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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.

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.  

"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  

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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...


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]

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.

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...


[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!

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...

Renegade Kid bringing ATV Wild Ride to the 3DS

Jul 29 // Nick Chester
[embed]207394:40045[/embed] With its follow up, Renegade Kid hopes to inject the ATV Wild Ride with a shot of adrenaline, bringing it up to par with console experiences. Renegade Kid is promising twice as much content as the original: 12 exotic locales, six of them new to the series; 48 tracks, half of them built specifically for ATV Wild Ride 3D. All of the tracks have been enhanced in ways that will take advantage of the 3D graphical capabilities of the 3DS, as well. This means that the classic tracks fans of the original already know and love will look better and play smoother than ever. "The 3DS is very powerful," Renegade Kid's Jools Watsham tells me, "which means more detailed environments with bigger vistas, and a bevy of cool visual effects such as shadow maps, particles, specular highlights, mipmaps, and the nifty stereoscopic 3D effect, of course. "In a nutshell, our original vision of the game can truly be realized on the 3DS." Renegade Kid also listened to feedback from critics and gamers on the original title, most of which Watsham says were positive. With the core gameplay already tight, the developer is focusing more on adding even more airborne tricks and track diversity, including more "dramatic elevation changes." The developer is also expanding the benefits of the game's trick system as well, with something it's calling "Wild Ride" mode. Successfully performing three difficult tricks in a row will cause you to enter "Wild Ride" mode, which Watsham likens to NBA Jam's "On Fire." In this mode, you'll be locked into a super speed, Nitro-style boost for a limited amount of time, which should encourage players to try out riskier tricks. ATV Wild Ride 3D is also getting an oft-requested feature that was absent in the original: online play, in addition to local, for up to four players. As of right now, Renegade Kid doesn't have a publisher for the title, which made diving into development headfirst a bit of a risk. "Yes, starting the development of a game without funding is a little risky," Watsham admits. "But this is how we started Renegade Kid." "Dementium started without the aid of a publisher," he recalls of the the first-person survival horror/action title for the DS. "In fact, the DS version of ATV Wild Ride also started this way. We created a playable demo of the game and shopped it around." The key is believing in the product, he says, knowing they have something special players want. "We believe we're creating something that offers a fun and unique gameplay experience for the 3DS," he says, "so we keep the faith that publishers will think so too." Another Renegade Kid title, Mutant Mudds, is being self-published on Nintendo's 3DS eShop. While it's possible that the racer could end up on the eShop, the project's scope means a developer will be needed to see it to completion. "We're a small studio and have limited funds," Watsham explains. "We need to find a publishing partner to complete the development of ATV Wild Ride 3D, whether it's release on eShop or at retail." We'll have more on ATV Wild Ride 3D as Renegade Kid moves through development. Given how solid the original title was, fans of extreme racing and kicking up dirt may have a solid reason to pick up a 3DS when the title's complete. Follow the latest updates on the official ATV Wild Ride 3D website.

Renegade Kid's Destineer-published Nintendo DS title, ATV Wild Ride, hit the market at an odd time earlier this year. With the Nintendo 3DS just ready to launch and promising more everything than the current handheld, the sol...

Nintendo 3DS goes $169, old customers get 20 free oldies

Jul 28 // Conrad Zimmerman
See, Nintendo understands the needs of the core customers who bought in early to feel satisfied with their purchase. So they're going to give everybody who bought a 3DS prior to this point the opportunity to download a collection of ten NES games for free before they hit the eShop. They'll also be giving out ten Game Boy Advance titles, including Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario Advance 3, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Metroid Fusion, WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgame$ and Mario vs. Donkey Kong, before the end of the year. These GBA games are currently expected to be exclusive to early adopters or, as Nintendo calls them, "Ambassadors." So, you're going to get twenty old games for free, some of which are very old and have already been milked to death on other downloadable platforms (NES games include Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong Jr., Balloon Fight, Ice Climber and The Legend of Zelda). This is supposed to make up for it.  I'm not the sort of guy who wants something for free. I'm glad that they're admitting that they're bending over their core consumers and offering them some form of compensation for the pleasure, but they can keep their exclusive downloads of games I bought from them at least once already. I just hope this teaches us all a lesson in early adoption.

Nintendo has announced that they will be changing the manufacturer suggested retail price for their Nintendo 3DS handheld worldwide. The gaming system which launched less than five months ago at $249 will be available for a m...

The irrefutable, undeniable, official top ten Sonic games

Jun 25 // Jim Sterling
10. Sonic Spinball Sonic the Hedgehog, being a rampant whore, would appear in all sorts of spin-offs over the years, but one of the earliest and most successful was Sonic Spinball. At its heart, the game was a fairly unremarkable pinball experience, with a few notable differences -- chiefly the ability to have limited control over the "ball" and a set goal for each of the four interestingly designed tables.  Being developed mostly by Polygames, Sonic Spinball had a slightly different feel and visual style when compared to other Sonic games. Nevertheless, it was a fun little diversion and one that can still be enjoyed today. It's nothing that actual pinball fans could ever call good, but as a Sonic-themed bit of silliness, it does the job.  9. Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine You'll notice that the early picks in this list stretch the definition of "Sonic game" a little bit. Unfortunately, it takes some blurring of the lines to get this list up to a solid ten. With that in mind, it's worth noting that Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine doesn't even feature Sonic. It does feature Scratch and Grounder though, and those chaps really need to stage a comeback.  Mean Bean takes the form of a Puyo Puyo color-matching puzzler. The Scenario Mode has the player face off against various Badniks, and they're all rather merciless. In fact, the whole game is sadistic. You can be winning by a mile, only to have a lucky combo from the enemy snatch their board from the jaws of defeat and transfer a load of unmatchable "refugee" beans over to your side. This game was fun, but boy was it an asshole. 8. SEGA Superstars Tennis  Shut up! The game was pretty damn good. Okay, so being a SEGA-oriented game, it wasn't strictly a Sonic title but let's be honest -- the game was predominantly about the blue hedgehog and various other Sonic characters. Like I said, I was desperate for games that were both Sonic-related and good. I'll take what I can get. The game succeeded by keeping things simple. At its core, Superstars Tennis is a fairly standard little sports title, and that's why it works. The only convolution comes in the form of super powers that are granted to each character. Outside of the regular matches were a whole bunch of minigames that were nearly all surprisingly great fun.  Plenty of fan service, solid tennis action and great minigames. A far better title than many will give it credit for. 7. Sonic the Hedgehog The original, though not necessarily the best. While Sonic the Hedgehog was, for its time, a kick up the ass of platform adventures, it has not aged with quite the same level of grace as the rest of Sonic's Genesis outings. The lack of a now obligatory Spin Dash move, sluggish pace, and respectively drab levels don't make for a truly great game, but it's still a decent one when regarded in context. It's certainly not bad, and at least deserves a place for its legacy. As the starting point for the series, it laid a lot of groundwork and helped cultivate the kind of gameplay that would make Sonic a quasi-legend. Plus, there are a few standout levels -- most notably Starlight Zone, which had a fantastic theme tune and some cool little gimmicks.  It was easily outclassed by its direct sequels, but the game has earned due respect.  6. Sonic Colors DS Sonic Colors on the Wii was sub-par nonsense and that's scientific fact, proven by science. The DS version? Pretty good, as it goes. A lot of this is due to the increased influence of Dimps on the title. I've said it before and I'll say it again -- Dimps needs to be the primary Sonic developer and it needs some creative freedom, because the studio seems to understand what made the games so good to a degree that Sonic Team does not.  While not totally free of the extraneous gimmickry that has marred most console-based Sonic titles, Sonic Colors DS was at least a more grounded and sensible platformer with very little fluff, and that's why it was actually fun as opposed to infuriating. Decent level design that puts the focus on platforming skill over pure speed is what makes Colors DS a superior offering, and while a few frustrating levels and pointless narrative scenes remain, it is overall a pretty great offering.  5. Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 While Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 still remains a controversial game among the Sonic fan community -- many members of which despised it for the most arbitrary and ludicrous of reasons -- Sonic 4 was and is a lot of fun. Was it the huge mega comeback that everybody longed for? Not quite. What it was, however, was the first great Sonic game to hit a console in ages, and those who didn't demand the Moon floating in a bucket of Wish Water were left satisfied.  There are some definite low points. For example, there is a potentially excellent level in which Sonic rides decks of playing cards, which is summarily ruined at the end with an awfully dodgy pitfall section that undoes all the good the stage had previously done. A few bosses and gimmicky challenges reek of the game trying too hard to remain overly complex, when a simpler approach would be better.  Still, the overall experience is terrific, and that's despite the game's Zones being based on some of the least enjoyable levels found in the Genesis games. It takes a lot to make anything based on Sonic 2's Metropolis zone fun, but Sonic 4 managed it. That's worthy of a damn medal.  4. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is viewed by some as the best Genesis game, but I always felt it lacked the same tight level design and unique nineties aesthetic as Sonic 2. It was still a solid followup though, with levels that ranged from great to decent, and a number of inventive boss encounters.  The only real downside to Sonic 3 is how obviously significant the focus on graphics was. There's a whole section in Hydrocity Zone that puts Sonic on rotating plinths. From a gameplay perspective, it's dull stuff, but you got to see Sonic rotate a full 360 degrees, and that was the point. Blast Processing, bitch! While Sonic 3 is a fun game and worthy of its place among the series' best, it's interesting to note that, even this early on, there are signs of the overbearing gimmickry that would kill later games. Marble Garden Zone, for instance, was a boring, slow-paced mess of spinning disc platforms that could barely be controlled by the player, while Carnival Night Zone featured the barrel of mystery that required pressing Up and Down on the D-Pad to maneuver -- a trick that the player is never told. But ... Sonic 3 had Ice Cap Zone, so all is forgiven.  3. Sonic & Knuckles Sonic & Knuckles is, ostensibly, the second half of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. They were supposed to be one game from the outset, after all. Sonic & Knuckles has the edge over Sonic 3 thanks to more memorable levels, an excellent soundtrack (Flying Battery and Sky Sanctuary are amazing) and, of course, a second storyline that featured Knuckles.  Of course, both games can be considered as sharing third and fourth place once you lock the cartridges together to create Sonic 3 & Knuckles.  As good as the game was, it could have really done without the stage involving ghosts and doors that would slowly close shut. Screw that stage a thousand times.  2. Sonic Advance Sonic Advance is the reason why I say Dimps has a better handle on the series than Sonic Team, because it did exactly what New Super Mario Bros. would do several years later -- it kept things simple.  Adopting a "back to basics" approach, Dimps put its energy into proper platforming design and utilized speed as a reward, not as a central gameplay device. Its range of levels and excellent soundtrack evoked feelings of old school Sonic titles and ensured its place as a game I still happily play to this day. At the time, people would ask if Sonic could ever make a comeback. In 2000, he did so ... at least for a time.  Unfortunately, a certain demographic whined that Sonic Advance was "too slow" because they didn't have a clue what had made Sonic games good. The non-existent problem was "fixed" by Dimps, leading to a pair of inferior Sonic Advance sequels that did away with good platforming and focused on running fast. It ruined what could have been a great series, because idiots didn't realize that Sonic Advance wasn't "too slow by Sonic standards" -- it had brought the speed BACK to standard.  As far as I'm concerned, Sonic Advance was the first authentic Sonic experience since the Genesis days and, more importantly, it was the last. Time will tell if Sonic Generations can change that.  1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 I hate to end the list on a highly predictable note, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is still the best Sonic game made to date and up there with the very best that platformers have to offer. Never has a Sonic been so consistent, with nearly every level being intensely playable, even today, and a range of unforgettable boss encounters.  Sonic 2 featured some of the best Zones in the entire franchise -- the speedy Chemical Plant, the charming Hilltop, and the delightfully oddball Oil Ocean to name but three. Had the game not insisted on THREE ACTS of the dreadful Metropolis Zone, it may well have been perfect. Seriously, three acts? It's like they knew how awful that Zone was and wanted to punish everybody out of sheer cruelty. Wankers.  Anyway, there's a reason why I still play Sonic 2 up until the end of Oil Ocean before switching it off -- it's just that damn good. A run of excellent and varied zones, the best soundtrack in the series, and of course the playable Tails to keep younger brothers occupied instead of bugging you to play the game next.  Yet SEGA does all it can to NOT do things the way they worked best. I'll never understand that, but at least SEGA's released it ten billion times, so I'll never be far away from the best Sonic game ever made.

