Xbox 360), Vicarious Visions (3DS)Publisher: ActivisionReleased: October 16, 2011 MSRP: $69.99 (Starter Pack), $19.99 (toy-three packs), $7.99 (single toys) Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure is a game that requires a series of real-life toys in order to work. The narrative conceit is that the titular "Skylanders" are frozen in our world and are brought to life when placed upon the "Portal of Power." Once in place, the Skylander reanimates within the provided game's world, where they must fight an army of fantastical creatures and stop the machinations of the evil Kaos, a bald-headed sorcerer who is basically Invader Zim.  Each toy features a nicely detailed creature that sits on top of a green plastic base, and this base is where the toy's unique information is stored. Once you plug the Portal of Power into your console via the included USB cord, all you have to do is place a desired Skylander on top of it. The Portal will read the information stored in its base and use it to create a playable character within the videogame. Furthermore, each toy is capable of saving its own data, allowing it to remember its current level, experience points, collected money and even whatever stat-boosting hat it's currently wearing.  Changing characters is as simple as taking one Skylander off the Portal and replacing it with a new one. The game will pause whenever a toy is removed and instantly resume whenever a fresh one is scanned. This is a near-seamless transition punctuated only by each character's announcing itself before the game recommences. While the vast majority of toys works absolutely perfectly, there are a few temperamental figures. One of my characters can only be recognized by the game if it's placed on the right-hand side of the Portal, while another randomly drops from the game and needs repositioning. Most of them work just fine, but beware that a couple of figures can give the player trouble.  The gimmick is simple but clever. It's got that spark of originality that could make it a hit, but all this would be for naught if the game itself was terrible. To my great and welcome surprise, Skylanders is not a terrible game. In fact, when viewed in the context of a title predominantly aimed at children, it is of remarkably high quality. It's not exactly challenging, nor is it the deepest experience, but it's actually quite fun, even for an adult.  Skylanders resembles a traditional hack n' slash dungeon crawler in many ways. Every character starts with two main attacks (and can earn a third special ability later), both of which activate with simple button-mashing commands. Levels are filled with enemy creatures and straightforward puzzles, as well as optional areas full of loot that can be spent in the hubworld to unlock new abilities that save directly to the toy. In addition to general loot, there are hidden Soul Gems that unlock ultimate powers for each Skylander, hats that can be equipped to boost stats, and other secret treasures that lay hidden for no real reward other than completion.  Being aimed primarily at youngsters, it's certainly not a difficult game that will stump the hardcore collective. Health drops are plentiful, and many tough opponents can be beaten through attrition simply by having enough toys to replace any that get knocked out. Still, there are a few later levels that can take a huge toll, and the game takes a "Kirby" approach to challenge, where simply clearing a stage is secondary to finding hidden items and crossing off various challenges on the checklist. It's accessible for kids, but those looking for something a bit meatier can take on optional goals.  The swapping of characters is encouraged in areas where select elements gain extra strength. Every Skylander belongs to either the Magic, Tech, Life, Earth, Fire or Undead elements, and if their element prevails in a certain area, they'll be more effective in combat. Furthermore, a series of gates scattered around the world can only be unlocked using specific elemental types. Having one Skylander of each element is crucial to unlocking all areas and gaining new hats or Soul Gems, providing the required hook for selling new toys. It's worth noting that the game can be beaten entirely using the three toys provided in the Starter Pack. Exploiting elemental strengths of unlock element gates are purely optional extras -- worth unlocking if you really want to get absorbed in the game, but not needed to see the ending. In addition to the main quest, players can also unlock challenge areas, some which are surprisingly tough. Every Skylander collected unlocks a new challenge map, which bestows permanent stat boosts as completion rewards. Many of them are easy enough to beat, but a few will shock you with just how unreasonable they can be. The extra challenges add some longevity to the game, but what I feel is really missing is some sort of randomized mode. While there's plenty of gameplay, there's certainly not enough content to support over thirty characters. Having a more random, open-ended, or "free" mode would provide more stimulating gaming while grinding characters. That said, some upcoming toys contain all-new stages in their bases, so opportunities for added gaming will be out there. You can even make Skylanders battle each other if you have a friend and a spare controller.  