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6:01 PM on 04.15.2015

J-Stars Victory Vs+ is a shallow masher, but it's fanservice done right

It doesn't take an otaku to see the appeal of J-Stars Victory Vs+. It features a host of famous anime characters, from Kenshin to Goku to Naruto. It's like the Marvel vs. Capcom of Shōnen Jump properties, a mag...

Chris Carter



Review: Titan Souls photo
Review: Titan Souls
by Steven Hansen

I've always clamored for the all-boss-fights game. Shadow of the Colossus, an inescapable inspiration here, did it right and others have done it wrong, like Prince of Persia (2008), but I love the idea of removing fluff encounters. A JRPG that was all boss fights and no grinding could actually make for strategic battle. Strategy RPGs that don't allow for excessive grinding, like XCOM, are essentially "all boss fights."

And here, with Titan Souls, despite the Shadow of the Colossus influence and Souls-stolen title, I'm finding the closest analog to be Super Meat Boy. It'll grind you up.

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Review: MLB 15 The Show photo
Review: MLB 15 The Show
by Steven Hansen

The Giants have won and lost back to back one-run ballgames to open the 2015 baseball season. They lost a starting pitcher and right fielder to the DL, scratched a first baseman and another starter with injury, called up a rookie to eventually take the series.

At nearly 42, Bartolo Colon, whose belly jiggles like flan in an earthquake and whose helmet routinely flies off while he is batting, was the opening day starter for the Mets. Half of the Arizona Diamondbacks look like Earthworm Jim. Mat Latos has a 94.50 ERA. Did you see Puig throw from foul right to third? Cubs fans have been pissing in beer cups (called "making Coors Light") at Wrigley Field because the bathroom lines are too long.

Baseball, sport, humanity. These things are interesting because they are our stories. The same stories we've always had, with different details, made newly interesting. The problem with MLB 15 The Show as a routinely well-made baseball simulation is that routine dulls. We want to see the dropped routine fly ball, the overthrown routine intentional walk. Not a fucking properly modeled Nike® Air Max MVP Elite 2 Speed +4 cleat buyable for 600 Stubs.

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Review: Axiom Verge photo
Review: Axiom Verge
by Conrad Zimmerman

It seems like a foregone conclusion when looking at Axiom Verge that comparisons are going to be made to Metroid. It is, without doubt, similar in more ways than it differs from Nintendo's iconic franchise.

The differences matter, though, and Axiom Verge merges classic environment design with new mechanical twists, producing a game that feels both familiar and fresh at the same time.

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Atari bullying indie developer behind Tempest 2000 photo
Atari bullying indie developer behind Tempest 2000
by Kyle MacGregor

Atari thought it was "absolutely rubbish," the Jaguar designer told developer Jeff Minter in 1993. The man felt compelled to pull Minter aside at the console's launch party and let him know how little Atari thought of Minter's latest creation, Tempest 2000, a remake of the 1981 arcade classic.

Minter still finished the game, which went on to enjoy a good bit of success, so much so that the developer has continued to tinker with the formula for over two decades. Just last year, Minter's studio Llamasoft released a spiritual successor called TxK on PlayStation Vita. It garnered a fair amount of critical acclaim, but sales were modest -- something Minter hoped to improve upon by casting a wider net on PlayStation 4, PC, Android, and various VR platforms.

It's unlikely to ever happen, though. Minter says the other versions of TxK will "never see the light of day," thanks to Atari (or at least the wolf in sheep's clothing now parading around as the once-beloved company). Threats of legal action have the multiplatform release dead in the water.