Sonic the Hedgehog turned twenty years old this week, and there was much rejoicing. Well ... there was a bit of rejoicing. There was something, at least.  To keep everybody in the Sonic spirit, I have consulted the great...

Review: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D

Jun 17 // Jim Sterling
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D (3DS)Developer: Nintendo, GrezzoPublisher: NintendoReleased: June 19, 2011MSRP: $39.99 It's difficult to review The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D simply as a game, because it's a game most of you have likely played many times since 1998. At its core, this is the same Ocarina of Time that you remember from the Nintendo 64 era, with all its charm, and all its 1998-era design.  Focusing simply on the game's enhancements, it has to be said that the graphics alone make this the definitive version of Ocarina of Time. Characters are so much more detailed, with far superior animation, and the notorious "Vaseline" effect applied to background scenery is nowhere to be found. Many of the buildings have been given extensive redesigns, bringing Hyrule to life with greater intricacy and more color. I won't go as far as to call the game beautiful, but it's undeniably prettier in its new clothes. Ocarina 3D provides a far richer visual experience, yet remains so true to the original vision of the game that you might be tricked into thinking the graphics aren't improved very much. It's only when you directly compare character models and scenery between the 3DS and N64 that you really get a sense of how much better Ocarina 3D looks. It's a testament to how authentic the graphical overhaul is that it can be so dramatic and yet feel so subtle.  Sadly, the sound did not get similar treatment. It's by no means a poor audio experience, but it has not been enhanced from the N64 version. It's a good job that music is still absolutely stellar. [embed]203972:39501[/embed] As the name implies, Ocarina of Time is presented with the same 3D visuals you've come to know and sometimes love on the 3DS. While it doesn't exactly add anything to the gameplay, the title certainly looks better with the 3D enhancement. Colors are a little deeper with the 3D slider turned up, and the game appears ever so slightly washed out when you turn the effect down. It doesn't look hideous, by any means, but it is noticeably less pleasant without the 3D coating.  Thanks to the touchscreen, Ocarina's controls are much more efficient and useful, unless you're the type who doesn't like to get thumbprints on the screen. If you're a stylus-only 3DS player, you'll find the lower screen's inventory more fiddly to navigate. If you don't mind using your thumb, then equipping items and whipping out your ocarina is quick and easy.  Gyroscope controls are also included for use with ranged items such as the slingshot or bow. Unfortunately, the 3DS' contradictory design is such that the motion control won't work with the 3D visuals, unless you rotate your head along with the screen at a perfect angle. Failure to do so results in you getting an eyeful of painful screen blur. Fortunately, the 3D slider is conveniently located, and you can always just stick to traditional controls.  As far as the actual button input goes, Ocarina 3D feels surprisingly at home on the 3DS. The only issue is with the targeting system, which requires a press of the left shoulder button. It's feels pretty awkward to keep your finger placed there while trying to move and attack at once, but it's certainly no deal breaker.  For the most part, Ocarina of Time 3D is a joy to play, but there are a handful of niggles. Being a relatively faithful port, a number of annoyances from the 1998 original have carried over to the main game, such as the busybody owl who forces you into conversations. He still tricks you into letting him repeat his dialog by placing your cursor to "Yes" when he asks if you want him to explain things again. Stupid owl bastard. Some of the contextual commands, such as picking up Cuccos, are pretty dodgy, with Link struggling to get a hold on a running chicken because the right command won't appear properly. It's also worth noting that, while it was groundbreaking at the time, the famous Z-targeting system doesn't always work right, and Link will sometimes not focus on an enemy despite the screen's targeting reticule telling you he has. Oh, and Navi ... she's as excruciatingly infuriating as she ever was. So that's good to know. These issues, which still occasionally annoying, do as much to demean the experience today as they did over a decade ago. By that, I mean they do very little indeed. Ocarina of Time still holds up as one of the truly inspiring adventures in the medium of videogames. It's an absorbing, evocative world, and now it's one that can be taken anywhere. To cement this version's place as the ultimate package, Ocarina of Time 3D also includes the mirrored Master Quest version of the game and a Boss Rush mode. These extras are unlocked after completing the original version, and will surely add a little more longevity to game that already provides enough entertainment for the asking price. Ocarina of Time 3D is a game that makes you appreciate how far the medium has come. Ten years ago, the idea of running something like Ocarina on a handheld system would be inconceivable. Now, not only do we get it, but we get an improved version with superior graphics. That's the sort of thing that fascinates me, and makes me very happy to be a gamer in the here and now.  In many ways, this is one of the most pointless reviews I've ever written, as you already know if you're getting Ocarina of Time 3D. More than any other game, I feel the decision to purchase or not was made by gamers the moment it was announced. However, if for some reason you are on the fence, let me tell you that Ocarina of Time 3D is the ultimate version of one of the most endearing videogames you could ever hope to play.  Nothing more needs to be said. 

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a powerful game. It's a game that, once it sinks its claws into a gamer, never lets go. Equal parts innocent and morbid, charming and disturbing, silly and melancholic, Ocarina of Time ...


The Wii U was revealed. It's a new console that looks to be more powerful than the current HD consoles, and it has a lot of Wii- and 3DS-style functions in the controller. The controller is really weird and I hate the plac...


[Update: Just spotted an image of Mimiga Viliiage in polygon form on Nicalis's Twitter and added it to the gallery.] Cave Story 3D is one of my most hotly anticipated titles at the moment. The promise of new content, designed...