Despite its uncomplicated nature, Skylanders is a fun little game. Upgrading the Skylanders themselves is insidiously addictive, as picking a table of favorite characters and getting them up to level ten can be quite compelling. They even have skill paths, allowing you to choose which of your Skylander's abilities get to be the dominant one. As far as shallow games goes, this sits at the deepest end.  The truly impressive thing about Skylanders is how unique each character actually is. I was able to try sixteen of the game's 30 characters, and aside from the recolored "Dark" Spyro, every character has its own unique look, animations, attacks, and upgrades. While there are similar body types, these characters aren't clones of each other. It would have been very easy for Toys For Bob to limit the variation between each Skylander, but the fact that every single one plays differently is commendable.  The game is solid fun but not without its drawbacks. There is a spectrum of melee and ranged abilities, and each type has its limitations. Melee attacks leave characters open to damage, while the inability to strafe and target can make ranged combat frustrating. In the case of characters who have both close-quarters and projectile-based abilities, this isn't so much of an issue, as their flexibility compensates for the flaws. However, some characters are almost exclusively melee- or ranged-based, and without the other type of attack to offset their drawbacks, they can be noticeably less useful in combat.  Furthermore, the game could have done with a little more variety in the gameplay itself. Levels grow repetitive as the same puzzles and similar boss fights crop up, and while there are a number of enemies that require specific tactics to beat, most of them go down with attack button spamming. Played in shorter bouts, this isn't so much of an issue, but it doesn't work well for extended periods of playtime. Oh, and Toys For Bob would have done well not to namedrop Spyro, since this most certainly isn't a Spyro game. It's great that he's an included character, but cynically pretending the game is themed around him seems to serve no purpose, as Spyro has zero impact on the game's story. I don't think the target market even cares or knows enough about him for his name to be a sales draw. I think the misleading title was a poor idea that only seems to brew up resentment among actual Spyro fans (yes, they exist). Simply calling it Skylanders would have been a lot cleaner and true to what the experience is about. With such a big gimmick in place, nothing would have stopped Toys For Bob from lazily throwing together a terrible game, but genuine care and love appears to have been poured into the project. Every Skylander feels unique, the story is lightheartedly entertaining, and above all, the game is fun to play. I say that shamelessly as an adult, as well. It even looks quite good, with a fantastic art direction that draws me in and a cute aesthetic reminiscent of all those toys from the nineties.  Another unique aspect of the game is the cross-platform functionality of the toys themselves. Once you have the toys, they will work on any platform, and the Portal can even be plugged into a PC so that the toys may interact with the Skylanders website. Those who grow to love the game enough might want to check out the 3DS version as well, which contains alternative gameplay and will allow you to take your characters out on the road and its own wireless Portal that beams your toy's information to the console. The Portal can be safely switched off, and the characters will remain in the game, allowing you to play with them anywhere. To save progress to the toys, players simply scan them a second time, updating their stats with any new experience learned from the game. The 3DS version is more of a platformer game than a hack n' slash one. Unlike the console versions, the 3DS variant allows characters to jump and dash and has players collecting special items to clear a stage before a timer runs out, lest the villainous Hektor catch them. It's a more challenging game than its bigger brothers, and provides a nice little complement to the main entry while really hammering home the cross-platform nature of the whole idea.  With Skylanders, a heartfelt effort was made to create a quality product rather than a piece of cheap garbage designed purely to sucker in the pre-teens. While there are obviously calculating marketing brains pulling all the strings, the end result is good enough for that to not quite be so evident while the game is in motion. A solid title was married to a very clever concept, and the result is something worthy of praise.  If you're a parent looking for a Christmas gift, or if you're just a big kid who wants to play with some silly (and well designed) toys, then Skylanders: Spyro's Adventure comes wholly recommended. It's not the most complex game on the market, but the innovative gadgetry and authentic thoughtfulness on the part of the developer stands out in a market so used to churning out the same old crap. Whether getting it for your children or pretending to get it for your children, Skylanders is a game that has a special something to it, and it's well worth checking out.
 photo