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Ex-Nintendo exec tells Samus to 'consider going indie' photo
Ex-Nintendo exec tells Samus to 'consider going indie'
by Jonathan Holmes

Dan Adelman worked for Nintendo for many years, and was one of their unsung heroes for much of that time. While he has consistently voiced affection and respect for the company, he did end up resigning last year, in part because he felt like his role at Nintendo wasn't what it used to be. Now he's working on marketing and PR for a game called Axiom Verge, a game that Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime once said looked like Metroid

Samus Aran has worked for Nintendo for many years, and has been considered one of their most iconic characters for much of that time. While she has consistently garnered affection and respect from fans of the company, she hasn't had a game of her own since the year 2010. Many feel that her role at Nintendo isn't what it used to be. Now she's appearing in regular installments of the Smash Bros. series, but she'd much rather be in Axiom Verge, a game that Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime once said looked like Metroid.

If I didn't know better, I'd think that Dan Adelman was Samus Aran's secret identity. If putting on glasses and civilian clothes is all Superman needed to do to trick us into thinking he's Clark Kent, then why couldn't Samus do the same thing? If it weren't for this video, I may still believe that was the case. The similarities between these two "Nintendo characters" are hard to shake, though when it comes to the discussion of "going indie," their differences definitely start to show. 

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Samus wants to be in Shovel Knight photo
Samus wants to be in Shovel Knight
by Jonathan Holmes

When we last checked in with Samus, she was trying to score an interview with Tim Rogers, co-creator of Videoball. Despite the fact that she's been appearing in videogames for over 25 years, he still didn't know who she was. That wouldn't have bothered her at all under normal circumstances, but life hasn't been too good to Samus lately. Nintendo stopped celebrating her birthdays. She hasn't had a game of her own since 2010. Kids today don't know why she can't crawl. It's gotten so bad that she's been forced to share a house with a washed up former last boss and a deceased painting instructor from public television

It makes sense that she would turn to Sean Velasco, co-creator of Shovel Knight, for aid in this time of crisis. He and the team at Yacht Club Games recently announced plans to help Battletoads hop back into the spotlight, after having been shunned by their makers for even longer than Samus has. On top of that, plenty of fans have been asking Sean and company to allow Samus to be a special guest character in Shovel Knight on Nintendo consoles, and Yacht Club is known for making its fans happy.

While he knew that the fans wanted Samus in Shovel Knight, I don't think Sean expected to have the real live Samus Aran approach him about a cameo, but who better to represent Metroid fans than the star of the series herself? After watching this video a few times, I'm still not sure if Sean went for the idea or not. The only thing I know for sure is, Sean has some pretty awesome ideas on how a Shovel Knight Vs. Tingle boss fight would work. He told me all about it after Samus cleared out. As much as I love Samus, I think Tingle might be the right choice on this one, assuming that Shovel Knight ever ends up with guest Nintendo character at all. 

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Review: OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood photo
Review: OlliOlli 2: Welcome to Olliwood
by Kyle MacGregor

OlliOlli was a pleasant surprise. A year ago, the minimalist skateboarding game materialized out of nowhere, deconstructing the genre and distilling its essence down the barest essentials. It stripped away any traces of excess, resulting in an experience focused on eliciting trancelike states and a never-ending pursuit of high scores.

Simultaneously accessible and unfathomably intricate, OlliOlli lured players down the rabbit hole, presenting itself as an airy side-scroller just long enough to get its hooks into you before quickly giving way to something far weightier and more profound.

And now it's been topped in virtually every conceivable way with an unexpected sequel, OlliOlli 2.

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Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number photo
Review: Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number
by Chris Carter

For some, Hotline Miami was an existential look at the current macro-state of videogames. You were told to commit random acts of murder seemingly without remorse, and at the end, you get a bit of interesting commentary on the culture of violence. Many argued that the only way you can truly win is to not play, and it started some insightful conversations.

For me, it was a really bitchin' action puzzle game that made me constantly reinvent my strategy for each and every level. It was an experience that didn't hold my hand at every turn, and let me be as creative as I wanted while a kickass soundtrack blared in the background.

Hotline Miami 2 may not be as "profound" as its predecessor, but it's still a bloody good time.