Why you haven't bought a 3DS... yet

Apr 11 // Jonathan Holmes
Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #1: The 3DS got bad press The non-gaming press has done a great job of bashing the 3DS, and I know a lot of people that have taken that bad press to heart. A frend of mine, in his early 50's, has already declared to me that he will never allow his children to buy a 3DS, and he's never even used the system before. He has, however, seen the commercials for the 3DS, but they didn't do anything for him. "Looks just like the DS I got my kid for Christmas last year", he says "Except more likely to kill their eyes like that thing that Steve Martin invented in The Jerk". This goes to show that you only casually follow the gaming scene, you likely have no idea what separates the 3DS from the DS or other handhelds, other than that it has 3D, and it might make you go blind. Nintendo said from the start that they were going to have a tough time advertising the 3DS on 2D television sets, but the ads so far really aren't cutting it when it comes to showing consumers what sets the 3DS apart from it's predecessors. That's just the start of why touting 3D as the the 3DS's primary selling point might not have been such a great idea. When you'll buy one: Unless Nintendo changes their PR strategy soon, people outside of the gaming world are not likely to get a 3DS until after they've played one. Ads that show testimonials of real people reacting to the console's 3D display might be a good idea, but a better idea would be to get those 3DS demo units out to every major department store chain in America. I've been showing my 3DS off to my non-gaming friends on a pretty regular basis, and about 3 out of 10 of them went ahead and bought one after checking mine out. One plans to buy one for the AR games alone (mostly for Face Raiders, because she loves looking at her own face). This is despite the fact that she claims to hate 3D, and everything it stands for, which brings me to our next point.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #2: You think you hate 3D There has been a huge backlash against 3D movies, and 3D in general, amongst "hardcore" fans of  movies and games. For many people, 3D comes off as a gimmick, and gimmicks almost always piss people off. Then there's the resentment. In the film community, there was a huge backlash against mediocre, 3D blockbuster films like Avatar, Clash of the Titans, and Alice in Wonderland. Seeing these movies make huge numbers while better, non-3D movies tanked at the box office, got a lot of film fans fearful that the movie industry is headed into a 3D toilet. It's not dissimilar to way that Wii games like Carnival Games and Wii Party made big money, and were hated for it, partially because smaller, motion control-free Wii games like Muramasa and Little King's Story only made modest returns. If a crappy, 3D-heavy games make big money on the 3DS, while a well made, minimally 3D games tank, you can bet that gamers will be pissed.   When you'll buy one: Not until you forget about the "3D" in "3DS". I love the 3DS's 3D display, but I don't think it's enough to convert most 3D haters. If you're down on 3D on principle, you're not going to buy a 3DS until Nintendo starts exploiting and promoting all the other things the 3DS can do; movie playback, the better downloadable game service, built-in motion controls, better graphics, better controls, the list goes on and on. Like I said before, I know at least one person who's buying a 3DS just for the AR games. I think there are a lot of people out these who may do the same. The other reason she's picking one up is the she's wanted a DS for a long time. That actually puts her in the minority amongst gamers, which brings me to my next point.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #3: You just bought a DS The DS sold very well last holiday season, as it has just about every holiday season since it launched. There are already four models of DS out there, the most recent of which (the DSi XL) has been on the market for less than 2 years. Add on to that the fact that the DS just had a bunch of big name releases, like Pokemon Black/White, Monster Tale, and Okamiden, and you have a lot of people that may not have the burning need to drop $250 on a new console right now, DS or otherwise. March 2011 may have been a little to soon to launch a new DS.   When you'll buy one: This holiday at the latest. If the only reason you don't want a 3DS is because you're currently satisfied with the old DS, that's going to change fast, as DS games stop being released, and more and more must-have 3DS games hit the market. Other than a new Kirby game and a few other outliers, the DS isn't getting any big games anymore, whereas the 3DS has a steady stream of amazing games starting in June, and continuing into 2012.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #4: The 3DS was unfinished at launch The 3DS launched with no movie playback, a near-featureless online system, and no online shop or web browser. In many ways, having a 3DS now feels like having a pre-release preview build of the console. The fact that there was a system update the day the system was released just further drives home the idea that when the initial shipment of retail 3DS consoles were sent to retailers, the console just wasn't done yet. It's puzzling that Nintendo would seemingly rush the console out like this. Maybe to get some sales in this fiscal year? Regardless of the reasons why, the 3DS of today definitely isn't as awesome as the 3DS of six months from now will be.   When you'll buy one: Some of you are probably going to wait for the inevitable 3DS Lite (Or 3DSi, or whatever Nintendo calls the next 3DS), which will probably hit in about two years, maybe less if the current 3DS model has the growing pains that the DS Phat did. For the rest of you, all the big features of the console should be rolled out by this holiday, so if you're waiting to download cheap games or play 3D movies on your 3DS, you wont have to wait to long. The same goes for all the games you might be waiting for, which brings us to point #5.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #5: The 3DS has no big games Right now, the 3DS is mostly dominated by "arcade" style games; games where story takes a back seat to high score hunting and/or skill building. Pilotwings, Ridge Racer, Super Street Fighter IV, and even Nintendogs all fit that description. The console will also see a lot of ports in the near future (Cave Story, Ocarina of Time, Star Fox, Metal Gear Solid 3), which isn't doing much for its reputation. A a lot of people have trouble getting excited about ports, even if they are ports of classics. Ports and arcade games just don't feel as big to many modern gamers, and for people to plunk down $250 for a new console, they often need something big.   When you'll buy one: If you're a Nintendo fan, you're likely to get a 3DS this year, maybe even in the next few months. Mario Kart, Animal Crossing, Paper Mario and the new Kid Icarus will likely be irresistible to the Nintendo faithful. Same goes for Ocarina of Time. Fans of that game seem content to buy it over and over again, regardless of how many times they've already played it. If you're only into 3rd party games, you may be waiting until 2012 (unless you are really into Resident Evil). That said, E3 is coming up in a few months, and that could change everything. More about that in a bit.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #6: The 3DS is not a great portable system The 3DS is an amazing hand-held console. Out of the many, many, many videogame consoles in my living room, the 3DS is the one I want to play the most right now. That's playing in my living room we're talking about. When it comes to what console I want to play while in the waiting room at the doctors office, or in line to see a movie, that's where the 3DS runs into problems. The 3DS may be the best hand-held console I own, but it's not the best portable. The 3D display, the gyrometer controls, the AR games, and the console's battery life all work to make the 3DS potentially embarrassing and/or unwieldy to use on the go. That's not true of all 3DS games. I'm totally good with turning the 3D off and practicing some Super Street Fighter IV combos while on the bus or waiting in line. That's the exception though. Right now, just about every 3DS game is tough to play in public spaces. When you'll buy one: Two things are going to have to happen to make the 3DS a contender for best portable. For one, the 3DS needs a better battery. That will happen, if it hasn't already. I haven't kept up with my 3DS battery news, but I'm confident that the console's battery life issues will be addressed sooner rather than later. The other thing is, we need to get some cheap, simple, fun games on the 3DS Shop Channel; games that don't require 3D or other more restricting features of the console. Angry Birds is coming to the 3DS, and that will do well (as it has just about everywhere) but I'm sure that it will just be a matter of months before the 3DS is flooded with games that are similarly suited for portable play. For instance, the Bit.Trip games would be perfect for playing while on the move, and they're headed to the 3DS any time now. I'm sure that's just the start of the avalanche of portable-friendly games set to hit the console in the coming months.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #7: You want to be a pirate The DS is easy to play pirated games on. The 3DS, not so much. Reports have been circulating since before the console launched that 3DS would be initially pirate-proof. Some even claim that pirating 3DS games could brick the console. That means that all the people out there who bought a DS, but never paid and honest buck for a DS game, are likely not all that into the 3DS right now.   When you'll buy one: It feels like piracy is inevitable on any console, but if Nintendo has their way, it will be a while before the 3DS is easily and permanently hackable in the way that the DS was . It took hackers about 6 months to get a homebrew channel running on the Wii, and though Nintendo has worked to stop piracy on the Wii with system updates, hackers have consistently found away around them. I figure it will take hackers less than that to crack the 3DS, but even then, Nintendo will fight hard to kill it with updates.   I'd guess we have a functioning homebrew channel on the 3DS by Halloween, but it's never going to be the pirate's paradise that the DS was. That may turn pirates off to the console for good, especially if they end up with a bricked 3DS.   Reason you didn't buy a 3DS #8: You hate Nintendo Some people hate Nintendo, just as some people hate the Yankees, Justin Bieber, and Jon Stewart. For these people, sports, music, politics, and videogames aren't just diversions. They're personal, and once things become personal, rationality goes out the window. There are people that would be happy to buy the 3DS if it happened to be created by Apple, Microsoft or Sony, but because it's a Nintendo product, they can't help but hate it. Right now, the 3DS is not likely to do much to warm the cold heart of the Nintendo hater, especially with the NGP just around the corner, and more and more great games coming to iOS. In the end though, it's all about the games. Hate Nintendo all you want, but if there are games you can't get anywhere else, you're going to get one. The question is, will that happen, and if so, when? When you'll buy one: It all depends on E3. If enough 3rd parties step up and put out 3DS exclusives that are very "Non-Nintendo", the console may just suck in the Nintnedo haters. For fans of western games, we're talking stuff like Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto, Dead Space, Gears of War, and Mass Effect. For Eastern gamers, you've got to have Final Fantasy and Monster Hunter. I'm not talking about Final Fantasy kart racers, Mass Effect mini-game collections or Dead Space on-rails shooters here. I'm talking about "real" games from those series, like how Resident Evil Revelations is a "real" Resident Evil game. It's got to be a game that competes with whats happening on home consoles, or it doesn't matter. With Revelations, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D and Super Street Fighter IV: 3D Edition, Capcom is proving that the 3DS can handle PS3/360-caliber games. Now we'll just have to wait and see how many publishers want to invest in that direction. If they don't start supporting the 3DS en masse by next Christmas, the console will likely be seen as another "casual-friendly Nintendo system", and will suffer the same bad rap that the Wii has been struggling with for the past few years. Conclusion: It's weird to see the 3DS, Nintendo's most earnest attempt to appeal to graphics-focused "traditional" gamers, head off with such a hit-and-miss launch. However, when you look at all the factors that added up to create the console's launch environment, it makes sense that the 3DS wouldn't become the sell-out success that the Wii was right out of the gates. If the 3DS launched near the holidays, and had the support of a new Zelda title at launch, there is no way the thing could have stayed on shelves. The real question is, would that really have been the best thing for Nintendo, the industry, and for us? As it looks now, the 3DS will likely continue to sell at a good rate through out the year, seeing peaks in sales whenever a high profile games (like Ocarina of Time, Resident Evil: Mercenaries, and Mario Kart) are released. That will go on untill the install base is large enough to support the release of truly huge titles like the next Mario game, and whatever mega-publishers like Activision, EA, and Ubisoft choose to release on the system in 2012. In the meantime, the little guys like Bit.Trip series, Cave Story, and whatever Team Meat is cooking up on the console, will have a chance to shine in the spotlight, while Nintendo continues to ramp up production on the 3DS, assuring that there will never be a years of console shortages like there was with the Wii. This may be exactly what Nintendo had in mind all along. They may not have wanted all of you to buy a 3DS just yet, knowing that in time, the reasons why you're holding out on the console will fade away. It's not like Nintendo to completely fumble the release of a hand-held console, is it?

Two weeks ago from yesterday, the 3DS launched in the USA. So far, the console has sold well, but not quite as well as Nintendo projected. The company expected to move 4 million 3DS units worldwide in the first month of relea...

Are you still playing your 3DS?

Apr 08 // Jim Sterling

It has come to my attention that I've not touched my 3DS since I reviewed Ridge Racer 3D, and this makes me very unhappy. The Streetpass function is useless here, the collection of Play Coins feels like a waste of time, and N...

Exclusive: Why Fez won't be coming to WiiWare or the 3DS

Mar 29 // Jonathan Holmes
Regarding Fez on other direct download services, Mr. Fish had this to say: Right now we're only concentrating on XBLA, which makes the most sense for us at the time. PC and PSN would also make a lot of sense, but in my opinion, WiiWare just wouldn't be worth our time and effort. It's a dismal system that I don't want to deal with neither as a customer, nor a developer. No demos? Fuck off. Before you fellow WiiWare fans fly into a rage in the comments, keep in mind that Mr. Fish is fully aware that Nintendo has started utilizing time-sensitive demos for some games. Still, depending on who you are and what your game is, that could still mean "no demo" for you. A lot of WiiWare devs aren't graced with a  demo, or see their demo dropped from the service less than a month later. Things aren't looking quite as bleak for the 3DS in general, but still not great for Fez in particular: As for the 3DS, well, that would just have to be a completely different game. If I'm going to make a game that uses stereoscopic graphics, it's gonna be built from the ground up for that. Oh wait! I already did that. wink-wink nudge-nudge. Super Hypercube looks quite compelling. I hope Mr. Fish is hinting at a release on 3DSWare here, because I don't have the brains or the tech to get it running on my PC. The budding 3DSWare service could use a few small, eye catching games that utilizes the console's 3D display for more than just looks. Nintendo better allow for 3DSWare demos though, or Mr. Fish isn't going to be happy.