Growing up in the nineties, I gained a certain affinity for contrived plastic gimmicks designed to be collected by compulsive children. The likes of Mini Boglins, Monster in My Pocket, and GoGo's Crazy Bones made up a huge pa...

Review: Aliens: Infestation

Oct 12 // Jim Sterling
Aliens: Infestation (Nintendo DS)Developer: WayForward TechnologiesPublisher: SEGAReleased: October 11, 2011MSRP: $29.99 Set on Lv-426 in the aftermath of Aliens, Infestation puts players in control of four marines as they search the remnants of the Sulaco and uncover yet another shadowy plot by the sinister Weyland-Yutani corporation. While each Marine has his or her own distinct personality and dialog, do not get too attached to them -- they likely won't survive to see the end of the game. Aliens: Infestation is a game about loss, taking the depressing spirit of the Aliens movies to heart and presenting a game where anybody can die ... and probably will. There are 19 Marines to discover and collect throughout the game, and when one of them gets killed off, they stay killed. Players have a chance to rescue fallen comrades from Xenomorph nests, but if the escape attempt fails, they're never coming back. To ensure that players feel the dismal sting of death, WayForward Technologies has made Aliens: Infestation a damn tough game. Taking an old-school scrolling shooter approach, players investigate the Sulaco and wider areas of LV-426, facing some incredibly stiff resistance along the way. Health bars are not huge, a stamina gauge limits the ability to run or dodge, and bugs are very tough to put down. This difficulty can sometimes border on the unreasonable, especially when facing fast-moving monkey-bugs that deal damage by touch alone or when Xenomorphs suddenly jump at you from several feet away. Sometimes, enemies are strategically placed below elevators and ladders so that taking a hit is inescapable. When the game wants to hurt you, it will hurt you no matter what. While this keeps the game incredibly tense, it can become annoying when every hit you take knocks you down, the dodge roll is ineffectual, and Xenos can close the gap between themselves and you without recourse. Despite these grievances, however, Aliens: Infestation is an incredibly intense shooter experience, one that makes the Xenomorphs genuinely threatening for the first time in years. Not only are the regular Alien Warriors deadly, the various boss creatures lying in wait are utterly brutal, more than capable of taking out an entire squad of Marines if players aren't careful. Memories of Castlevania are evoked when players are down to a sliver of health and desperately trying to get back to a save point in order to find sanctuary, knowing that failure truly puts something on the line. As noted, Aliens: Infestation borrows heavily from Metroid. Backtracking is a big part of the experience, as some areas are closed off until players return later with new equipment. Sealed doors need to be opened with welding equipment, bug resin needs to be burned away with flamethrowers, and broken steam pipes need to be closed off with wrenches. The backtracking can get a little overindulgent, especially when players are only given a vague clue of where to go, but it's otherwise a very good take on classic gameplay. There is a range of iconic weaponry to discover throughout the game, from the unforgettable pulse rifle to shotguns, flamethrowers, and smart guns. While the flamethrower is disappointingly weak, the smart gun is a beautiful weapon that becomes crucial as soon as it's discovered. Each gun can be upgraded three times by items hidden throughout the game, improving their ability to dish out death. Unfortunately, only one main weapon can be carried at a time, which I find inconvenient, especially when you need the useless flamethrower to burn open doors. I'd like for at least two weapons to be equippable alongside the emergency pistol. Another disappointing element to the game is the lack of rewards for exploration. There are many hidden air vents leading to secret areas, but very few of these areas contain anything useful. While health pickups and ammo drops are welcome, these things are replenished in save rooms, meaning that running out of essentials isn't a huge issue. Also, if you already have four marines, any new ones discovered refuse to join your party and stay where they are, meaning that discovering them can be rather pointless. With only weapon upgrades on offer as tangible, lasting rewards, it often feels like a waste of time to explore, especially when you fight your way through an infested air vent only to discover an insultingly empty dead end. These disappointments aside, Infestation is the most satisfying Aliens experience in years. From its retro visuals (including some great Xeno animation) to the authentic sound effects and fittingly subdued music, this is a game with a lot of respect for the franchise that fans ought to adore. The slow pace and knowledge that Xenos can creep from scenery or burst from grates in the floor lead to a surprisingly thrilling experience, something that's very hard to successfully achieve on a handheld system yet looks effortless in the hands of WayForward. Of particular note is the cast of Marines. As previously mentioned, each one has a distinct personality, original dialog, and stylized character portrait complete with gritty comic book aesthetic. Every Marine has a defining pose in save rooms, and quite a few of them are genuinely funny, affable personalities. Losing a favorite character is painful, especially when they've been with the player a long time. I just wish less likable ones could be swapped out for freshly discovered recruits when the squad is full. Aliens: Infestation could stand to offer a lot more rewards in respect for the risks players take, but ultimately this is a game that makes Xenomorphs intimidating once again and provides a stiff challenge with lasting consequences for failure. Packed with references to the Aliens movies, including Power Loader battles and an intense APC escape scene, this is a game made by fans with the fans in mind. After recent disappointments from the Aliens franchise, Infestation brings it all home and makes for a thoroughly captivating adventure.
 photo