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Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth photo
Volume is a more thoughtful approach to Metal Gear Solid VR Mission-like stealth
by Steven Hansen

Volume is a fitting name for a polygonal, Metal Gear Solid VR Missions-looking stealth game with enough rectangles to feed a geometry class for the entire year. In the case of Mike Bithell's Thomas Was Alone follow-up, however, "volume" is more about sound than shapes.

Lead Locksley can't kill or attack. It's all about being a sneak. Noise, then, becomes an important weapon for luring guards from their posts, and every bit of noise fractures the world so you can nicely see its effect, along with the ever-present enemy fields of vision.

It's about sight, too. Sound, sight, shapes. These things come together to make a readable stealth game with enough abstraction that it feels more puzzler than sneaking romp. Think Hitman GO compared to Hitman.

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Review: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines photo
Review: Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines
by Josh Tolentino

Like many games of its type, Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines features a tiny graphic in its text boxes to remind players they can press a button to advance to the next line. Usually the graphic is of an X or O button pressing itself, but Oreshika's is of a little weasel pushing a button with its nose.

It's animated, and viewed from the side the little weasel can also look just like a person, sitting on their knees Japanese-style, bowing respectfully, over and over. That behavior's almost emblematic of the game's attitude, as it's so eager to let players do what they like (sometimes to their own detriment) that it almost comes off as desperate. 

But hey, they're gonna be dead soon anyway, so perhaps some deference is warranted.

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Review: Helldivers photo
Review: Helldivers
by Conrad Zimmerman

Mankind has expanded throughout the galaxy, having come together under one government, a "managed" democracy. From the Super Earth homeworld, humanity spreads its message of liberation and freedom to every planet they land upon; the liberation of their natural resources and freedom from human opposition, that is.

And if you don't like it, expect them to spread a whole lot of ordinance instead.

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Review: Blackhole photo
Review: Blackhole
by Conrad Zimmerman

There certainly have been a lot of creative 2D platform games releasing over the last couple of months, enough that there seems to be some genuine competition in the genre. If you're finding yourself in a position where it has become difficult to choose, allow me to make it easier. 

Get Blackhole. Problem solved.

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Review: Roundabout photo
Review: Roundabout
by Brett Makedonski

For its first game, developer No Goblin seemingly subscribed to the K.I.S.S. school of thought: "Keep it simple, stupid." But, perhaps the studio misunderstood the acronym to mean "keep it simple and stupid." That'd explain how Roundabout revels in its own absurdity while revolving around a rock-solid gimmick: rotation.

Yes, the notion of motion is at the center of Roundabout. There is literally not a moment in gameplay where action is at a standstill. Even the most innocent, non-meaningful proceedings in Roundabout squarely feature its constantly spinning limousine -- a trademark that it rightfully relies heavily upon.

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Review: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary photo
Review: htoL#NiQ: The Firefly Diary
by Josh Tolentino

No, that isn't an encoding error up there in the headline: "htoL#NiQ" is indeed this PS Vita game's title, and is essentially a very stylish way to type "The Firefly Diary" in Japanese.

Whatever personal peculiarities led the team at Nippon Ichi to title their new game this way seem to extend to the game's design as well. htoL#NiQ marches to its own rhythm, and ends up being two things at once: a fascinating work of minimalism, and a needlessly difficult ordeal best enjoyed only by the most masochistic of flagellants.

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Review: Pix the Cat photo
Review: Pix the Cat
by Steven Hansen

Pix is a mix of the two most saccharine basic emoticons, :3 and ^_^, a face for the forgotten mascot age. Just too cute, and not in a way that ever betrays the fiendish score-chaser underneath. Sincere cuteness. A real testament to the species post-Flicky.

Now it's all about the cat collecting eggs through panel after panel of the Grid of Infinity and depositing a growing tail of ducklings into safe little holes lest they remain, stuck, as infinite guests. 

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