I had the pleasure of playing Fez at PAX East, the upcoming perspective-bending 2D exploration platformer for XBLA. I also had the opportunity to chat with Mr. Phil Fish, the game's co-creator. While talking about the ideas t...

Eight realistic things that the 3DS needs

Mar 28 // Jim Sterling
1. Overhaul of the Friends System Yesterday I Tweeted my 3DS Friend Code and pledged to add anybody who shared theirs. Within an afternoon, I added over sixty friends (I've now maxed out at 100). While it's cool to see when Dale North is playing with his virtual Corgi, there's nothing else to do. You can't message friends, you can't even get access to their Miis without using a totally separate system (more on that later). Once you waste your time inputting Friend Codes, you have very little to show for it.  Not to mention, navigation is awful. You can't sort your friends by preference or online status. There's no "back" button, so if you've added your 60th friend, you have to manually scroll through the other 59 of them in order to get to the front page and add another. As it stands, the Friends List is a clunky, useless mess. This type of thing is online gaming 101, and really shouldn't feel as archaic and limited as this.  Also -- come on, can we have some leaderboards and social connectivity? Just a bit? It's really not hard to do in the year 2011. 2. Less reliance on StreetPass Right now, StreetPass is the most efficient way to collect Miis and access special features on various games. Unfortunately, this reliance on StreetPass alienates a vast sector of the market. I live in Mississippi, which not only won't sell as many 3DS units, but is also largely anti-pedestrian. You need a car to travel anywhere in this town, with a lack of public transport and sidewalks only featuring in the barren suburban streets or the heart of Jackson, where you'll get mugged before you find a StreetPass user. My situation will likely ring true even for more pedestrianized areas. Unless you live in a huge city such as New York, London or Tokyo, your opportunities to use StreetPass are considerably limited. This locks one out of several Mii-based features built into the 3DS and renders the StreetPass functionality of game cartridges all but useless.  As usual, this comes down to Nintendo bucking up its ideas as far as the Internet goes. More opportunities to collect Miis online, without using those annoying QR codes, would be great. StreetPass is awesome as a concept, but heavy use of it will cut off millions of people.  3. Reasonable (and timely) eShopping The very fact that Nintendo launched the 3DS without having its virtual marketplace online is ridiculous, yet so very fitting for a company that doesn't seem to understand how the Internet works. I'm fairly certain that most of my time will be spent playing Game Boy and Game Gear titles on the 3DS, and I'm fairly excited to see a Nintendo handheld with a robust digital content plan.  Of course, that's if Nintendo ends up using a robust digital content plan. I'm not filled with confidence when I find out that the eShop is not available at launch. Reasonably priced portable games, with a spotlight on independent titles and, most importantly, timely releases for ALL territories, will make the eShop an awesome feature. I don't want to wait to download a game that was available to Japan six months ago, and I don't want to pay ten bucks per Game Boy title.  Fingers crossed that the eShop delivers more than Animal Crossing branded calculators. 4. Support for medium-to-small Western developers This is a really big one for many people. Nintendo is famous for not giving a crap about companies that aren't called Nintendo, and this really should stop. The 3DS is a great place for smaller developers to showcase their talents, especially digitally. If Nintendo does it right, the eShop could provide just as big a spotlight for developers as iOS' App Store. The system is already in millions of hands worldwide, now we just need to make it easy for developers to put their content up.  Nintendo has recently stated that it supports the indie spirit -- it needs to back up that claim with action. I see so much potential for the 3DS' digital output, but that potential rests on the shoulders of a company that remains notorious for not living up to such expectations. Let smaller developers put decent content up through 3DSWare and give them a bit of publicity.  5. More AR gaming If one thing really stands out for its potential brilliance, Augmented Reality gaming is surely it. The 3DS comes with a selection of "AR Cards" that work with the built-in camera to make things appear as if they're in your house. More than just a gimmick, the AR gaming is already providing some fascinating fun, allowing players to physically strafe enemies and shoot them in the back, or move the 3DS around to avoid incoming fire.  As is often the case, however, the current AR offering is a half-assed affair. The 3DS comes with a variety of character cards, allowing you to bring such popular Nintendo icons as Mario, Kirby and Link to life ... except they don't come to life. They just stand there, and you can take photos of them in different poses. Had Nintendo actually bothered to make these characters interactive, almost like virtual mascots that can be played with, it would have been utterly fantastic. I can imagine Nintendo making a fortune in selling booster packs of these cards with brand new Nintendo characters, all of which can be played with like a portable EyePet. The potential is magnificent.  There's nothing stopping Nintendo from releasing new cards that can do this, and I hope it does so. I'd actually buy cards that let me interact with a "living" Kirby or Link as opposed to a virtual statue. I hope that's the direction Nintendo takes, because the current AR character cards are lazy and boring. 6. A useful game suspension feature Right now, it's borderline useless to suspend a game in progress to do other things with your 3DS, mostly because anything you'd want to do requires the suspended game to close. If you need to mess with your system settings, view your activity log, or access any other type of software, you cannot proceed without terminating your suspended game. All you can do so far is check your Friends and Notifications, both of which are pointless in their own right. If your turn your system off, the suspended game is also terminated, meaning you can't exit a game during a plane ride, for instance, and pick it up instantly later. So far, the only thing it achieves can also be achieved by physically closing the 3DS -- keeping a game in sleep mode for later play.  Returning to the Home Screen automatically suspends any running software, and thus you need to hit a notification whenever you want to play something else. What this means, is that game suspension's only real use is in annoying you with a mandatory, unnecessary step between switching from one bit of software to another. What is the point? At least saving a suspended game while powering down the 3DS would give it one practical, applicable use. 7. A game about those badass 3DS Sound parakeets Okay, this is not exactly an exciting improvement for the system, but I can't help adoring those little parakeets in the 3DS Sound program. They happily chirp away while helping you record your own Starscream impressions, and they never judge your singing ability. I've loved these little fellas since they appeared on the DSi, and I still love them today.  If Nintendo were to release an exciting new game all about them, or at least released Nintendogs + Cats + Sound Parakeets, I'd be a very happy man. 8. Full account integration  This, right here, is the big one, and something that affects several previous points. One of the 3DS' biggest issues right now is how gated all of its features are. For example, adding a friend does not grant you access to their Mii. Instead, you need a separate Mii code to access it. Friend Codes and QR Codes for Miis require users to exit the 3DS experience and contact other 3DS uses via an exterior means, and that's simply unacceptable. Why isn't everything integrated and acting in conjunction with another? Xbox Live, cell phones, all manner of online social platforms have set a very basic standard, one the 3DS simply isn't reaching right now.  The 3DS meets us halfway by allowing content transfers between 3DS units, which improves on the DSi, but it's just not enough. Users lack any semblance of online identity with the system, and with every feature being so insular, you get no sense of cohesion. A unified user experience is something that made Xbox Live a huge success, so much so that even the iPhone has been catching up to it with features like the Game Center. Gamers generally like to feel that everything they do on a system is part of an overall, interlinked entity. The 3DS currently fails at this.  These are the ways in which we believe the 3DS could improve -- and quite easily, too. While this article comes across as negative, it's worth stressing just how much we like the system at Destructoid. It's a neat bit of technology that's fun to mess around with and is destined to get a great library of games, as handheld Nintendo games typically do. Things like AR gaming and eShopping are exciting concepts, and I personally salivate at the thought of this system's future accomplishments.  It's just that the system lets itself down with some truly half-baked design. The 3DS feels like it was dragged into the 21st Century, under duress, and it's not happy to be here. It'll do the bare minimum required to be considered modern, but it won't go all the way. All of our suggestions for improvements could be done through simply software updates and decent decision making, though, and if done so, we could have a real contender on our hands.  One can only hope Nintendo does the right thing. 

The 3DS released in North America just yesterday and reactions have certainly been mixed. Most of us seem to love the system as a concept, and revel in the potential it holds, while remaining unsatisfied with the current laun...