Videogames owe a lot to Aliens. The movie classic gave us the archetypal space marine, then pitted them against a nest full of drooling Xenomorphs, the titular Aliens that have served as a blueprint for so many videogame enem...

Review: Kirby Mass Attack

Sep 16 // Jim Sterling
Kirby Mass Attack (Nintendo DS)Developer: HAL Laboratory, Inc.Publisher: NintendoReleased: September 19, 2011MSRP: $29.99 Kirby Mass Attack sees our pink hero split into ten pieces by the nefarious leader of the Skull Gang, Necrodeus -- who logically believes that ten small Kirbys are easier to beat than one huge one. His gambit actually pays off, but just before he can defeat the last Kirby, a star representing our hero's heart saves him and leads him on a quest to regroup and defeat Necrodeus. This happens because Kirby games are known for tightly scripted, incredibly logical stories. The entire platforming adventure is played using just the stylus. Tapping anywhere on the screen sends all Kirbys to the designated spot, holding the stylus in place allows you to draw a line that the Kirbys will float along, while flicking each individual Kirby sends him flying in the desired direction -- crucial for reaching high places or latching onto flying enemies. It's a simple control scheme, but HAL does an exemplary job of exploiting it to create a huge variety of unique gameplay situations.  Players start with just a single Kirby, but it doesn't take long to build a veritable swarm. Each level is full of delicious fruit for Kirby to eat, and once he eats 100 points' worth of the stuff, another puffball spawns -- the process continuing until a miniature army of ten has been amassed. Getting to watch an entire scrum of Kirbys waddling along and clambering over each other as they run across the stage is a joy in and of itself.  All Kirbys respond to the same command, so pointing anywhere on the screen will send the whole group to the required destination. If you point at an enemy, the Kirbys will jump on it and proceed to pummel their victim to death in a rather nightmarish fashion, reminiscent of army ants cutting a spider to pieces. Bigger enemies require more Kirbys to take down efficiently, otherwise they're prone to shaking off the attackers. The Kirbys are also needed to grab onto levers, weigh down platforms, and bash into blocks, with some of these objectives demanding a minimum number of heroes. Each Kirby can be lost, although players always have a chance to save them and can always regain fallen heroes with more fruit. When a Kirby is hit, he turns blue, and if he's hit again, he'll become a ghost and start to float away. Flicking a live Kirby onto the ghost, however, will see it dragged back to earth and resurrected. What I love about this system is that it's both delightfully cute and disturbingly morbid at the same time, which seems to be a running theme for the whole Kirby series.  Thanks to the simple control scheme and tightly designed stages, there's a pleasant lack of confusion in controlling ten characters at once, but there are a few persistent flaws in an otherwise elegant system. The camera manages to become an issue in several places, as one can't move the screen to deal with any Kirbys straying from the pack, and there's sometimes not enough space in front of the group for you to lead them with the stylus. Also, while the Kirbys generally stick together, there will be occurrences where one or two decide to get stuck on a ledge or straggle behind, and majority control is always given the lowest Kirby onscreen -- if one falls from a high place, that's the one the camera will track, even if you need to be in the higher position. These are minor inconveniences at best, but they do cause some light fist-shaking on occasion.  Any irritation is more than made up for with the sheer wealth of clever gameplay design on offer. The platforming and boss challenges are many and varied, with challenges perfectly adapted to the touch-screen interface. For instance, you can't just dogpile on any enemy. Some have spikes in nasty places, requiring you to fling the Kirbys on certain exposed spots. Others will fire projectiles that shoot into the sky and come crashing back down, requiring you to intermittently call off an attack, run to safety, then recommence an assault. As the game progresses, there are all sorts of new situations to occur, with very little in the way of repeated gimmickry.  Like most Kirby games, Mass Attack is not a strictly challenging game -- if your only concern is getting to the end of each stage. However, finding hidden medallions and earning Gold Stars for getting your Kirbys through every level unscathed is another matter entirely. This kind of meta-challenge is something the Kirby series excels in, and its strict enforcement in Mass Attack makes for one of the most deceptively challenging Kirby games around, if you want it to be. Trying to keep ten Kirbys from getting hurt in order to achieve a Gold Star is something that will take even experienced players quite a lot of practice.  The hidden medallions scattered throughout each stage are worth your time too, as they unlock some of the best extra content a game has ever had. Acquiring a certain number of medallions unlocks a new item in the "extras" menu, and while some of them are very simple little minigames like the "whack-a-mole" spin-off, there's a number of shockingly deep items that could be considered full-fledged games in their own right. There's a lively little pinball game, a series of RPG-styled turn-based battles, and even a five-level top-down scrolling shooter! While none of these games are five-hour experiences, the fact that HAL went out of its way to create such engaging sub-games is remarkable. There's enough extra content to keep players invested far beyond the main game.  Kirby Mass Attack is one of those games that seem just so incredibly happy to be here. It revels in itself without becoming self-indulgent, presenting a cute and colorful, gorgeously designed world that manages to be lovable with just enough of a dark edge to stop things growing too saccharine. In other words, it's a Kirby game, through and through, and it couldn't be more amusing.  With five worlds that contain a sizable variety of levels apiece, plenty of reason to replay old stages, and the most stunning array of extra minigames I've seen in a long time, Kirby Mass Attack is a surprisingly deep, rich and versatile bundle of fun. Mix in that classic Kirby charm and you also have one of the finest adventures to ever grace a DS. Cleverly designed, overwhelmingly cute, and devoted to fun, Kirby Mass Attack is a game that should become part of your handheld library without question.
 photo