Review: Nintendo 3DS

Mar 23 // Nick Chester
Getting to know the 3DS for the first time Nick says... "My first impression of the system is that it's too small. This is coming off of using the monstrous DSi XL, of course. Size aside, I'd say this is Nintendo's best handheld yet. I think Dale's mentioned it before, but it feels less like a toy than previous Nintendo handhelds; it's easily the company's most sophisticated piece of portable hardware to date. "The form factor is not entirely dissimilar to the Nintendo DS, so you know what to expect here. The big upgrade, at least on the controls front, is the circle pad. This mini-analog stick runs circles around the nub Sony decided to tack onto its PlayStation Portable. With your hands gripping the 3DS, your thumb sits in the perfect place to reach the circle pad for a full range of movement. The rubber material gives you a nice, firm grip when playing. "I've heard some talk about 'loose hinges,' but I feel like we hear that every time Nintendo releases a dual-screen portable. While it may be an issue for some, I haven't had any hinge issues with my handheld." Dale says... "The 3DS is a fine piece of hardware, though I found myself wanting a less floppy top half. I suppose there's a lot of weight there with the larger screen, cameras and electronics, though. The rest is solid. I called it 'impressive' in my unboxing, and I stick to that.  "Unlike Nick, I feel that it's plenty big enough. Users of previous DS or DSi systems will feel right at home. The new buttons are a welcome addition -- especially the new analog pad. I can't wait to finally get to use this thing in a platformer or adventure game. I love the plus D-pad and buttons, as they're very responsive." Now in mind-boggling, glasses-free 3D! Nick says... "While Nintendo seems to want to sell the handheld on its revolutionary glasses-free 3D capabilities alone (it's in the name!), that shouldn't be what pushes you to reach for your wallet."The 3D effect is, in fact, quite stunning in person. The effect is less 'things popping out as you' and more of a sense of added depth. It's almost as if you were looking into a diorama, with little people moving around and living inside a box. "How you view the 3D is going to vary based on a number of factors, including your own eyesight (if you're wearing glasses or contacts, your distance from the screen, the game in question, and more). Fortunately, Nintendo has put an easily accessible 3D slider on the top screen, allowing you to adjust the strength of the effect on the fly. The simple fact that it's so easy to adjust is not only brilliant, but completely necessary, given how nearly every game seems to utilize 3D differently."Not all 3D games on the 3DS are created equal, it seems. For me, a few games were virtually unplayable -- completely blurry, some giving me a double vision effect -- when the 3D slider was cranked up to the max. Others handled it quite nicely. I noticed that this was different depending on whether or not I was wearing my glasses, my contact lenses, or nothing at all. (I'm nearsighted, so I can generally play handhelds without assistance.) Personally, I found that moving the slider up just a touch was the sweet spot -- it gave me a nice sense of depth without becoming too overwhelming or distracting. "Of course, the question remains: is the 3D really necessary? Of the launch games I played, there wasn't one for which I felt the 3D effect truly added anything to the gameplay experience. With the exception of Pilotwings Resort (an argument could be made for that extra sense of depth making landing aircraft easier), I didn't find I needed the 3D to play any of the games. In fact, after a while, I ended up turning the 3D off entirely. It's not that I was getting headaches (a common concern, but nothing that I experienced) or even that I found it distracting. It's that after a while, I hardly notice it's on; instead, I'm more focused on the activity of playing the game itself." Dale says... "The 3D effect is really cool, especially in some of the Augmented Reality minigames that Nintendo has included in the system. It also looks great in proper 3DS games, but not great enough for me to leave it switched on. I'm going on a month of 3DS ownership now, and I have barely used the 3D. I 'check' to see how a new game looks in 3D, and then I shut it off. It's not that I don't like it or don't feel that it looks neat, but I just find that I'd rather play the game without it. Again, it doesn't really get in the way, but I do usually feel like it's something not needed for most of the games I've played." Battery life... or lack thereof Nick says... "It's been no secret that the 3DS' battery life isn't quite on par with what gamers normally expect from a Nintendo handheld. The company itself says you'll get between three and five hours, depending on your usage of various functionality, like the 3D or the system's Wi-Fi. "During my usage, I didn't have any battery issues, placing the 3DS in the charging cradle every chance I got. Of course, only using the handheld around my house has that advantage -- I can constantly charge the device, between and even during usage. Traveling with it will be a different story; most flights I take exceed the battery life of the handheld, which means I probably can't expect my 3DS to be my main form of in-flight entertainment. "Ben Kuchera from Ars Technica actually put the battery through its paces and confirmed what we already knew: it basically kind of sucks. Still, how much this is going to impact you depends on what kind of handheld gamer you are. If you use it on short commutes or just around the house, you should be okay. While that will probably be fine for most gamers (and it has been for my own use), battery performance is clearly the 3DS' biggest problem." Dale says... "I've been everywhere with my 3DS. Day-long trips, overseas flights, road trips -- this little system has some major miles on it already. I can safely say that the standby battery life is awesome. It's really fantastic, even with Wi-Fi on. It's the gaming life that's not as great. You only get a few hours out of your 3DS battery on the go at max brightness, and with the sound, 3D and Wi-Fi on.  "I don't feel like this will be a problem in most gamers' day-to-day life, though. The handy cradle makes your portable gaming life really easy." Rock the charge cradle of loveNick says... "I have to admit, I couldn't initially figure out why Nintendo bothered to include a charging cradle with the handheld. The 3DS actually uses the same power adapter as the DSi, with a similar port on its top side as well. But with the dock, you simply plug the adapter into the dock, and gently place your 3DS into the little plastic shell to begin charging. "What I appreciate so much about the dock is its convenience in practice. I simply set up the cradle on my desk, and every chance I get, I plop the 3DS down like it's a habit. Given the battery situation, I think this was a smart move on Nintendo's part -- it really encourages you to keep the handheld juiced up, because doing so is as simple as putting it down." Dale says... "I joked that I was going to give away my cradle in my unboxing, but I've come to love and rely on the included dock. It's just so handy!" Shooting you in the face with my Augmented Reality games Dale says... "Face Raiders aside (not a great game), the Augmented Reality stuff is really going to knock people's socks off. I've shown off my 3DS to many people now. While most were mildly impressed with the new display and the glasses-free 3D, almost all were really excited by the Augmented Reality cards and applications. "The ability to overlay graphics on a real-time camera display is nothing new, but it's certainly more fun with Nintendo's touch. Seeing your favorite Nintendo characters in your real-life environment is a trip, and it really gets the imagination going for future 3DS titles. Adding 3D to the AR was a nice touch. I think younger gamers are going to flip out when they see this stuff in person." Face!: The Mii MakerNick says... "I'm not a huge fan of Miis; the novelty wore off for me only a few days after I got my Wii at launch. Still, it's nice to see Nintendo trying to tie its products together with the little buggers, and they've done a pretty nice job of bringing them to the 3DS."Of particular note is the ability to take a picture of yourself using the 3DS camera, and having the system auto-generate a Mii for you. The results vary wildly from person to person -- I don't think my Mii (picture in this article) looks anything like me -- but it's nice for those who aren't artistically inclined. As with the Wii, the parts that are included for your Mii are varied, and with some skills and a good eye, you can make some pretty wild-looking characters." Dale says... "I could get all camera-nerd on you and talk about lens distortion, or I could nitpick and talk about how basic the facial detection is, but that would be silly. The Mii Maker is a lot of fun, regardless of the end result. I can't believe how many people thought I was serious about my Mii complaints in the demonstration video we ran. Yes, it's not even close, but I'm sure Nintendo wasn't going for close. They were going for fun, and they succeeded." Is that a 3DS in your pocket or are you just happy to see my StreetPass data? Dale says... "Where has this been all along? Most of the fun I've been having with the 3DS relates to its StreetPass functionality. Being able to walk on the street and 'pick up' data from other 3DS users sounds impossible, but it works beautifully, not to mention effortlessly. Later, when you open your 3DS, you'll find that you can enjoy the Mii Plaza games, see new Miis and find even deeper interactions in many 3DS game titles.  "With your 3DS on, or in standby with Wi-Fi switched on, the system will do all the work. The 3DS will notify you of new interactions when they happen. Game-specific ones are the best. In Super Street Fighter IV 3D, you will be able to use your personal Street Fighter trading figure collection in battle, going up against the people you've passed on the street. You pick your line-up of five characters and watch them go head-to-head. In nintendogs + cats, you'll be gifted free items to use in your game, as well as pictures of other people's pets. It's like an extra social game for every game you own. They're not deep experiences, but they're definitely fun. "This stuff is so fun that I've found myself going Mii-gathering in the real world. It's to the point now where I'll walk slowly in front of someone just to be sure that I get their Mii exchange. Some just look up and grin, like they know exactly what I'm doing." Nick says... "I don't have quite as much to say about this functionality as Dale, so forgive me if I'm not quite as excited. While Dale spent the better part of the last month living in Tokyo with his 3DS, I've been less fortunate. In fact, seeing as how the system hasn't been available in stores this past week, there was little to no chance that I would pass someone on the street, in my car, or at the supermarket who also had a 3DS in their pocket. (Believe me, I tried.) "Even so, I'm still not entirely sold on how successful this will be for many gamers who own a 3DS. If you live in a large commuter area like New York City, for instance, I suspect you'll probably pick up some decent StreetPass stuff. If you're in school (college or otherwise), there's a good chance you can expect a decent volume of data, too. "But for working adults who drive to and from work, it seems the cards are stacked against you when it comes to gathering StreetPass data. For me, outside of bringing the handheld to gamer-centric events (PAX, E3, and more), I'm not sure I'll see much -- if any! -- StreetPass data on a day-to-day basis. I'd love to be proven wrong, though, because I love the concept." Mii Plaza, You Plaza Dale says... "I'm really enjoying the Mii Plaza on the 3DS, even though it's not quite what I expected it to be. I guessed it would be a place where I could see the Miis of all of my friends walking around. Instead, it's a visual collection of the Miis of all the real-world people I've encountered via StreetPass. It's also a sort of hub for playing the two included social games, Find Mii and Puzzle Swap.  "Find Mii is a game that sees your Mii trapped in a dungeon. The Miis of people you encounter are enlisted to spring you out in a classic turn-based role-playing game. You'll use these Miis as playable characters in your party, commanding them to attack or use magic spells to defeat sub-bosses in each of the dungeons leading up to the one in which you're being held captive. It's really basic, but it's fun knowing that everyone else is using your Mii at the same time. "Puzzle Swap is exactly as it sounds. There are several 15-piece picture puzzles to reveal, and the only way to get pieces is to encounter others via StreetPass. The people you encounter offer up any of the pieces they've already acquired, and you do the same for them. In other words, the more people you meet, the more puzzles you'll complete. When completed, these puzzles form a 3D figure that you can view and manipulate in 3D space. I became so addicted to this game that I'd constantly check my 3DS indicator light to see if I had another opportunity to earn another piece. "If you're a lonely person but still want to play the Mii Plaza games, you'll need to take a walk. The 3DS has a pedometer built in. After taking so many steps, you'll earn a Game Coin. These game coins can be spent on the Mii Plaza games, which will give you combatants in Find Mii, or puzzle pieces in Puzzle Swap. Note that there's a daily limit of ten coins, so you'll really have to work to build up your count. Finding friends is much easier." Nick says... "Given my tale of StreetPass woe, you can imagine I didn't have much fun with Puzzle Swap or Find Mii. I was able to get a nice chunk of coins by taking my 3DS to the gym and running with it, but that can only get me so far. In order to get the most of these games, StreetPass data is essential.  "Oddly, your Mii Plaza will only be populated by those you've 'met' through StreetPass. Connecting with buddies via the 3DS' friends list functionality allows you to see their Miis, but those Miis won't show up in your Plaza. Nintendo really wants you to leave the house, and really wants you to go hang out in places where people own and carry their 3DS systems, I guess." Sound Off, or "If You've Always Wanted to Sound Like a Parakeet"Nick says... "The built-in sound manipulation program from the DSi returns here. As far as I can tell, it's mostly identical software, which isn't exactly great news. You can record short sound clips and then modify them in various ways, like adding effects or changing the tempo and pitch. On its own, this stuff is pointless outside of being a diversion; this is about as basic as audio tools can get. Sure, it's fun to record your voice and then alter it in silly ways, but this novelty only lasts for a few minutes. "The good news is that the 3DS supports MP3 files, something the DSi did not. What this means is that in theory, you can use your 3DS as a portable music player. Problem is, the file sorting and playback is so miserably basic that I can't imagine using it as a dedicated music player. The program does have some cool 3DS-specific StreetPass functionality -- trading song info of strangers and such -- which is nifty in its own right. But considering the low cost of competent portable media players and the fact that most cell phones can play MP3 audio, this is a feature I'll never touch." Take a picture; it'll last longerNick says... "The 3DS features both front- and forward-facing cameras, just like the DSi. You can use both cameras to snap photos, which are saved directly to the console's inserted SD card in JPEG format. On the 3DS screen, these images appear passable, but viewed on a PC monitor (or anywhere else, for that matter), the quality is unpleasantly poor. "Taking advantage of the glasses-free 3D capabilities, you can also take 3D photos with the camera. Depending on how you set up your shot -- with reasonable distance between objects to take advantage of depth -- 3D photos can look kind of 'neat.' But 'neat' is about as much credit as I can give them, and when you consider the low resolution of the images, this isn't really taking photography to the next level. I took a bunch just to test out the functionality, but I doubt I'll ever be using it to document my life."Also missing is the Facebook integration found on the DSi, and Nintendo offers no other way to share images with others -- even folks you've added to your 3DS friends list -- from the handheld itself. While there's a chance this functionality could come to the 3DS in a future system update, it seems like a strange thing to omit from the jump." Dale says... "Indeed, there's nothing nice about the 3DS' photo quality, and that's a real shame. It's also surprising, as the image quality on the screen -- before the photo has been taken -- is really nice. I didn't even know it would be so bad until I stopped my initial photo-taking frenzy to check out the images. "I'm hoping Nintendo also brings back Facebook functionality, or at least some kind of friend sharing ability, as these photos are near-useless when they just sit on your SD card." Hey, wanna swap Friend Codes?Nick says... "Along with Miis, a friends list also comes to Nintendo's handheld. Those irritating Friend Codes are still here, unfortunately, but you have to navigate fewer menus to input them than on the Wii. "Once a friend is added, you can see things like their Mii, the game they're currently playing, and a short 'status' message. That's about it, really. There's no way to send a message to your friends. There's no way to see their progress on games, or which games they have in their library. The list does come in handy for games that support online multiplayer, like Super Street Fighter IV 3D, as you can easily find and connect with friends in private rooms. "It's nice that Nintendo is offering a friends list, but the included functionality does feel a bit shallow, at least when you compare it to other offerings on consoles and mobile operating systems." Dale says... "We've been in the Stone Age so long with Nintendo systems' online functionality that I was probably too excited to see the status of my friends online on my 3DS for the first time. I feel like we're finally getting somewhere by even being able to see that! "I don't know Nintendo's plan, but I feel like they're going to beef up the Friends functions as time goes on for the 3DS. It's still early, and there's always firmware updates." Nintendo Handhelds: Extreme Home Makeover EditionNick says... "Everything about the front-end software for the 3DS is a step up from the DSi. Essentially, it's the Wii home screen, but better. From it being cleaner and better organized, to some of the software suspension functionality, everything that came before it feels like a beta in comparison." Dale says... "Yes, the 3DS menu is very Wii-like, but only in the best ways. The Home button is great. Being able to peek in at your main menu is really cool. You can see Wi-Fi status, on-going connections, Game Coin count, step count and more at a glance, at any time. It's clear that Nintendo has been listening to gamers." About those games...Nick says... "Few platforms knock it out of the gate at launch with their games, but the 3DS' initial offerings seem particularly weak. And while your mileage may vary depending on your interests, I don't think there are any 'must-have' games that are hitting shelves alongside the platform, at least based on the batch I've played. "That's not to say there aren't 'good' games; Pilotwings Resort and Steel Diver are two decent first-party offerings, and Capcom kicked it out of park with Super Street Fighter IV 3D. But it's hard to recommend running out and buying a 3DS based on any of this starting line-up; there really isn't a 'killer app' available just yet. "The games that are available do show the potential of the handheld, though. From a visual standpoint (even ignoring the 3D capabilities), titles look stellar on the 3DS screen; it's an immediately obvious step above the DS. The analog circle pad also adds quite a bit to the potential of experiences, which is particularly obvious in the third-person action of LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars." Dale says... "I love Nintendo and own everything they make, but I've never been happy with a system launch line-up. nintendogs + cats is still my most played game, if that tells you anything. As Nick said, there's no must-have for the system. Yet. "That said, all the games look great. Even the half-assed ones, like Ridge Racer 3D, still look nice, and far better than any DS game before them. Super Street Fighter IV 3D looks fantastic. I'm sure there's even more in store for us. I'm really looking forward to E3's 3DS showings."The bottom line Both Dale and I agree that the 3DS is an amazing device, despite a few concerns and gripes. Nintendo has made great strides in both the quality of the hardware as well as the usability of the built-in software. While the glasses-free 3D technology is impressive and on the cutting edge, neither of us are entirely sold on the notion that it's going to change how we play games. As with any platform, it comes down to the available software. While there isn't that 'OMG must have' title on shelves just yet, there's little doubt that some are coming. Just the tease of a brand-new Mario game at GDC earlier this year had us foaming at the mouth. If you're a gamer who enjoys playing a broad range of titles, you'll eventually want to own a 3DS. The question of 'Do you wait?' is something only you can answer for yourself. At $249.99, it's Nintendo's most expensive portable to date, which might make it a hard sell. With no 'must-have' software available right now, the only thing you'll really be missing is collecting valuable StreetPass data. But if you do pull the trigger at launch, we're both pretty confident it's not something you're going to regret in the long run.

When Nintendo of America's President and COO, Reggie Fils-Aime, says that the company's latest handheld, the Nintendo 3DS, is in a "category of one," he's not kidding. When it ships on March 27, Nintendo's handheld will be th...

Two dudes talk about how much they love Missile

Mar 08 // Chad Concelmo
*** It goes without saying that there are UNBELIEVABLY MASSIVE SPOILERS BELOW! Please proceed with caution. *** Chad Concelmo: Last month I wrote a post called "The ten best videogame puppies EVER!". At the time, I hadn't played Ghost Trick, but, no joke, about half of all the comments on the post mentioned Missile. Everyone said I was ludicrous to not include him on the list. I couldn't respond with my "I HAVEN'T PLAYED GHOST TRICK YET!" replies fast enough. But, now that I have played (and loved!) the game, I totally understand what people were saying. Missile is awesome. I seriously am in love with that cute pup. Tony Ponce: For those of you who have yet to play Ghost Trick (and don't mind some major spoilers), you take play as a recently departed spirit named Sissel who must use a bevy of paranormal abilities to solve the truth behind his murder and how he connects to the game's overarching mystery. Along the way, you meet many unforgettable characters such as a smooth-talking police inspector with serious Michael Jackson moves and a romance-intrigue novelist with hair shaped like rose petals. One of the earliest characters you meet is Missile the Pomeranian, the loyal companion to our female protagonists Lynne and Kamila. Unfortunately, he's already dead when we first meet him. Chad: As a huge dog lover, I was overjoyed when I met Missile. HE IS SO ADORABLE! But then I kind of freaked out when I saw him get shot in the face and killed right after he was introduced. That really kind of traumatized me. I mean, seriously. PEOPLE SHOULDN'T SHOOT CUTE DOGS IN THE FACE! But once you make everything right again I felt much better about the situation. And communicating with Missile in the spirit world is an absolute joy. Missile has so much personality, and, for a dog that gets shot in the face, quite the positive attitude! Tony: I absolutely love how naive about the world he is! He can't stand the black "Hello!" because every time one of his mistresses picks it up, she ignores him! When he meets a stranger, he just wants to bark a lot and welcome him! Instead of trying to grasp the nuances of human lifestyles and activities, he just tosses up his paws and says, "I'm a Pomeranian! What do I know?" But he loves his mistresses, and understands life and death enough to know that it's his duty to protect them at all costs. Even from beyond the grave. That's loyalty. Kinda reminds me of a reverse Hachiko. Isn't Missile like Hachiko, Chad? Fan art by Eaglebird Chad: Oh my gosh, you did not just pull out the Hachiko card. Do you want me to start crying right now? Seriously. I am totally getting emotional. Hachi is so amazing. But, yeah, Missile is like Hachiko. He is such a loyal pup, but obviously not nearly as mellow as Hachi. At first, Missile is kind of this quirky dog character that you obviously love, but don't think he will factor into the story as much as he does. He just feels like another one of the many quirky, memorable characters that pops up in Ghost Trick. But as the game goes on, you start to realize the major role Missile plays in the story. There have been many other dogs in many other videogames -- some that even serve as important companions (Secret of Evermore comes to mind) -- but never has a dog felt so complex and vital to a game's plot. It really is such a refreshing thing to see in a videogame. It makes me laugh to think back about some of the long, important conversations my main character had in the game ... and how many of these conversations were with a cute puppy. It's absurd. And once you find out the even more major twist about who Sissel really is at the very end of the game, those conversations feel even more absurd. Awesomely absurd, but absurd nonetheless. But looking past the amazing role Missile plays in the story, the part that really took me over the edge (outside of the game's grand final reveal) was when Missile actually joins you in your mission and becomes part of the gameplay. Once you have to alternate control between Sissel and Missile to solve the game's puzzles I was ridiculously impressed. And they both have completely unique powers! Working together with Missile adds such wonderful variety to an already stellar game. The more I think about Missile the more I genuinely miss him. It has been a long time since I have fallen that in love with an in-game videogame character. How about you, Tony? Did you fall more in love with the character of Missile himself? Or were you more impressed with just the simple fact that Missile -- a Pomeranian -- is featured as one of Ghost Trick's main (and most important) characters? Fan art by Celestiale12 Tony: Missile is one of those characters in a work of fiction who explodes beyond the creator's expectations. In Destructoid's interview with series creator Shu Takumi, he expressed hope that Sissel would have a lasting impact on players, joining the ranks of Capcom icons like Mega Man, Ryu, and even his own Phoenix Wright. Much to his surprise, it was the support character Missile who was the big crowd-pleaser. Every Ghost Trick impression I've read has heaped tons of praise upon Missile, and it's clear to see why after playing the game. All the characters have their own little quirks that make them memorable. For me as well, Missile was lovable right from the start, but so were most of the others. My love went into overdrive precisely because of how his role expands. What makes Missile so special is how the game plays with your expectations. He starts off as just an ordinary house pet. After Sissel rewinds time and prevents Missile's death, Missile races out after Kamila to protect her from future harm, but not before comically bonking his head against the apartment door for several minutes trying to get it to open. You watch this scene, giggle, remark "what a cute doggie," and then move on. Missile bites the big one a second time halfway through the game, but this time he possesses ghost powers that rival Sissel's! Sissel can manipulate inanimate objects, but Missile can swap objects of similar shape no matter how large or heavy they are and he has a longer reach than Sissel! On top of all that, he too has the power to turn back time! At this point, Missile is no longer a support character. He's not just the stalwart canine companion anymore. He's not Rush, called upon every now and then to help Mega Man cross a particularly perilous chasm. He's not Red XIII, who doesn't seem to fit alongside real warriors like Cloud, Barret, and Tifa. He's officially one of the major players. Unlike other games with animal protagonists like Star Fox or Banjo-Kazooie, the world of Ghost Trick is more or less the real world. In the real world, animals are sadly not awarded much significance. A house pet as a hero? Who is this, Underdog? But he is! Just imagine how awesome having a time-traveling, fate-altering ghost puppy would be! Fan art by Kikulina Chad: I couldn't agree with you more about why Missile easily became the fan favorite. Everything you said is spot-on. He is such an adorable, loyal, brave character that it is impossible to not fall in love with him. I would even argue he is one of my favorite characters ever created by Shu Takumi. And this is the guy who created both Ghost Trick and the Ace Attorney series, games filled with a ridiculous amount of memorable characters! What did you think about the ending? When you found out that Ray was actually an older version of Missile, were you surprised? Not only was I shocked to find this out, but when they showed the image of an older, graying Missile, I may have cried a little bit. Seeing that brave little pup instantly turn into an old, wise, even braver dog was a highly emotional revelation for me. Having a dog of my own whom I love very much did not help the situation. Missile was so fleshed out and likable that he started reminding me of my own dog Luna. Seeing Missile dramatically aged at the end of the game made me think of my own dog and what she will look like when she is much older. This moment killed me, because I can't even imagine what my life is going to be like once Luna is not a part of it. Damn, I can't even type this without wanting to cry. It's crazy that a dog character in a very fantasy-heavy game has the power to affect me this much. Damn you, Missile! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO BE SO AWESOME?! Fan art by Chad Concelmo Tony: Now you are making me choke up! And I don't even have any pets! The "Ray is Missile" revelation is mind-blowing on multiple levels. I mean, he's indirectly responsible for how every major event in the game turned out. He saw how that one night played out, watched all his loved ones die without his having the necessary skills to reverse their misfortunes, and then went back in time ten years. With his prior knowledge, he was able to determine the best course of action for Sissel to follow, but he had to remain as a spirit for ten years to do so! Talk about patience! Speaking of patience, ten friggin' years! The average Pomeranian lifespan is about 12 years. If you figure that Missile was only a year old or so before at the start of the game, that means he spent quite nearly his entire life waiting for the opportunity to undo a single night's misfortune. Even though he's a ghost, it would appear that a ghost's powers dwindle around the time its natural life would end. This was his final mission before he passed on. Oh my God! I really do feel like crying now! I feel like we're in mourning! Fan art by Venomshock Chad: This post just went from "Two dudes talking about how much they love Missile" to "Two dudes crying". And I am fine with that. Missile rules. Now hold me, Tony.