Kirby's Epic Yarn was a triumph, but there's no denying that Kirby's true home is on a handheld platform. It's where he debuted and it's where he's had his biggest adventures. Kirby Mass Attack brings Kirby home, both in term...

 photo

Mum was the word from Nintendo on the growing nightmare known as Nubageddon at their 3DS press event today. But those observant folks over at Andriasang noted an update to Big N's hardware site containing juicy info on the pe...

Talking to Women about Videogames: 3DS 2nd nub panic

Sep 12 // Jonathan Holmes
[embed]211109:40819[/embed] I think gamers had good cause to be extremely pessimistic about the analog nub cradle, mostly because Nintendo left way too much to the imagination in the process of revealing the product. At this point, when given any opportunity to assume, gamers are going to think the worst about Nintendo, both out of fear and pure distaste. For the past five years, the company has dominated the videogame world with the Wii and DS, which has many gamers scared. The idea that Nintendo is the primary force directing the evolution of gaming is enough to make some gamers fear for the medium as a whole. Nintendo doesn't seem to value online communication, the downloadable market, and Hollywood-style gaming experiences in the same ways most self-proclaimed "hardcore" gamers do. This resulted in a lot of gamers hating that Nintendo has been so successful. The fact that the company could prosper without adhering to "hardcore" values has some gamers feeling left out at best, and downright angry at worst.  Then there are the gamers who generally love what Nintendo does, who have Wii consoles and multiple Nintendo DS systems, and bought the 3DS at launch based on loyalty to the company. This is a group of people who have every right to be afraid of what this "nub cradle" could be foreshadowing.  Nintendo has trained its audience to believe that early adopters will be punished, and that even mid-life adopters will at least be partially penalized, at some point over the life span of their consoles. A lot of people who bought a DS felt stupid when the vastly improved DS Lite was released a little over a year later; DS Lite owners felt a little dumb when the even more vastly improved DSi was released a couple of years after that; and DSi owners felt similarly when the ultimate DS console, the DSi XL, came to market less than a year later. Only those who waited until the very cusp of the DS' lifespan to invest in the console came out without feeling burned at one point or another. It's easy for Nintendo fans to imagine this happening to them again, especially after the recent 3DS price drop. It's easy for them to imagine being stuck with an OG 3DS that leaves streak marks on their screens and is tied down to a clunky, potentially expensive nub peripheral in order to play the console's best games, while those who waited may have the option to by an upgraded console that costs less and does more. If Nintendo puts out something like the 3DS DNubs (Double Nubs) within the next few months, or even within the next year, no amount of free NES and Game Boy Advance games is going to make up for the sense of betrayal that early adopters will feel.  If that's not what Nintendo has in mind, they better speak up about it fast. The best thing the company could do for itself right now is to announce that the nub cradle is going to be dirt-cheap (ten bucks or less), that all games with support for it are going to be playable without it (like most Classic Controller-compatible games for the Wii), and most importantly, that they are committing to the current model of the 3DS for at least the next 18 months. They also have to mean it. If they do anything other that, they can't count on the gaming community having any confidence in the 3DS for this holiday, and potentially every holiday thereafter. We may know more after their pre-TGS press conference, set for live stream later tonight.  Is it right that Nintendo has to make those kinds of commitments to gamers? Is it fair that gamers are treating Nintendo like a friend-turned-heroin-addict who just asked them to borrow their wallet so they can turn into a magical panda that craps cotton candy and grants a trillion wishes a day? I'll leave that for you to decide.  In the meantime, let's all try to keep our emotions from guiding our opinions to the point of lunacy, and to be unafraid to reach out to the non-gaming world every once and a while for an outside perspective. It just might do us some good! [Comic by McNyers. He is a genius]
 photo

Earlier this week, Nintendo revealed to the world its plans to release a peripheral for the 3DS that adds a second analog nub to the handheld. The reactions to this news were generally mixed; the pervading opinions seemed to...

Review: Star Fox 64 3D

Sep 09 // Jonathan Holmes
Star Fox 64 3D (3DS)Developer: Nintendo and Q-GamesPublisher: NintendoReleased: September 9, 2011MSRP: $39.99 Like Ocarina of Time 3D before it, Star Fox 64 3D stays true to its source material, but boasts vastly improved graphics and tons of new features. I'd argue that Star Fox 64 3D is the better of the two revamps, but that's mostly because Star Fox 64 is source material more suited to the 3DS. The game is basically about violent animal Muppets that are constantly engaged in Star Wars-style air and space battles, carelessly killing each other with wanton abandon. There is a giant disembodied monkey head scientist named Andross who may pose some nebulous threat to the galaxy, but none of that is really talked about after the brief opening narrative exposition. This is basically Crud! Get this Bozo off my tail so I can blast some monkeys and/or monkey-shaped robots out of the sky!: The Game, and it's just as timeless a concept as it sounds.  Star Fox 64 3D is a 3D shmup. Throughout the game, you generally fly along a set path, though there are a few bits where you can chose your own course, or fly around a designated area as you please. The game focuses on tasking the player with alternating between offensive and defensive play maneuvers. Each level has a multiple environmental hazards, requiring a strategic, well-timed use of speed boosts, air-breaks, and flips. Fail at these tricks, and you'll end up smashing into something large and/or explosive. On the offensive side, you need to always be working to destroy enemy ships, objects in the environment -- ranging from Star Destroyers to giant space clams -- and just about everything on screen at all times in order to max out your score, and sometimes find hidden areas and power-ups. More advance players will work to charge up their attacks and fire at specific enemies to set off chain reactions among multiple enemies. The offensive side of Star Fox 64 3D is sort of like the recently released XBLA/PSN title Galaga Legions DX, but in 3D, and with stressed out, bloodthirsty chicken men and androgynous frog people leading the charge into battle.  Like I said in the opening paragraphs, the game looks great and plays well to the 3DS' strengths -- particularly the glasses-free 3D, which is a perfect fit with the game's focus on depth of field. Most objects are still built from a fairly low amount of polygons, but the textures, lighting, and transparency effects do a lot to make the game look impressive. The game also knows how to suddenly change gears and display fairly complex-looking, gigantic, highly detailed polygon models. The player will quickly get accustomed to blowing up simple abstract shapes, only to suddenly get accosted by a "realistic"-looking giant skeleton crab boss, or a wet and weird lava man. It should probably feel jarring to change styles like that so drastically, but it doesn't, largely due the consistently great art direction throughout. It would be totally irresponsible of me to not spend at least one paragraph of this review discussing the game's music. Like the John Williams scores it draws from, the soundtrack of Star Fox 64 3D works wonders at making ridiculously impossible events feel emotionally real. You'll feel genuine responsibility when your giant rabbit buddy tells you he's about to get his ass blown to bits (not his exact words) unless you get those bogeys off his tail. This clearly silly situation is made to feel important, largely because the music supplies the gravitas with no expense spared on drama. This works throughout the more emotional moments, which range from being mocked by a seemingly Deliverance-inspired pig man, witnessing flirtations between a cat lady and a blue bird guy, to even a (spoilers) lifesaving family reunion toward the end of the game. Though these moments feel like half-parody most of the time, they still have some genuine emotional weight, largely because of the musical score. Like most of the 8-Bit Mega Man titles -- and just about every Mario and Zelda game -- Star Fox 64 3D would not be half as fun if it's soundtrack had been replaced with lesser music. I've already spent much more time with the game's sound test mode than I expect Nintendo had intended. Star Fox 64 3D is much shorter and easier than I remembered, which shows that though the game feels timeless, it hasn't aged quite as well as I imagined it would