Fellow Destructoid editor Tony Ponce and I are in love with recent Nintendo DS game Ghost Trick. Like, obsessed. It is easily one of our favorite games of the year. The other day, we were talking about how great the game is o...


North American retail behemoth GameStop has listed a launch bundle for the Nintendo 3DS. For $299.97, the listing offers a 3DS, a choice of Samurai Warriors, Dead or Alive Dimensions or Super Street Fighter IV 3D,&n...

Review: Pokemon Black/White

Mar 06 // Jonathan Holmes
  Pokémon Black/White (DS)Developer: Nintendo/Game FreakPublisher: NintendoReleased: March 6, 2011MSRP: $34.99 Pokémon Black/White is my favorite Pokémon game. That's my opinion. It's also the most robust, fully featured, polished Pokémon game on a technical level. That's an objective fact. Put those opinons and facts together, and you can only come up with one conclusion -- if you like Pokémon, you should go buy Pokémon Black/White. Like, right now Still here? OK, in that case, maybe you don't like Pokémon all that much. Maybe you've never played a Pokémon game, or maybe you just don't get what's so great about the series. If that's the case, I'd be happy to explain to you why Pokémon is so popular, and why Pokémon Black/White is the best example to date of what makes the series so great.   The underlying draw of all the main-series Pokémon games is their slot-machine-like appeal. People today often complain about random battles in RPGs, but the fact is, developers still utilize them because they still work on our brains. On a strictly biochemical level, random battles are effective game design, but only when used properly. Like I once said about Animal Crossing, playing Pokémon triggers the same chemicals in our brains that fire when someone is just about to win or lose something in real life. There is a reason why that kid bothered to hunt for a shiny Ponyta for so long. It's because every time he got into a random battle, the music, the graphics, and the promise of a new Pokémon caused adrenaline and endorphins to fire in his brain. Those are powerful drugs. It's a good thing that Nintendo sells the full Pokémon cartridge up front, instead of charging per random battle. We'd have a lot of bankrupt Pokémon fans out there if Nintendo started to treat Pokémon battles like online poker.   Back to the point, Pokémon Black/White maximizes on the "game of chance" aspect of Pokémon by ditching all the old Pokémon, making a new and exciting reward all the more likely. If you've played the series at all in the past, then you're likely sick of running into Zubats, Geodudes, and Magikarps in the process of hunting for new Pokémon. You won't be seeing any of those guys in the main campaign of Pokémon Black/White. Instead, you'll be treated to 155 all-new Pokémon. Some of them are clearly influenced by previous Pokémon designs (the flying electric mouse Emolga is basically a Pichu with webbed arms and black headstocking), while others appear to be totally new ideas (the fire/bug-type Larvesta is particularly awesome). Regardless of how original these new Pokémon appear to be, it's unquestionably more compelling to have each and every Pokémon in the main game be a new design. This is on top of the enormous laundry list of new features and items found in the game (more on that later). Suffice it to say, there is always something new around the corner in Pokémon Black/White, and that's exciting.   The second big selling point for the Pokémon series in general is that Pokémon (the actual Pocket Monsters themselves) are awesome. I say that as a fully grown married man with two jobs and a relatively normal social life. I know that a lot of people in their twenties and younger associate Pokémon with "kids' stuff," and that's understandable. The less-than-sophisticated accompanying Pokémon cartoon show and movies do a lot to further that notion. As a 34-year-old, I'm sort of oblivious to all that. Pokémon first came out when I was 18. I knew that kids liked it, but by then, I was too distanced from the world of children to fully associate Pokémon with being a kid. Instead, Pokémon was just Nintendo's new turn-based RPG to me. It allowed for player-vs.-player combat, and player-with-player trading, which I thought was awesome. More importantly, it took place in a world that was one part EarthBound and one part Dragonball, but with characters that were one part Totoro and one part Godzilla, with a liberal dose of total insanity cast over it all. To this day, I'm still convinced that Squirtle is one of the most ingenious character designs ever. A turtle that squirts water with a squirrel tail, named Squirtle? Fucking amazing.   None of that design genius has been lost on Pokémon Black/White. The new Pokémon are just as amazing as the old ones, if not more so. The best part is, the designers at Game Freak no longer have to rely just on static images to convey their ideas. Each Pokémon now has a smooth, expressive standing animation. That goes for every Pokémon ever designed -- all 649 of them. I believe that's some sort of record for individually animated 2D sprites in a videogame. Those animations can really go a long way toward making these characters interesting and fun to look at. For instance, when I first saw the new legendary Pokémon Victini, I passed it off as a cheap Pikachu knock-off. That was before I saw his hyperactive dance animations and the tiny changes in his facial expressions, and heard his signature whistling battle cry/death rattle. I love that little spaz so much now. He hasn't left my party since I first caught him five hours into the game, which is saying a lot, since I'm 88 hours (and counting) into my first play-through of Pokémon White.   The attention to detail doesn't stop at the animations. Like all the Pokémon games before it, Pokémon Black/White is an immensely detailed game. Figuring out all the features, systems, and techniques is like a science unto itself, one that I don't think I'll ever fully comprehend. If you want the full laundry list, check out after the review. In the meantime, I'll tell you about a few of the new aspects that really enhanced my time with the game. Right off the bat, you get a starter Pokemon (like in prior Pokemon games), but after a bit of exploration, you'll also get a corresponding monkey Pokemon of complimentary type to go a long with it. Your first gym battle will also change depending on which starter you chose. A little later on in the game, you'll find that you trade online in real time with strangers, which really ups the excitement and potential for online trading. You can also jump into someone else's game and team up with them on special multiplayer missions, and catch Pokémon that are otherwise unavailable to either of you. Then there are the two kinds of triple battles, which are easily the biggest evolution of the Pokémon combat system to date. I honestly never really enjoyed playing Pokémon against other people before.  One-on-one -- and even two-on-two -- battles just felt too predictable and limiting. With triple battles, that's really changed for me. It's a very straightforward improvement, but it goes a long way to making the game more fun.   On the other hand, Pokémon Black/White doesn't just stack new stuff on top of the old formula. It also works to streamline play. You won't have to rely as heavily on moves like Surf, Flash, Strength, and Cut in order to make your way through the campaign (though all those moves are mandatory for certain side quests). It's all part of Pokémon Black/White's overall push to make the player enjoy every second of their experience with the game. The polygon-based backgrounds allow for dynamic camera angle changes that make even walking around the overworld potentially exciting. The seasons change once a month, which both allows for new seasonal Pokémon to pop up, and for new areas to be explored in the overworld. Music changes dynamically in battles, trainers give mid-battle trash talk, you can get video chat calls from NPCs and PCs alike in the midst of playing; the list goes on and on.   There is also a storyline. I've never been much for the storyline of the Pokémon games, but I have to admit that the story for Pokémon Black/White has its moments. The game is about your player and his/her two best friends setting off into the world of Pokémon, a world that much more closely resembles the United States than in prior Pokémon games. Almost right away, you bump into Team Plazma, a group dedicated to freeing Pokémon from the oppression of humans -- sort of like a PETA for Pokémon. What makes them interesting is that like PETA, they may (or may not) have their hearts in the right place, but either way, their methods are often questionable at best. The further you get into the game, the more you get to understand Team Plazma, and the fact that they are a truly bizarre, cult-like organization, poisoned from the inside by entitlement and dogma, but potentially saved by the purity of their Pokémon love. This ambiguity and internal conflict is encapsulated in Pokémon Black/White's main "rival," a character named N. I don't want to give away the details about N, but I'll say that by the end of the game, you'll feel like you've gotten to know this mysterious character pretty well. The game's story may not be Metal Gear Solid 4, but it's definitely a step up from the simple "terrorist/organized crime/environmentalist group uses Pokémon to do bad stuff" narratives of the past games.   There are a few niggling issues I've had with the Pokémon series since day one that still bother me in Pokémon Black/White. The menu system remains overly complicated at times. I tried out the game's limited video chat system with Destructoid's Max Scoville yesterday, and it took about a half hour for us to figure out how to get it going. Max is a smart dude, and I'm not totally dumb myself, but we still needed to bust out the instruction manual and engage in some trial and error just to get online. Find your Pal Pad in your bag, exchange friend codes, then go to the Wi-Fi room (not the Union Room, you idiot!) in the Pokémon Center to get each other in the room, then select your Xtransciever, which does... wait, what does that thing do again? It's all much more work than it needs to be. There is no reason I can see why they couldn't just let you select "video chat" from an "online" option in the game's main menu. For that matter, there is no reason for there not to be an "online" option in the game's main menu, instead of breaking up the game's online modes and settings into multiple different locations. And don't even get me started on the game's "box" system. Why does it still take me more than three steps to get into the Pokémon storage system? Why do the "Deposit Pokémon" and "Withdraw Pokémon" options even exist? These are such little problems, and it seems like such common sense to fix them, that I can't help but wonder if I'm missing something here. I'm pretty sure it's not just me, though. It's probably just another case of Nintendo making an incredible game, but missing the boat on a few basic interface optimization techniques that would do a lot to make their software more fun to use. There are a few other tiny problems I have with the game. Some of the Pokémon animations are a little bland; the "legendary trio" this time around doesn't look all that legendary; and there is the occasional bout of slowdown (usually in particularly large areas of the overworld or in triple battles). I could also do without the mandatory in-game tutorials on how to catch Pokémon and what a Pokémon Center is. They're great for beginners, but veterans like me shouldn't have to sit though that stuff. Overall, though, those issues really do nothing dampen what is the newest, most polished-feeling Pokémon sequel to date. Just before writing this, I tried going back into Pokémon Pearl/Diamond/Platinum to see how it stacked up to Pokémon Black/White. It felt like such a step backward that I could barely stand to look at it. Even without new hardware to rely on, Pokémon Black/White still delivers the next step in the evolution of the Pokémon series.   If you like Pokémon, or ever could like Pokémon, this is the game for you.