have. Compared to other Nintendo-published 3D shmups like Sin and Punishment 2, Star Fox 64 3D lacks challenge, and is all too brief. There are two levels of difficulty, one based on the original N64 level design, and the other custom tuned for the 3DS. I found both difficult levels to be relatively easy, and was able to beat the game twice in less than three hours. Thankfully, Star Fox 64 3D is a game designed to be played multiple times. It's packed with branching paths that hold many surprises, including a couple of tank-based levels, and even an underwater stage complete with a submarine. I don't think it's possible to see every level in the game without playing it through at least three times. There are tons of unexpected, almost random conditions (saving your friends, defeating bosses in a set amount of time, destroying various environmental hazards, etc.) that determine what path you'll gown down. You won't figure most of them out on your own, requiring a lot of trial and error, or more realistically, some research online. On top of the branching paths themselves, the specifics of each level will change based on what order you play them in. Remember that flirtatious cat lady I told you about before? Well, she won't show up to make time with the blue bird man unless you beat the proceeding stages in the right order. Tiny details like that go a long way to making the supremely silly world of Star Fox 64 3D feel real, and supply the player with the small incentive necessary to boot it up again and again, long after you've seen both of the game's two endings.  One of the new features in the 3DS remake is the ability to control your ship using the 3DS' gyroscopic controls. Unlike in Ocarina of Time, the gyroscopic controls here offer no real advantage to the standard analog nub set up. There is nothing wrong with them, and those who have extremely poor fine motor control may dig the option, but I got nothing out of this unwieldy new mechanic. I did get a lot out of the option to play the game in various languages. Hearing Peppy Hare tell me to do a barrel roll in French is way more fun than it has any right to be. I also really enjoyed the game's multiplayer mode. I didn't expect much from it to start with, but after just one round, I quickly learned that it's more than a tacked-on extra. Even playing against the CPU was a lot of fun. In multiplayer, the game plays a lot like Mario Kart's battle mode, but in space, and with guns. All four players are thrown into an arena, with randomly generated "?" block power-ups spread throughout the field. There are tons of new weapons here, like a cloaking device, a teleporter, a giant vortex laser cotton ball thing, some highly lethal floating space-mines, and more. Playing this mode alone offered quite a challenge. It's much tougher than the game's main campaign. On the other hand, playing this mode with other people is an exercise in playful sadism. Using the 3DS' camera, you can get a good look at your opponents' faces as you blast them out of the sky, or better yet, betray a fragile alliance you might have formed with a buddy by farting a well placed space-mine directly onto their face. It goes without saying that it's a bummer this multiplayer mode isn't online compatible. It's a strange move, especially considering how well online play works with Super Street Fighter IV 3D and Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, not to mention DS games like Pokemon Black/White and Mario Kart DS. I know Nintendo could have put this game online --but ultimately didn't -- for reasons only they understand. Still, that doesn't diminish how much fun local multiplayer is on its own. Thankfully, you only need one cartridge to boot the game among multiple players; so as long as you have one or two 3DS-owning friends nearby, you'll be all set.  Star Fox 64 3D is a great little package, more than worthy of a purchase for fans of the genre. It lacks the scale and scope of Nintendo's other big N64 remake, but it's arguably a more compelling experience for shmup junkies like myself. The game is constant action with no filler; just constant dog fighting and high-flying arial maneuvers, with a bit of jaw-flapping, Muppet-y fun layered on top. With multiple rewards for achievements and high scores, loads of secrets to unlock, and multiplayer that screams "One more game!", it won't be hard to convince yourself to replay this one again and again.
 photo