Every new Nintendo handheld gets a new Pokémon game. That's the way it's been for the past 15 years. The OG Game Boy got Pokémon Red/Blue, the Game Boy Color got Pokémon Silver/Gold, and so forth. That ha...

Here are the U.S. launch games for the 3DS

Feb 22 // Jonathan Holmes
On March 27, new Nintendo 3DS owners will be able to choose from the following Nintendo-published games, each available at a suggested retail price of $39.99: Pilotwings Resort™, an aerial adventure featuring airplanes, hang gliders and rocket belts. Players soar above tropical Wuhu Island in 3D as they complete missions or snap pictures. Steel Diver™, a submarine game that involves strategy and combat. The 3D visuals give players the sensation that they are looking into a miniature aquarium as they control the sub’s speed, depth and pitch, and fire torpedoes. nintendogs™ + cats, a game that lets players interact with realistic puppies – and kittens – in a variety of fun ways. There are three versions of the software, each with different starting breeds: French bulldog, toy poodle and golden retriever. But in each version players can unlock and enjoy more than 20 different breeds. Other Nintendo 3DS games in the works for 2011 from Nintendo include The Legend of Zelda™: Ocarina of Time™ 3D, Star Fox 64™ 3D, Kid Icarus™: Uprising and new installments in the Mario Kart™ series. Third-party publishers also have a strong slate of games ready to go on March 27. These include: Super Street Fighter® IV 3D Edition from CAPCOM The Sims™ 3 from EA Madden NFL Football from EA SPORTS Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D from Konami Digital Entertainment, Inc. LEGO® Star Wars® III: The Clone Wars™ from LucasArts™ RIDGE RACER® 3D from NAMCO BANDAI Games America Inc. Super Monkey Ball™ 3D from SEGA BUST-A-MOVE UNIVERSE™ from Square-Enix, Inc. SAMURAI WARRIORS®: Chronicles from TECMO KOEI AMERICA Corp. Asphalt™ 3D from UBISOFT Combat of Giants™: Dinosaurs 3D from UBISOFT Rayman® 3D from UBISOFT Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon® Shadow Wars from UBISOFT Nintendo 3DS also comes pre-loaded with a variety of fun games, applications and features, such as the Nintendo 3DS camera, which can be used to take photos in 2D and 3D as well as be used in other games and applications. For instance, the built-in Face Raiders™ game asks users to shoot at funny depictions of their own photographed faces, while the Mii Maker™ application lets gamers use the camera to take a picture of a person and have an automatic Mii™ character created. The system also comes with six AR Cards, which, when viewed through the outer cameras, bring to life fun and interesting animations and images. For example, when used with nintendogs + cats, users might see their puppies or kittens sitting on their coffee tables or in the palms of their hands. With Nintendo 3DS Sound, users can enjoy sound-manipulation tools or rock out with their Nintendo 3DS system while listening to their MP3 or AAC music files.

The 3DS is set for launch on March 27 in the United States, and the games that are arriving along with it have just been announced. It's a diverse list of 18 games, and Nintendo is promising that at least 12 more titles will ...

Exclusive: A behind-the-scenes look at Mighty Milky Way

Feb 16 // Jonathan Holmes
Dtoid: What are you hoping players experience when they play Mighty Milky Way?SV: We want players to scratch their brains over devious puzzles. We want them to grittheir teeth as they skim past the surface of a dangerous planet. We want them to sheda single tear when they hear the choirs singing “T-Rex!”. Above all, they should scratchtheir heads at the nonsense, and then smile as they embrace it!Dtoid: How did you come up with the characters for Might Milky Way, particularly Luna. AnyOlimar influence in there? Jetsons maybe?SV: The only thing those characters have in common are bubble helmets! I’m surprisedyou didn’t throw “The Fury” from Metal Gear Solid 3 in there too. We basically justwanted to make a cute little space girl that had a sort of 50’s retro chic, and Luna wasthe result! As you can see in my admittedly crude concept art, she was originally waymore retro. Naturally, that got massaged out as we made the game mightier.The T-Rex was drawn on a legal pad while we were at Jack in the Box. NotJoking. Dtoid: By my count, Luna is the third original WayForward heroine to star in her own game.That's more than a lot of bigger, older developers have done in their lifetime. Is there areason why WayForward is so fond of female protagonists?SV: We’ve actually had several of them over the years in addition to the ones you seeon DSiWare. Our creative director, Matt Bozon, is fond of female leads, especiallyones that are strong characters in addition to just looking pretty. The other directorsand I wholeheartedly agree with this concept, and it’s become one of our core tenets.WayForward fights the misogyny!Dtoid: WayForward also has a knack for designing female characters that aren't overlysexualized or objectified. Do you have general rules around the way that you designyour female protagonists?SV: We like our characters to be attractive and appealing. But, it’s important to let thepersonality dictate the look. It’s easy to make a sexy-looking design, but not necessarilyan attractive character. Discerning audiences can tell the difference, and it’s easy toturn people off. Milky Way’s lead gal “Luna” is a character I’d be proud to show mymom! Side note: whenever I’m working on something bloody or violent, she alwayssays “Why can’t you make another sweet game like a boy and his blob? That game wasso nice…”Dtoid: Back to Mighty Milky Way, what lessons did you learn from designing Mighty FlipChamps, and how did you apply those lessons to designing your new "Mighty" game?SV: The Bozon Bros. designed Mighty Flip Champs, whereas I helmed Mighty MilkyWay. The team makeup and structure was totally different on both projects. However,the Milky Way team looked hard at the unique aspects of Mighty Flip Champs andvaliantly endeavored to bring them to our game. The two Mighty games are verydifferent, with distinct personalities, but we think that’s what’s great! Hopefully we cando another Mighty game with a different team, and it would be a third pillar of quirk! Dtoid: Is there a specific reason for the reoccurring "Mighty" prefix?SV: We wanted to tie the games together so that they would stand out among othergame titles. Ideally, we could make a bunch of Mighty games; games that have thesame reoccurring elements. Players would go in knowing sort of what to expect, and wecould build a library of unique games under the same moniker! Think the Bit.Trip gamesand Pixeljunk series and you aren’t too far off.Dtoid: Is there any potential for a retail release of your DSiWare games? Sadly, there are alot of people who don't have their DSi's online, and I feel like they're missing out.SV: While we love the DSiWare platform, we are always looking at different ways to getour games to the players. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of WayForward’s originaltitles coming to other platforms in the near future…Dtoid: Any potential to bring your games to other download services or consoles?SV: Absolutely! I can’t talk about it right now, but you will hear more about our diabolicalplans very soon!Dtoid: In closing, what's your favorite thing about Mighty Milky Way thus far?SV: The music in this game is truly amazing! However, I am going to have to call outLuna and the T-Rex’s relationship as my favorite part of the game. Their dynamic is justso complicated, realistic, and exciting. Once you play the game, you will understand. Ormaybe you won’t! That’s the beauty and mystery of Might Milky Way.

I recently went on a tear about how I'd like for more women in video games to throw off the shackles of gender concepts in favor of just being as interesting and genuine as possible. The female protagonists from WayForward ar...

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