The N64 is my least favorite console of all time, but I still feel the need to own one, mostly for Star Fox 64. It's easily one of my favorite games on the console, way ahead of Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time. That's part...

 photo

[Update: It's legit. That's your first look at the 3DS's new second analog nub cradle, set for release alongside Monster Hunter (Tri) 3G. Via @miladesn.] In the past hour, not one, not two, but three major gaming news outlets...

Aliens: Infestation is Metroid with Xenomorphs OH GOD!

Aug 30 // Jim Sterling
As if my hyperbole wasn't enough of a clue, Infestation plays like a sidescrolling shooter with a variety of large, open maps designed for exploration. Like all good "Metroidvania" games, there are plenty of closed-off areas that require special tools found later in the game, encouraging backtracking. Such areas include elavators that require keycards and gooey blockages that need to be burned away with flamethrowers.  The game starts with four playable Marines, each with their own personalities, and up to nineteen are encountered and collected throughout the game. When one Marine dies, another takes his or her place, and trust me, they can die. In fact, they can even fall prey to a Facehugger, becoming impregnated and eventually giving "birth" to a Xenomorph. Marines taken down by Alien Warriors will be dragged to a nest, and players have a limited amount of time to stage a rescue, lest they too become unwilling mothers.  As far as combat goes, this is a brutal game with little room for forgiveness. Aliens are more than happy to burst from floors, skitter on ceilings, and relentlessly pursue fleeing players. Xenomorphs hate standing still, and will dash across floors, sometimes even performing their own little feints to confuse players. Every Alien is a threat, and players need some nerve to take them down.  Players get access to the obligatory Pulse Rifle and a pistol. Holding the left shoulder button makes a Marine hold its ground so directional fire can be utilized -- crucial to tackling ceiling-loving Aliens. More weapons can be unlocked, along with grenades and other unique tools.  As well as standard exploration and combat, there will be Power Loader combat and sections where you're firing from a speeding vehicle. The demo also included a particularly challenging battle against an Alien Queen, in which I had to fend off multiple Facehuggers while throwing explosives in the bitch's head. She took down three of my Marines before she amusingly fell face-first to the ground.   I absolutely loved what I got to play of the game and I'm very much looking forward to playing more. The beautiful sprite-based animations, comic-book personality, surprising atmosphere and panic-inducing challenge sets the scene for what might be one of the best Aliens games ever made. I can't wait to get my hands on more!
 photo

SEGA's booth was fairly lavish this year, with huge signs, flashy lights, ladies dressed like Colonial Marines, and ... one fairly quiet man, wandering around with a DS. He was completely nondescript, fairly easy to miss, and...


  Around the web (login to improve these)




Back to Top


We follow moms on   Facebook  and   Twitter
  Light Theme      Dark Theme
Pssst. Konami Code + Enter?
You may remix stuff our site under creative commons w/@
- Destructoid means family. Living the dream, since 2006 -